Archive for December 12, 2013

HOOSIER HEARTLAND CONFERENCE ACCEPTS TAYLOR, EASTERN, FRONTIER AND TRI-COUNTY

IHSAA

BY DEAN HOCKNEY

KOKOMO, Ind. – The long-standing rumors were finally confirmed on Dec. 11 when it was announced that Taylor High School would leave the Mid-Indiana Conference for the Hoosier Heartland Conference, beginning with the fall sports campaign of 2015. Frontier and Tri-County will also join the existing HHC member schools of Carroll (Flora), Clinton Prairie, Clinton Central, Rossville, Sheridan and Tri-Central to form a nine team league.

“This will benefit all of our students in athletic competition and academic opportunities,” said Taylor Athletic Director Karen Franklin. “The HHC membership is very pleased and excited about the future direction of their conference.”

Eastern High School was also accepted into the conference but still needs approval from the Eastern-Howard School Corporation board of trustees. According to Athletic Director Brad Wilson, the next board meeting is set for January 2014. If the school board votes yes to the conference change, the HHC would stand at an even 10 schools.

The departures of Taylor and Eastern would leave the MIC with six teams: Western, Northwestern, Lewis Cass, Hamilton Heights, Peru and Maconaquah. It is unclear what direction the conference will take, but it is known in several athletic circles that Hoosier Conference members Tipton and Twin Lakes have an interest in joining the MIC. There is also the possibility of other schools leaving the conference as there are rumors of at least one, and maybe two schools looking to join the Three Rivers Conference. Thus, the next few months will be of interest of MIC fans.

History of the Mid-Indiana Conference

The Mid-Indiana Conference was formed in 1965, but can trace its roots to the late 1940s. In the late 1940’s, nine local schools played in the Howard County Conference, but school consolidations closed six schools over a short three year period. Those three remaining schools (which are now Eastern, Western and Northwestern) formed the Howard-Miami Conference. The addition of two schools from Grant County forced a name change to the Tri-County Conference in 1955.

With schools continuing to consolidate in the 1960’s, the conference found itself with just four members – Maconaquah, Northwestern, Eastern and Oak Hill. Thus, with an expansion in 1965, the conference was reborn as the MIC with Western, Southwood, North Miami and Fairmount joining the four remaining TCC schools to form the charter membership.

The Three Rivers Conference was formed in 1971 and would pick at the MIC for years, snagging several member schools: North Miami in 1972, Southwood in 1976 and Oak Hill and Eastern in 1980. The Comets would return to the MIC in 1987. MIC charter member Fairmount left the conference in 1970 when it consolidated with Madison-Grant High School. Eastbrook left the Mississinewa Valley Conference in 1977 to join the MIC, but 11 years later it jumped ship to the Central Indiana Conference.

Besides MIC charter schools Western, Northwestern and Maconaquah, the Lewis Cass Kings has the longest membership when it joined in 1968 as a new school. Taylor left the Rangeline Conference to join the MIC in 1974, Peru come to the MIC from the Central Indiana Conference in 1998 and the last school to gain membership in the MIC was Hamilton Heights in 2000, when it left the Rangeline.

The Sports Journal staff will continue to monitor changes in the Mid-Indiana Conference, the North Central Conference and other conference in central Indiana.

HOOSIER BOUND: KOKOMO’S MILLER SAYS YES TO OFFER FROM INDIANA

Fletcher Miller is shown in action during the 2013 IHSAA state championships. (File photo)

Fletcher Miller is shown in action during the 2013 IHSAA state championships. (File photo)

BY DEAN HOCKNEY

KOKOMO, Ind. – For the third time in two years, a Howard County student-athlete has signed a National Letter of Intent to continue a sports career in the Big Ten Conference at Indiana University. On the early national signing day, Kokomo High School multi-sport standout Fletcher Miller signed to wrestle for the Hoosiers next year, joining the Neeley twins from Eastern as IU athletes. But to get to Bloomington, Miller needed to grow up fast – literally.

“A lot of him being a smaller guy growing up has played into his success,” said Wildkat wrestling coach Ryan Wells of Miller, who wrestled at 140-pounds as a freshman. “He learned how to wrestle like a smaller guy. Now he wrestles in the higher weight classes and a lot of those guys don’t move like he does. He still wrestles and gets in on legs like a smaller wrestler does, and those guys don’t know how to react to it. He moves so incredibly well, and I think that is a large part of his success.”

Miller said he agreed with his coach’s assessment.

“I was a little guy growing up,” he said. “It did help my wrestling. A lot of bigger guys are just strong, but I learned to wrestle like a little guy; learning to turn into them. Yes, it helped.”

Like most athletes who accept scholarships to Division I programs, Miller receiving an offer from IU is a dream come true. While he might not have been an early bloomer size wise, his current 6-2, 220-pound stature allowed him to finish as the IHSAA state runner-up at 220-pounds last year while cruising through the regular season undefeated. He is the first Wildkat to sign with a Big Ten school since Dondre Johnson danced on the Purdue gridiron in 1996.

“This is something I never could have imagined doing even a year ago,” said Miller, who has a varsity record of 141-13 as of Nov. 25. He is on pace to break the schools all-time win record of 163 in January. “I was just hoping to go somewhere, and it really came together for me this summer. It will be an amazing experience. I am on cloud nine. It doesn’t get any better than this.”

With 141-plus wins at Kokomo and a state runner-up finish, Miller is one of the best to ever come out of the program. In his first three seasons, Miller is a two-time North Central Conference champion, three-time sectional champ, two-time regional winner and last year earned his first semi-state title. And last summer, he earned All-American status in freestyle from USA Wrestling. He currently is ranked No. 11 in the nation at 220-pounds, but he said he may wrestle as a heavyweight at IU.

But as good as Miller is on the football field and wrestling mats, he might be an even better person away from athletics. Wells said his star pupil is a young man that all student-athletes at Kokomo should try and model themselves after.

“He is the epitome of a student-athlete; he does all the right things,” said Wells. “He is exactly the right kid who we want representing our school – he goes to church every Sunday, does community service, gets straight A’s, and he is student body class president. He is just a nice kid to have around. Being a great wrestler is not his best attribute; being an awesome young man is. I can’t say enough good things about him.”

Miller credits a good work ethic and strong family values for his activities outside of athletics. He also said it takes a lot of time and hard work to maintain solid grades while playing sports. How much time?

“A lot more than anyone sees,” said Miller, a member of the Academic All-NCC squad. “It is non-stop all the time – whether it is church or school or wrestling. It is pretty busy, but I love it.”

Last February, Miller entered the IHSAA 220-pound state championship match with a perfect 50-0 record. His win streak was snapped by Gelen Robinson (49-0) of Lake Central, who took a 7-2 decision victory over the Wildkat. Both have now signed to play at a Big Ten school; Robinson will hit the gridiron at Purdue next fall. As they both begin their final high school campaigns, Miller wants nothing more than a rematch with his mat rival.

“The goal is obviously to get the state championship I missed out on last year,” said Miller. “I definitely want to see Glen again. I hope he wrestles 220 again because I want another crack at it. “

And once he accomplishes his prep career – which will hopefully end on the top step of the Bankers Life Fieldhouse podium – Miller will look towards the next four years in Bloomington.

“The intensity level will pick up a lot,” he said. “Much like the transition from middle school to high school, it is going to be a big transition from high school to college. I am ready for it, but it will be an adjustment. Hopefully, I will make an impact. The current heavyweight is a senior, so I hope to be able to step in.”

But before he roams the grounds of Indiana University, Miller has his eyes set on a superior senior season. He just finished leading the Kats to an NCC runner-up finish in football, now he wants to lead them to the top of the conference – and a date in Indianapolis next February.