Jacob Miller’s numbers in two-plus years with West Forsyth’s wrestling team speak for themselves: a 92-28 record with 59 pins, three tournament wins and three runner-up finishes, state qualification in his freshman and sophomore seasons.
By the time Miller, now a junior, strapped on his headgear for the final match of the Grayson Duals on Nov. 28, there wasn’t much he hadn’t seen.
West trailed state power Collins Hill (led by former South coach Danny Sinnott) by four points and needed a pin, worth six points, from Miller in the 132-pound weight class in order to win the overall team title.
You can probably guess how this ends: Miller got the pin, and the Wolverines won by two.
"You have to go in to it knowing you can’t let down your team…" Miller said. "…We’re all pretty close. We’ve been wrestling together since middle school—Denver [Stonecheck], Austin [Cook], Slaton [Garner], Kaleb [Sherman], we’ve all been together since the beginning."
As a kid, Miller wanted to play football—that is, until he saw his older brother, Matt Hatcher, take up wrestling. Hatcher, now 23, was a two-time state qualifier for West. The brothers were too far apart in age to ever formally compete against one another, though there was plenty of wrestling at home, Miller said.
Miller started for the Wolverines as a freshman and led West in pins and team points earned, good enough to eventually earn a state tournament berth. In Georgia, wrestlers qualify for state by placing in the top four in their weight class at area tournaments and then in the top eight at sectionals.
"That definitely helped me know I could do well," Miller said. "I’ve always been at a bit of a disadvantage in high school, being younger, but I started wrestling in third grade. I’m used to it."
Last season, Miller had bigger plans: qualifying for and placing in the top six in the 126-pound class at state. A broken hand suffered in the area tournament—Miller still doesn’t know how it happened—seemed to have derailed Miller’s hopes, but the sophomore toppled two highly-ranked wrestlers at sectionals in Valdosta to reach the state tournament.
"It hurt my grip a lot and I wasn’t able to be as strong," Miller said. "I just taped up the hand around my thumb. If [my opponent] grabbed it, it would hurt, but otherwise…I had to use my other hand."
Miller termed his wrestling style as ‘funky,’ making him more unpredictable to wrestle against, and perhaps why he was able to work around his injury.
"I kind of just roll around and hope for the best," he said. "It’s different than everybody else."
As a junior now at 132 pounds, Miller will be the same age or older than most of his opponents. He spent his offseason working out at a nearby Atlanta Fitness, building strength, and it’s shown: Miller is 12-1 thus far with eight pins. Three of those pins came last Saturday during the Forsyth County Wrestling Championships at Central, where Miller went 4-0 to be named county champion.
"Last year, I had my hopes up [going in to the postseason], but it didn’t work out," he said. "This year, I’m planning on placing in state."