McMillen’s patience, skill pays off
Brock McMillen got one of the latest starts to the wrestling season in the state because Glendale was in remote learning until late January.
McMillen, who had won two PIAA Class 2A state titles and wrestled in three state finals, finally wrestled his first bout on Feb. 3 against West Branch’s Parker Johnson. For the record, he pinned Johnson in 56 seconds — one of his seven season pins and 58 career falls.
“I never stopped practicing, but there’s a difference between wrestling live in practice and actually competing,” McMillen said. “It took me a couple matches to get back and doing the weighing in and all of that routine. After I did, I felt pretty good, and overall, it paid off.”
The payoff was McMillen going 24-0 and capturing his third state title, becoming the eighth District 6 wrestler to achieve that and only the second Mirror coverage area wrestler to do so, joining Juniata Valley’s Garrett Scott.
He’s also only the third District 6 wrestler to wrestle in four state finals and the first since Bald Eagle-Nittany’s three-time champ Terry Williams (from 1977 to 1980).
For his accomplishments, McMillen, the program leader in career wins at 144-8, was named the Mirror’s Wrestler of the Year for the third time, matching Scott as the only wrestlers to be honored that many times.
“That feels great,” McMillen said. “I’m just grateful to be able to wrestle this season and winning states.”
Glendale first-year coach Brian Storm and Tyrone coach Terry Tate, who recently resigned after five years as the Golden Eagles’ coach due to work commitments as a funeral director, are sharing the Mirror’s Coach of the Year honors.
“I’m honored,” Storm said. “That’s awesome.”
“It’s definitely an honor,” Tate said. “It sort of reflects back to the District 6 Coaches Association voting our staff the staff of the year. We don’t do what we do without all of the guys behind the scenes like Buddy Walk, Jon Wallace, Jason Walls and Tommy Rumberger, our booster club president. They stepped up in a big way.”
McMillen said he felt a little rusty at first, but that changed quickly. He hadn’t wrestled since winning his second title because of the coronavirus pandemic shutdown and because he underwent another heart catheterization in June. McMillen’s junior year heart issues are well documented.
“I’d say it took me until around October (to return to normal),” he said. “My heart rate is still a little elevated, but I think my body just got used to it.”
McMillen was only tested by two opponents at 138 in the postseason as he won a Section 3 title, third titles at the District 6 Tournament and Southwest Regional, a Western Super Regional title and his state gold.
The Pitt recruit defeated Saint Joseph’s Catholic Academy’s Amonn Ohl, 5-3, and a bloody nose in the district finals and Burrell’s Ian Oswalt in the regional finals, 5-2, Super Regional finals, 5-1, and in a rematch of the 2020 state finals, 1-0.
“I told him it was a big honor to be in his corner for that,” Storm said. “It’s not something you envision until you’re actually there.”
The 45-year-old Storm, who graduated from Glendale in 1993, had been coaching Glendale’s junior high program. When Billy Dubler, the Mirror’s Co-Coach of the Year last year, suddenly resigned, Storm was hired as the head coach in November.
“It was kind of unexpected, so I wasn’t fully prepared for it,” Storm said. “I was expecting to be the assistant coach. It being such a short season, I didn’t have time to implement some stuff. We just wanted to hurry up and get in wrestling shape.”
The Vikings went 9-1, losing only to Forest Hills, 34-24, in the District 6 Duals title match and finished third in district tournament. He said the best team feat was beating ICC foe Tussey Mountain, 46-18.
“It was a good experience,” Storm said. “I didn’t know what to expect. I’ve coached most of these guys before, but with it being a COVID year, everything was just so crazy. We just took it day by day and it seemed to go pretty well.”
Tate, meanwhile, is being recognized for turning the Tyrone program around. He guided the Eagles to a 7-4 record this year and 14 wins the past two years. Tyrone had eight wins in his first three years. Hunter Walk was a three-time state qualifier under Tate.
Tate, a 2005 state champ at Tyrone, could brag about his coaching success, but he’d rather credit his coaching staff and wrestlers.
“It was sort of a perfect storm when I came on,” said Tate, who finished with a 22-36 record. “I knew I had guys like Hunter coming up through, and Tommy (Hicks) and Alex (Weaver). It’s been a ton of fun. We sort of got to grow up together and get better together.”
Whoever gets the Tyrone post will have big shoes to fill.
Storm will somehow have to replace McMillen after he graduates.
“You don’t replace a guy like Brock,” Storm said. “You just hope that everyone steps up. We’ll see what happens.”
McMillen, who wrestled in the Pittsburgh Wrestling Classic Friday night, will move on to Pitt, where he will start working on becoming a starter and an All-American.
“I’m looking forward to getting there and training,” McMillen said. “It’s just another chapter. There was elementary, junior high, high school and college. It should be fun to transition into that and we’ll see how it goes. I feel like I can (make the transition).
“Pitt has some of the best coaching staff and they’re continually on the rise. They had two (NCAA) finalists this year. I’ve wrestled a lot of college kids. There are a lot of kids in the Young Guns room that will be doing well in college. I feel like I’m ready for it.”