Catch the top 5 moments from the Raiders' 49-21 win at Annville-Cleona Wednesday. Matt Catrillo/GameTimePA.com
ANNVILLE – It’s been a long, hard road for Elco wrestling coach Chad Miller.
Here was someone who worked wrestling back to prominence at Elco, starting from the junior high level just over two decades ago - then finally forming a varsity level team three years later – and soon enough, the Raiders wrestling program has become consistent and successful.
Over the course of his now 22 years at Elco, Miller has seen the fruits of his labor.
Wednesday, Miller saw another with his team’s 49-21 win over Annville-Cleona, earning his 300th career win at the barn at Annville-Cleona High School.
“It means a lot to me,” Miller said. “The first thing you think of is, ‘man, I’ve been doing this a long time.’ I told the kids the reason we’ve been successful since we started the program 19 years ago is because we gather as many kids as we can, even if they haven’t wrestled. It really allows us to do good things against teams. We may not always have the best individuals, but together we come together from the first year cross country kid to the first year football kid. Our success only works because all the kids we have are willing to put the work in. It has nothing to do with what I’m doing.”
And working toward giving their coach this accomplishment has been a goal of Miller’s wrestlers all season.
“In the beginning of the season coach said it would be a possibility,” said Alex Puglio, who won by fall in 0:56 at 120. “Then I thought to myself, 'I’ve contributed to 50 of his last wins.' It’s a big deal to me giving him that milestone.”
Even though Miller says the program’s success ultimately comes down to what each wrestler does on the mat, he also acknowledges how critical stability has been for his program, especially using his unique approach of grabbing all kinds of athletes to form his teams.
Miller said, “More so than any other sport, wrestling needs to have a teacher or coach that’s inside the building every day. I’m grabbing kids every day. We have a good relationship with our football program and other programs to do that.”
Puglio says having the same coaching staff to work with over the years has made him and his fellow wrestlers very comfortable as part of the program.
“It creates a good bond because we’ve always been wrestling with him,” Puglio said. “My brothers wrestled with him, and everyone else I know has been wrestling with him since we all began going up through the system. It makes us a better team.”
And with every practice and match, every Raiders wrestler knows Miller will expect a lot from them, while putting a lot of work himself.
Puglio said, “Coach pushes us hard at practice. He makes us run, lift and wrestle hard. At match time, he does his work and he gets other people in the right positions to make us win. He comes in handy especially in close matches because of his skill at moving around the weights.”
Annville-Cleona coach Jerome Simon credits Miller for the work he’s put into his program, knowing he’s paid major dues to get to this point of his career.
“Chad’s a great guy and I have all the respect in the world for him,” Simon said. “I’m glad he earned his 300th, but I’m disappointed it happened against us. He’s done a phenomenal job. He took some lumps while starting their program back up again. What you saw this year is very similar is what they’ve had the last few years. They have tough kids and they go hard. That’s was the typical Elco team the last few years. I’m happy for him.”