Spring Grove coach reaches 300 wins
Tony Miller has never bothered to keep track of his career wins.
Like many wrestling coaches, he's too preoccupied with the day-to-day challenges of preparing his team to think about what's happened in the past. Now in his 20th season leading Spring Grove, Miller has won too many dual meets to remember them all.
Still, it's likely Miller will remember Thursday night's win. Taking on Central York at home, Spring Grove defeated the Panthers 50-13 to give Miller his 300th career dual meet win.
He's also led the Rockets to 12 Division I titles and coached 47 individual sectional champions, seven district champions and 14 state place winners, including 2006 125-pound state champion Brian Polashuk. He's got a chance to add to those numbers this season, with the Rockets looking like the early favorites in the division and featuring a plethora of strong wrestlers.
It's been quite a ride for the 1989 Hanover High graduate, who has spent his entire coaching career at Spring Grove. Miller accepted an assistant coaching position with the Rockets in 1995 before being promoted to the top spot two years later. He was only 25 years old at the time.
With his 300th career win now under his belt, Miller recently took the time to answer some questions with GameTimePA.com.
How did you end up at Spring Grove?
I was student teaching at Dallastown (after graduating from Penn State) and there wasn't a full-time position there so I kind of ended up at Spring Grove by chance. I'm a health and physical education teacher and I was subbing a little bit at the time. I had only been to Spring Grove once but there was an open position there so an administrator at Dallastown made a phone call and long story short, it worked out. Mark Kuntz was the head coach at the time and after the second season he retired and that was it. I guess everything happens for a reason.
You were only 23 when you got to Spring Grove and 25 when you became head coach. Did you think you'd be here this long?
I think at the time you're not thinking too far ahead so who knows. I was trying to keep the program going and of course Spring Grove has a lot of tradition and success. I'm lucky to be here. I've been around wrestling since I was in third grade and I always wanted to get into coaching. The thing is you've got to love doing it. Somebody asked me if I like to go skiing and I said I've never been skiing because I haven't really ever had a Christmas or winter break.
When you wrestled at Hanover, did you know much about Spring Grove?
Yeah, we wrestled against Spring Grove and I remember it like it was yesterday. I remember the environment and the loud, crazy, screaming fans. Just as supportive as our fans are now.
Your high school coach at Hanover, Terry Conover, is now your top assistant at Spring Grove. What is it like to have your former coach working under you?
It's awesome. His son is an assistant for me too and I've known them since I was growing up. When he was finished at Hanover (in 2009) I asked him to help me out and luckily he did. I've been very blessed at Spring Grove to have a lot of support and a lot of people willing to volunteer. We haven't had a lot of turnover.
Who are some of the most memorable wrestlers you've coached at Spring Grove?
Of course, Brian Polashuk. We've had a lot of state medalists and I think (1998 gradute) Ryan Wilt was my first one. Ryan Gruver was a two-time state medalist that came so close to reaching the finals. There's been so many that it's hard to say one stands out. I was actually an assistant coach when (Spring Grove vice principal) Dave Dietrich was wrestling and now he's such an influential person in the community.
How has coaching wrestling changed over your career?
It's changed a lot. The nature of the sport is still man vs. man. You look in the mirror and your success is based on your work and sacrifice. If you're successful it's about you and if you're not successful it's also about you. The changes have come with technique, which changes all the time. The rules with weight management and paper work is a lot different. I think I do more paperwork in a week now than I used to do in an entire season.
You said you weren't aware you were this close to 300 wins. Have you ever paid attention to your career record?
I never have. I mean, I have a general idea because we have people that keep track of stats but it's not something I pay a lot of attention to. Maybe one day I'll look at it more but what I look back on is the different groups of kids because it's about them, it's not about me.
Winning is great and the extent is important but I view my success by the individuals and what they do later in life. I've coached kids that are coaching now, running companies and being positive members of society. That's what I find most rewarding.