Millner named All-American, school-record seven wrestlers compete at NCAA tournament

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Max Correa

App State junior 149-pounder Jonathan Millner in action during his SoCon title match win over Campbell’s Joshua Heil. In St. Louis March 18-20, Millner became the eighth Mountaineer of all time to earn all-American recognition at the NCAA Championships.

Ben Brady, Reporter

Among a school record seven wrestlers who competed at the 2021 NCAA wrestling championships in St. Louis the March 18 through March 20, App State’s 149-pounder Jonathan Millner secured an eighth place finish to earn NCAA Division I All-American recognition.

The redshirt junior became the eighth Mountaineer in program history to be named an All-American, the fourth since head coach JohnMark Bentley took over in 2009, and the first since Denzel Dejournette in 2017. 

“Since Denzel, to keep putting App (State) on the map, just to represent the program and my coaching staff, it means the world to them and me,” said Millner. 

As the No. 7 seed, Millner opened the competition 2-0 on Thursday, clinching All-American honors after a 10-7 decision against Duke’s No. 27 seed Josh Finesilver as the 149-pound bracket was cut to eight Friday night. In the quarterfinals, he ultimately dropped a 5-2 decision against unbeaten No. 2 seed and finalist Austin O’Connor of North Carolina.

 In the seventh-place match, Millner fell 5-3 against Stanford’s No. 8-seed Jaden Abas, securing his eighth-place position. 

I couldn’t be more proud of him,”

— JohnMark Bentley

“I couldn’t be more proud of him, our program and our coaching staff and all of our alumni and supporters,” said Bentley. “It’s tough when you get out here and you’re wrestling against the best guys in the country, and your emotions are going up and down throughout the tournament with different wrestlers participating.”

Millner competed at NCAA’s alongside six App State teammates: redshirt juniors Anthony Brito (141) and Cody Bond (157), redshirt sophomore Will Formato (165), sophomore Sean Carter (133), and redshirt seniors Thomas Flitz (174) and Codi Russell (125). 

Russell qualified for the tournament in his third consecutive season, while Millner and Flitz made their second appearances. Brito, Bond, Formato and Carter each made their NCAA tournament debuts. 

Russell and Carter each joined Millner in picking up tournament victories, as they both went 1-2 in the tournament. 

No. 16-seeded Russell fell 7-6 with an opening round loss to West Virginia’s Killian Cardinale, but broke a 5-5 third period tie with a reversal in his consolation match, holding onto the lead to claim an 8-6 decision against Virginia’s Patrick McCormick. Russell then fell to Minnesota’s Patick McKee by a first-period pin. 

No. 31-seeded Sean Carter fell 20-5 by technical fall in his first match against Penn State’s Roman Bravo-Young, but won an 8-6 decision following a last second takedown against Northern Colorado’s Mosha Schwartz in the night session. Carter dropped his next match to Lehigh’s Malyke Hines by a 10-2 score. 

 As the No. 16 seed, 2021 SoCon Wrestler of the Year Formato fell 3-2 after a decision in his first match against Thomas Bullard of NC State, with an early takedown being the difference. In the night session, Formato fell 11-2 against Northern Iowa’s Austin Yant. 

Cody Bond, a No. 20 seed in his bracket, dropped an 11-5 decision against Oregon State’s Hunter Willits in his opening match, and lost 5-4 against North Carolina’s Joshua McClure in the consolation bracket. 

Brito, ranked 22nd in the 141 bracket, opened with a 10-1 loss to Navy’s Cody Trybus. Brito reached a 4-1 lead against CSU-Bakersfield’s Angelo Martinoni in his consolation bracket match, but in the final 30 seconds, Martinoni overcame a 4-3 deficit with a four-point near fall to secure an 8-4 win.

As the No. 15 seed, Flitz fell 7-5 against Oklahoma State’s Dustin Plott in his opening match. Flitz’s consolation match against Lehigh’s Jake Logan featured no takedowns by either wrestler, and needed overtime to be decided. Flitz conceded an escape, breaking the 3-3 tie and solidifying Plott’s victory. 

The Mountaineer’s record-breaking success in the 2020-21 season further brightens the future of the wrestling program. Sending seven out of 10 starters onto the NCAAs was impressive in its own right, and Millner’s success in the tournament was icing on top. Bentley expressed that the sacrifice and energy put into developing his wrestlers not only helps them reach their own goals, but the program’s goals too.

“In our program we always want to have all-Americans, that’s what we want to do at the end of each year,” said Bentley. “It helps with recruiting, it helps with fundraising and donor support, it’s a special moment for our coaching staff, and we’re proud to have another All-American in this program.”