Mike Miller remembers his days as a high school wrestler at Barrington, and he sees something familiar in the task ahead of him as the new head wrestling coach at Johnsburg.
“I’m really excited about the opportunity,” Miller said. “The program that I came from at Barrington, when I was wrestling there in high school, it was kind of like where Johnsburg is now. The numbers weren’t so great, but as you know right now they’re a real solid program. It starts with the youth program, and they’re able to produce talent and quality teams year in and year out, and hopefully we can replicate the same success in Johnsburg.”
Miller, who had been an assistant coach at McHenry (where he currently teaches) and Prairie Ridge, recently was hired for his first head coaching job with the Skyhawks.
“I was familiar with Johnsburg from coaching in the Fox Valley. They were in our conference for a few years, and we’d see them. I talked to a few people in the Johnsburg community just to see what was going on,” Miller said. “They started a youth program a few years ago, so I was excited about that. It’s also a position where they’ve had turnover with their coaches. I just felt it was an opportunity that I could give some stability.”
Stability is something the Skyhawks could use, as Miller will be the third coach in as many years at Johnsburg. Todd Ramburg served as the team’s coach last winter, and before that, Jon Murphy was there for three seasons.
Miller said he has hit the ground running.
“One thing we’ve been doing right now is I’ve been working with the lower programs, the middle school and the Spartan Wrestling Club (local youth program),” Miller said. “We just had a wrestling camp this week for three days, so it was a good opportunity just to kind of talk among the three coaches and lay out the vision of where we want to go with this. And at the camp some of the high school kids were helping out, so we’re just trying to make this one big solid program, from (ages) 5 to 18. As long as we’re working together, we’re going to get it going in the right direction.”
The Skyhawks have struggled to attract wrestlers in recent seasons and didn’t have a state qualifier last season. Five Johnsburg wrestlers advanced to Class 2A sectionals last year, with their only regional champion, Dyllan Hess, moving on to college this year and the other four – Matt Tobin, Joey Calhoun, Austin Butler and Fred Fuchs – returning as seniors. Butler was a state qualifier two years ago.
“It’s still a work in progress; the numbers are still relatively low. I think we’re getting in about six or so from the eighth-grade class,” Miller said. “The seniors, there’s some quality seniors that should do well this year, but at the same time, then they’re going to be gone.
“It’s something that’s going to take a couple years to build up, but like I said, I’m talking to the middle school coaches and talking to the youth program and we’re just trying to encourage kids to come out for the sport and give it a chance. I think over time we’re going to see those numbers pop up to where we want them to be.”
For now, that foundation and building toward the future are Miller’s biggest concerns.
“Right now, initially, we’re just trying to make those connections and just try to develop that sense of community and teamwork that we need to lay down to get to the bigger goals that we want to attain,” Miller said.