Going into the state wrestling tournament in Atlantic City, Gabby Miller was upset with her performance in the NJSIAA North Region tournament.
On Feb. 17 at Red Bank Regional High School, Miller lost to Amanda Pace of North Bergen High School in the regional final. The Monroe Township High School freshman had a lead in the match. But then Pace reversed Miller, put her on her back and pinned her to the mat.
Miller was irate after the loss. But she did not let her anger go to waste. After the match, Miller and her coach at Monroe, Joe Eurell, realized what they needed to do differently at Atlantic City’s Boardwalk Hall.
The freshman and her coach knew they would likely see Pace again in the state tournament championship. So they developed a strategy to beat her: Miller would have to stay on her feet and win on the scoreboard, not with a pin.
Sure enough, Miller and Pace reached the 147-pound state championship on March 2 in Atlantic City. Miller still attacked Pace. But every time she took Pace down, she let her right back up. Then she tried to score more.
“I just had to be smart,” Miller said. “I wasn’t smart in the regional and she rolled me.”
The Monroe wrestler executed the strategy and earned a tight decision, 6-3. She also won a state title in the first year that the NJSIAA, the governing body for scholastic sports in the state, sanctioned girls’ wrestling in New Jersey.
“Amanda (Pace) was able to get a reversal at any moment,” Eurell said. “If Gabby didn’t put herself in a situation to get reversed, we would have an advantage.”
Miller had no problem tailoring a strategy to beat a specific opponent. She has been a year round wrestler since she was young. With so much experience, the freshman is able to win in multiple ways.
She never gets sick of wrestling, either. Since arriving at Monroe, Miller has wrestled for the high school program, in the Jamesburg recreational program and at the Elite Wrestling NJ location in Jackson.
“This wasn’t something she accomplished this year,” Eurell said. “She’s been working toward it her whole life.”
“She also has larger ambitions,” the coach added.
Eurell thinks Miller can win four state championships in her career at Monroe. He called Miller reaching high school in the same year that the NJSIAA sanctioned girls’ wrestling “perfect timing.”
“She’s one of the more dominant female wrestlers in the state,” the coach said.
But while Miller cares about the girls’ tournament, it is not her main focus. She wants to earn a spot in the boys’ starting lineup at Monroe. Then she wants to beat the boys from other schools in varsity matches.
Eurell has seen Miller beat male wrestlers before, in summer tournaments and in practices. And unlike the boys, she is already focusing on collegiate level moves.
Miller wrestles in freestyle tournaments around the country. Female wrestling at the collegiate level operates under freestyle rules, which are more liberal than scholastic rules.
In freestyle matches, Miller has expanded her endurance and her repertoire of moves. That should help her against boys that aren’t as developed.
“She’s talented enough to get into the boys’ lineup,” Eurell said. “And she’ll work hard enough to do it.”
“The Jersey boys are great competition,” Miller said. “I feel great when I win my boys tournaments.”