The Wolverine

February 2019

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 68 of 75

FEBRUARY 2019 THE WOLVERINE 69   WHERE ARE THEY NOW? the coach whose team won Big Ten championships in all four years he was in school. "I did not, and never would have," Miller said. "Coach was intent on win- ning the Big Ten, which we did. We went on to finish fifth in the nationals." Given the conference result, Miller worried about not going to the na- tional meet. He did, and returning to 157 more than made up for a struggle at 177. "I thought maybe he felt he owed it to me, which he really didn't," Miller noted. "I felt very appreciative that he allowed me to finish my career at the national tournament, allowing me to win a medal." He'll never forget what unfolded in the national tournament at Cornell. "I won four bouts, lost one and tied one," Miller recalled. "The loss was a one-point loss to the national cham- pion. There are no excuses — he beat me. But within two seconds, I could have had a final takedown. I dwell on that, occasionally, even now. I try not to, but it does enter my mind when I'm watching wrestling on television. "I was fortunate to have done what I did, with regard to placing and having a medal. I was very happy about that." He earned his All-America status through that fourth-place effort, mov- ing on to post-Michigan life with a de- gree and toughness learned from and reinforced by Keen. He recalled driv- ing with teammates from Chicago after Christmas break his senior year, but getting stranded by Lake Michigan. "There was a blizzard, a whiteout," Miller recalled. "There was no way I could proceed on. It was a tenuous situation. Fortunately, we pulled off into a hotel, a Howard Johnson. "We were there three or four hours, until the storm dissipated. My first responsibility, obviously, was for the safety of everyone. But I had to had to call Coach Keen and tell him we would miss the first practice. "It was not something I looked for- ward to doing. I called him, and all the guys were standing around the phone. Fortunately, Mrs. Keen an- swered the phone. I was relieved." She assured him everything would be fine, and she'd let the coach know. It wasn't quite as smooth as hoped. "When we arrived back in Ann Ar- bor, I went right up and said, 'Coach, I'm very sorry. It's my responsibil- ity,'" Miller said. "He just looked at me. He was from Oklahoma, and he was a tough old guy. He said, 'Well, you should have left a day early.' "I wasn't going to talk back to him, or suggest anything else. But when he said that, I was thinking, a day earlier was Christmas day. Everyone kind of had a laugh about that. I just said, 'Okay, Coach, sorry.'" Miller wasn't sorry for much in his Ann Arbor days. He stayed one extra semester to begin a master's degree and finished it up back in his home state, at Northern Illinois University. He taught 15 years in Dekalb, Ill., also serving as varsity wrestling coach and freshman football coach. "More than anything, I wanted to be the best teacher I could be," he said. "I didn't want to be someone that people thought of as just a coach. I taught physical education and health educa- tion. My last seven or eight years, I was in the special education program." After earning another master 's in school administration, Miller spent a year at St. Edwards in Elgin, Ill., before finishing his career as dean of students and assistant principal at Naperville North High School. In addition to coaching powerhouse teams at DeKalb, Miller officiated ex- tensively, including an NCAA wres- tling regional. He ultimately earned a spot in the Illinois Chapter of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame. "I don't even know how I was cho- sen for that, to be honest with you," he noted, in typically humble fash- ion. "I had some fantastic youths, and they made me look like a good coach. "You don't achieve too much with- out a good stable of athletes." You don't often live a life of service without a firm foundation. Miller found his at Michigan, and remains appreciative. ❑ Michigan Accomplishments: Part of four Big Ten title teams, including three that finished in the top 10 na- tionally … Became a captain as a se- nior … Finished as an All-American, winding up fourth in the national meet at 157 pounds. Professional Accomplishments: Taught 15 years at DeKalb (Ill.) High, before serving as an administrator at two other Illinois high schools … His DeKalb squads won 15 straight IHSA Regionals, with 12 conference titles, three sectional champion- ships and six top-10 finishes in the state. Michigan Memory: "In the fall of 1960, I was living at West Quad. Ev- eryone got wind of John Kennedy stopping in Ann Arbor. He was go- ing to be speaking at the Michigan Union. I went to the Michigan Union with my roommate, and we waited for his arrival. "When he walked up the steps of the Michigan Union, there was a very large crowd. It was a late night and rather cold, but when he walked in, you forgot about how cold it was or how late it was. "The first thing he said was, 'I'm John Kennedy' — and this will al- ways stick with me — he says: 'I graduated from the Michigan of the East.' Everyone roared and ap- plauded. What a wonderful state- ment, and how proud he made everyone from Michigan, making it comparable to Harvard. "He went on to propose the Peace Corps. That was one of the first memories I have of Michigan — the fall of my freshman year." Education: Earned a bachelor's in physical education and general science at Michigan, 1964; earned a master's in physical education at Northern Illinois, 1966; gained a Type 75 Administrative Certificate from NIU, 1985. Family: Married to Cindy Miller. The Wayne Miller File Miller earned a spot in the Illinois Chapter of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame after guiding DeKalb (Ill.) High to 15 straight IHSA Regionals, 12 conference titles, three sec- tional championships and six top-10 finishes in the state. PHOTO COURTESY WAYNE MILLER

Articles in this issue

Archives of this issue

view archives of The Wolverine - February 2019