Millner Secures 8th Place, All-America Honor at NCAA Championships
ST. LOUIS, Mo. — App State’s Jonathan Millner(Ben L. Smith High School/Greensboro, N.C.) received congratulatory hand slaps, hugs and pats on the head from staff members Ian Miller, DJ Fehlman and Bill Dixon.
Head coach JohnMark Bentley’s embrace outlasted all that, as he pulled Millner close and then buried the victorious wrestler’s head into his chest.
An in-state recruit who considered walking away from the sport as a struggling freshman, “Jon Jon” is officially an NCAA Division I All-American.
(Millner was coaches by Joey Gladson, at Ben L. Smith High School.)
Millner clinched that honor by winning a 10-7 decision against Duke’s Josh Finesilver as the 149-pound bracket shrunk from 12 wrestlers to eight Friday night. Millner competed in the seventh-place match Saturday, and a 5-3 decision for Stanford’s Jaden Abas resulted in an eighth-place finish for Millner.
That accomplishment translates to being part of the Parade of All-Americans prior to the Saturday night finals.
“To keep putting App on the map, just to represent the program and my coaching staff, it means the world to them and me,” Millner said.
A Greensboro native who won one state championship as a high school wrestler at Ben L. Smith, Millner jumped out to a 7-0 lead with two-plus minutes of riding time in the podium-worthy win against Finesilver.
Millner produced a takedown 21 seconds into the match, stayed on top and then added two near fall points late in the first period for a 4-0 lead. He opened the second period with an escape, delivered another takedown midway through that period and survived three takedowns from Finesilver over the final 2:45 of the match.
Thanks to a second straight SoCon title at 149 pounds, Millner entered the NCAAs with a 13-1 record this season. He finished 16-4, as he dropped a 9-5 decision against Fresno State’s Kyle Parco late Friday, between the win over Finesilver and the appearance in the seventh-place match. Millner briefly took a 5-4 lead on a takedown with 47 seconds left in the third period against Abas, who then got an escape with riding time of 1:01 on his side, but officials reviewed the call and overtuned the takedown.
With App State accounting for all three North Carolina-based qualifiers in this year’s NCAA Championships, Millner is the fourth All-American under Bentley’s watch, and three of those wrestlers were in-state products.
The other NCAA All-Americans in program history are Charles Parks (1941), Al Crawford (1941), Donnell Rawls (1992), Mark Fee (2002, 2003), Kyle Blevins (2012), Austin Trotman (2012) and Denzel Dejournette (2017).
“I’m just really proud of Jon Jon and having another All-American in this rich tradition of App State Wrestling,” Bentley said. “I couldn’t be more proud of him, our program and our coaching staff and all of our alumni and supporters. It’s tough when you get out here and you’re wrestling against the best guys in the country, and your emotions are going up and down throughout the tournament with different wrestlers participating.”
Seeded seventh, Millner went 2-0 on the opening day of competition Thursday to reach the quarterfinal round and lost a 5-2 decision against North Carolina’s Austin O’Connor, who won the national title. Seeded 27th, Finesilver dropped his Thursday opener and stayed alive Thursday night before advancing Friday with two more victories against fifth-seeded Ridge Lovett of Nebraska (win by fall) and 20th-seeded Joshua Heil of Campbell (8-5 decision).
Millner redshirted as an App State freshman and showed his potential the following year in a cameo as a starter before multi-time NCAA qualifier Matt Zovistoski, who finished his career with 100 wins, returned to the lineup. In Millner’s two seasons as a full-time starter, he’s 47-8 overall with two SoCon titles.
App State’s Codi Russell (125 pounds) and Sean Carter (133) both went 1-2 at this year’s NCAAs, with Russell winning an 8-6 decision against Virginia’s Patrick McCormick in his second match Thursday and Carter using a last-second takedown to win an 8-6 decision against Northern Colorado’s Mosha Schwartz in the same night session.
It was the second NCAA victory for Russell, who recorded a win by fall in 2019 and also qualified for the 2020 Championships that were canceled because of COVID-19.
App State had a school-record seven wrestlers qualify for the 2021 Championships, as Anthony Brito (141 pounds), Cody Bond (157), Will Formato (165) and Thomas Flitz (174) participated in two matches apiece Thursday.
DAY 1 RECAP
On Thursday, Millner posted a 7-3 decision against 26th-seeded Anthony Cheloni from Northern Illinois before accumulating three takedowns in the first period of a 9-8 decision against 23rd-seeded Triston Lara from Northern Iowa.
Millner held a 4-2 lead entering the third period in his opening match, and despite trailing 5-2 in the first period of the next one, he used two takedowns in the last 80 seconds of that period to move ahead 7-6. A late stalling penalty created an 8-8 tie on the scoreboard, but Millner had a riding-time bonus point secured by then.
The 16th-seeded Russell bounced back from a 7-6 loss in the opening round to claim the 8-6 decision against McCormick, and Carter became the third App State wrestler to advance to Day 2 thanks to his upset win against the 15th-seeded Schwartz. Russell broke a 5-5 tie entering the third period by immediately recording a reversal, and he then took control by pushing his riding time over a minute.
Flitz suffered a pair of close losses, falling 7-5 against 18th-seeded Dustin Plott of Oklahoma State and having riding time break a tie at the end of 3-3 overtime match that featured no takedowns by either Flitz or Lehigh’s Jake Logan. There were no scores in the first OT period (one minute starting from neutral), and Logan got an escape more quickly than Flitz in the matching 30-second TB-1 periods. The next Sudden Victory period had no takedowns, and with a lot of time in first 30-second TB-2 period passing before Flitz produced his escape, he conceded an escape to Logan in the next one with a takedown needed for a victory.
Bond lost a tight 5-4 match against North Carolina’s Joshua McClure at 157 pounds after dropping an 11-5 decision against Oregon State’s Hunter Willis, and Brito followed a 10-1 loss to Navy’s Cody Trybus at 141 pounds by jumping out to a 4-1 lead against CSU Bakersfield’s Angelo Martinoni. Martinoni overcame a 4-3 deficit in the final 30 seconds thanks to a four-point near fall in his 8-4 win.
Formato lost a 3-2 decision in his first match against 17th-seeded Thomas Bullard from NC State, with an early takedown being the difference, and Northern Iowa’s Austin Yant won by an 11-2 score in the night session.