Kal Miller entered Maryland wrestling’s Friday night dual against Binghamton on the back of a brutal stretch of results.
Miller had captured victory in just one of the Terps’ eight Big Ten dual meets in the new year, defeating Indiana’s then-No. 33 Cayden Rooks by a 6-4 decision in sudden victory. Miller also picked up wins in two of the Terps’ four duals at the Virginia Duals in January, with all three of his wins in 2023 coming in the first month of the year.
As the run of poor results expanded, coach Alex Clemsen called on his true freshman to take the step necessary to start garnering results at a high level.
“He’s been fighting his older brother [Ethen] his whole life. He should never feel overwhelmed, he should never feel overpowered,” Clemsen said after Miller’s 2-1 decision defeat to Rutgers’ Joseph Olivieri. “He’s not helping himself into the national tournament … I’m putting my foot down, and we want more victories.”
Following his loss against Olivieri, Miller dropped two more decisions in close fashion. He fell in Maryland’s Big Ten victory over Purdue by a 8-3 decision to then-No. 13 Parker Filius, and was beaten by Penn State’s then-No. 6 Beau Bartlett by a slim 5-2 decision.
As the Terps concluded their regular season slate this past weekend with a pair of duals against out-of-conference foes, Friday and Sunday were Miller’s last opportunities to create momentum heading into the Big Ten Championships and possibly the NCAA Championships.
Miller took his chance Friday.
Battling Binghamton’s Christian Gannone, Miller attacked his opponent early and often. The true freshman succeeded in a takedown attempt just more than a minute into the first period and was able to accrue time by riding Gannone for the remainder of the period.
The only scoring in the middle frame came the way of a Miller escape after he started the period in the down position.
Miller finished Gannone off in the final period with his second takedown of the bout, adding to his riding time tally to well over a minute. The substantial amount of riding time secured Miller another point in a 6-1 decision victory, his first since Jan. 14.
“I’d say in my match I just got to my stuff, I was more offensive first period,” Miller said. “It felt good.”
Although earning a big three points for the Terps in the team score with a decision victory, there was an opportunity for Miller to get bonus points for the Terps in a close dual. A win by eight or more would have secured a major decision and a bonus point for Maryland, something Clemsen wanted to see Miller go for.
“It’s like a takedown gives you the major. If you give one [takedown] up, so what, you win by four,” Clemsen said. “Take risks right there, and try to go get the major.”
Off of the back of his first win in more than a month, Miller now enters the most important month of his wrestling season with something to prove.
Heading to the Big Ten Championships at 141 pounds, Miller has the potential to face up to 10 top-30 Big Ten wrestlers ranked by InterMat. Miller has already faced four of those 10 wrestlers during the regular season, but couldn’t secure a victory in any of those bouts.
However, Miller has an opportunity to turn his season around just in time for the postseason. For one of the youngest wrestlers on the roster, Friday night’s win could go a long way.
“He was aggressive. He got to his offense, and he was constantly going forward and taking ground and getting those positions, and he’s tough on top,” Clemsen said after Miller’s win Friday. “So when he does those two things well, good things will happen.”