Jon Jon Millner(Smith HS) earns All-American honors for APP State at NCAA Wrestling Championships

Millner Finishes 6th as a Repeat NCAA Wrestling All-American

DETROIT — App State’s Jonathan Millner(Ben L. Smith High School) faced the crowd, raised his palms and extended his long arms in opposite directions — a noteworthy celebration for the mild-mannered Mountaineer.

Moments later, with head coach JohnMark Bentley flashing a big smile, head assistant Ian Miller lifted Millner off his feet with a bear hug.

Jon Jon once again helped App State — and himself — reach new heights.
(Jon Jon Millner was coached at Ben L. Smith High School by Joey Gladson…Joey Gladson was in Detroit this past weekend, watching on, as Jon Jon Millner reached All-American status, AGAIN!!!!!)


Millner became the 20th overall All-American and second two-time NCAA All-American in App State Wrestling history when he earned an 8-1 decision against eighth-seeded Max Murin of Iowa on Day 2 of the NCAA Championships before a crowd of 17,592 at Little Caesars Arena. Millner then capped a 4-0 day and improved his Detroit record in the 149-pound bracket to 5-1 with a 9-4 decision against fifth-seeded Kyle Parco of Arizona State.

A year after placing eighth, Millner ended up finishing sixth as a redshirt senior, as Virginia Tech’s Bryce Andonian won a 9-4 decision on Saturday morning and Ohio State’s Sammy Sasso claimed a 5-4 win in the fifth-place match.

Millner went 24-4 during a 2021-22 season that gave him a career record of 92-21, including 71-9 in his three years as a starter. He joined Mark Fee (2002-03) as two-time NCAA All-Americans from App State.

“We’ve got a great coaching staff. We’ve got a great culture. We’ve got a great school,” Millner said. “We have all the possibilities to have multiple All-Americans every year, and I’m just honored to represent my school and showcase what I can do out there. I just want to thank God for giving me the blessing and giving me the opportunity to do it.”

With Millner’s five victories, plus opening-round victories from Caleb Smith and Thomas Flitz, as well as a consolation victory for Will Formato, App State totaled eight individual wins and placed 28th in the team standings with 13.5 points.

It was the Mountaineers’ fourth time finishing in the top 30 of the team race. App State advanced three wrestlers to Round of 16 bouts for the first time in 30 years and had an impressive four wrestlers advance to Day 2.

“I’m really proud of Jon Jon and proud of our guys that represented App State here,” Bentley said. “We had a lot of guys come here and win matches and score points for our program.”

After going 1-1 on Thursday, ending the day with a Round of 16 loss to Andonian, Millner won 5-1 against 12th-seeded Mike Van Brill from Rutgers and 4-0 against 20th-seeded Colin Realbuto of Northern Iowa in Friday’s opening session.

Millner turned a defensive position at the edge of the mat into a second-period takedown and a 3-0 lead against Iowa’s Murin in the “blood round” with 12 wrestlers still alive but only eight All-America spots available. Millner took a 3-1 lead into the third period and stayed on top for the entire two minutes, extending the margin with a four-point, soak-in-the-moment near fall in the closing seconds.

Millner then had a quick turnaround to face Parco, who won head-to-head matchups in the same round of the 2021 NCAAs in St. Louis (9-5 decision) and at the Mountaineer Invitational in Varsity Gym in mid-November (Parco built a 6-1 lead before winning by fall in the third period).

On Friday night, Millner gave up an early takedown before responding with a reversal. Parco led 3-2 after one period, but Millner delivered an escape, recorded a takedown and built his riding to 1:44 by staying on top for the rest of the period. Another takedown in the first 15 seconds of the third period put Millner in clear control.

“I’m definitely proud of myself — coming back (from a loss) isn’t the easiest thing to do,” Millner said. “I had a lot of support around me with the coaching staff and teammates getting me ready for what I needed to do and just staying locked in and focused on what I needed to do.

“I just woke up this morning and said it’s the start of a new day,” Millner said. “I put myself in a whole other tournament basically and said the tournament restarts today — new opportunities.”

On Friday afternoon, Millner used a second-period rideout, a quick reversal in the third and a key takedown with 19 seconds left to beat Van Brill. In the next match, Millner recorded another second-period rideout, a third-period escape and a takedown in the closing seconds.

Smith, Flitz and Formato all went 1-2 in Detroit, with Smith opening the event by beating the 2021 third-place finisher at 125 pounds and Flitz turning a 5-2 deficit into a 9-6 decision in his opening match at 174. Formato advanced via a medical forfeit, and Codi Russell qualified for the NCAAs at 133.

Flitz qualified for the NCAAs for the third straight year, won his first SoCon title and used that third-period comeback to post an NCAA win that gave him 84 career victories.

Russell, another graduate student, was a five-time SoCon finalist, four-time NCAA qualifier and three-time SoCon champ who finished his App State career with a 94-47 record.

Formato reached the NCAA Championships for the second straight year and closed the season with a 23-9 record.

In his first season in App State’s lineup, Smith went 24-8 and beat the returning All-American in Minnesota’s Patrick McKee, who has followed that loss with five straight wins: two major decisions, a 7-0 decision, a fall to secure another All-America honor and an 11-6 decision. McKee ended up taking fifth place.

When Millner participated in the medal ceremony Saturday night, he joined 149-pound wrestlers from Arizona State, Cornell, NC State, Nebraska, Ohio State, Virginia Tech and Wisconsin in being recognized as All-Americans.

“Just a lot of things to be proud of for App Nation to look and see our program competing on the big stage with the big universities,” Bentley said. “And I couldn’t be more proud of Jon Jon finishing up his career second time being on the podium.”