Millner continues building historic legacy


Ashton Woodruff

Redshirt senior Jon Jon Millner applauds as his team defeats Duke 42-3 on Jan. 24, 2023.

Ben Brady, Reporter

In the 2017-18 wrestling season, the university saw a newcomer finish with an 11-8 record while competing unattached to the wrestling team as a redshirt freshman. By 2019-20, he developed into a full-time starter that won 31 matches including securing a Southern Conference championship. 

Jonathan “Jon Jon” Millner finished as a conference champion once again in 2021 and 2022, and in the top eight at the NCAA Championships each season.  

This year, in his final season, Millner reflected on his historically remarkable career at the university defined by a 113-24 overall record and being just the third two-time All-American in program history. Millner insisted that for himself and for his Mountaineers that are currently ranked 19th in the nation, sustaining success is the objective. 

“Wrestling season is long, and the only thing people remember is March,” Millner said. “If you want to sustain anything at a high level, you can have spurts of success, but you have to remain consistent.” 

For Millner’s final year, consistency would entail another conference championship and a top finish at the NCAAs, with a chance of becoming the first three-time All-American in program history. Additionally, it entails Millner extending the standard of his own success to the rest of his team as a veteran leader. 

Head coach JohnMark Bentley, who has overseen Millner’s development, noted the example Millner sets for the rest of the team. 

“He’s probably our biggest leader on our team,” Bentley said. “We’ve got a lot of good guys on our team, but everyone that knows and follows the sport of Division I wrestling knows that Jonathan Millner is a two-time All-American at Appalachian State. He’s the blueprint for what we take pride in here at App State.”

Part of that blueprint, Bentley said, was Millner’s background and the hard work he has put in to get to where he is today. 

While Millner was a state champion at Ben L. Smith High School in Greensboro, he did not appear on any national ranking boards. As a redshirt in 2018, he was ranked 149th in his weight class, according to WrestleStat.

 In the 2018-19 season, Millner garnered his first collegiate achievement when he was named to the Southern Conference All-Freshman team. 

His commitment to the program and the process led him to becoming a starter the following year and his progression led to his first top-25 ranking. In the years since he has consistently ranked in the top 10, and his excellence has resulted in one of the most successful wrestling careers in school history.

Through his accolades, Millner has exemplified the standard Bentley set for both his individual wrestlers and the team as a whole when he took over as head coach in the 2009-10 season. 

The Mountaineers have gone 122-73-1 during Bentley’s eight-year tenure, and have finished as conference champions six times, including five in the last seven years. In the last three years the university has produced a total of 18 NCAA qualifiers.

During that stretch, Millner has accumulated a 71-9 record as a starter, and is the only tournament qualifier to be named an All-American. Bentley noted the leadership that Millner has displayed through his accomplishments, and through the respect he receives from his peers as a result.

“He’s a leader by example, but also motivates our guys and keeps them in check,”  Bentley said. “When he talks, they listen.”

This season, Millner has led the program to one of its highest rankings in program history, its first national ranking since the 2018-19 season, and its highest since they were ranked 16th in 2017. Earlier this season, on December 15, the team took down a ranked opponent No. 21 North Carolina, their first top-25 win since they beat the Tar Heels previously in the 2016-17 season. 

Since then, the Mountaineers have won six of seven matches, with their lone loss coming against No. 9 Virginia Tech. Millner stated his confidence in his team’s ability to hold their own against any given program, and he emphasized his pursuit of a successful postseason result once again. 

“I think our guys are really good and they can compete with anybody,” Millner said. “If I didn’t think that, I wouldn’t have come back to App for a sixth year.”