For Thomas Miers, attending the region wrestling championships at the end of his freshman season in 2012 left him imagining one day wearing the black Princeton High singlet in a postseason match with everything on the line.
“I remember going to the region tournament and thinking ‘wow some day I could be here, this is really exciting,” recalled Miers.
Miers was inspired to step up his training that summer ‘to just be like those guys’ and after an up-and-down sophomore season last winter, he has emerged as a force in the 132-pound weight class, compiling an outstanding 20-2 mark with six pins so far in the 2013-14 campaign.
Taking up wrestling in the fourth grade after deciding that he didn’t love basketball, Miers has developed a passion for his sport.
“During middle school, it was just something I did during the winter but once I got into high school it became more of a year-round thing,” said Miers.
At Princeton High, Miers burst onto the scene wrestling varsity as a freshman at 106 pounds, fighting his way to a respectable 11-16 record. After the season, PHS head coach Rashone Johnson gave his class the ‘Tiger Blueprint For Success,’ a list of team and individual goals that explains what you need to do to accomplish those goals.
Miers immediately took to the blueprint and set out on the course Johnson had intended when he developed the approach early in his coaching career, lifting and drilling three times a week and dedicating himself to the sport like never before.
But his summer workouts did not pay immediate dividends on the mat last winter, as Miers went 12-15 in his sophomore campaign.
“I thought I was a lot better than my record showed, it was a tough year,” said Miers, reflecting on the 2012-13 season.
Using the disappointing record as additional motivation, Miers entered last summer focused on making the jump from average to the elite. Along with the standard intense weight lifting program geared towards muscle endurance, Miers began a cardio program, running up to eight miles a day in the heat as he tried to improve his match stamina. He also honed his technique in tournaments at Rider University and in Monroe and North Hunterdon.
“Summer lifting was really tough, we had a circuit lift where we went from one exercise right to the next with very little break was tough, it strengthened us mentally knowing it was a hard lift but we had to push through it,” said Miers.
“That to me is what wrestling is; you just have to be more confident and more mentally tough to know that you can go out there on a mat and break a guy. When it’s a tight match, and you’re tired and he’s tired, and to know that you put in the extra work and you’re able to push through, it’s a big confidence booster.”
Miers credited the offseason work with giving him a new swagger on the mat. “All the preparation and drilling and weight lifting made me a lot more confident in what I was doing,” asserted Miers.
Opening the season with a loss, Miers has won 20 of his last 21 contests and is currently riding a 12-match win streak.
In Miers’ view, the key to his success this season has been his self-confidence and belief that he is better than his competitor along with the heavy dose of endurance training.
“Running definitely has helped a lot, I’m not getting as tired as I used to during the match,” said Miers.
Miers attributes the Little Tigers’ practice habits with giving him a boost, noting that the training is harder than the matches.
“Our warm-up during practice is a lot of sprinting and interval training; we definitely have some of the best conditioning in the county,” said Miers.
With the Mercer County Tournament taking place this weekend at Robbinsville, Miers is as focused as ever.
“My goal is to win it,” asserted Miers, referring to the county tournament which is slated for January 31-February 1. “I’ve trained hard, I think I have the ability to win some of those tight matches. I don’t think people are picking me to win the weight class.”
With PHS having gotten off to a promising 8-8 start in dual meet action, Miers believes the team can turn some heads at the counties.
“I think we’re capable of surprising some people,” said Miers. “We have a strong core group of wrestlers who are experienced and help out the younger and/or less experienced guys with just working on technique and trying to sharpen up their moves. We really need everyone to contribute.”
If he continues to rack up wins, Miers may finally find himself in regions with a chance to make a name for himself just as he dreamed nearly two years ago.
“If I can get in the region tournament, there’s no one who I’ll be afraid to wrestle, I think I can definitely do some damage,” said Miers. “Anything can happen in regions. I’ll be wrestling loose and wrestling confident, everything is up for grabs.”
Buoyed by his superb campaign, Miers is already thinking about what he wants to accomplish in his summer workouts.
“I want to up the ante by making this next summer more difficult; it’s going to be my last shot so I want to go all out,” maintained Miers.
“Lifting with Johnson three days a week, running was big time for me, to know I have the endurance to go out and compete with a guy whether it’s double overtime or triple overtime.”
Miers will be attending The College of New Jersey wrestling camp, hoping to meet stiff competition as he prepares for his final season.
“This summer, his mission has to be to find the best guys and beat them and just stick to the formula,” added PHS head coach Johnson, a former TCNJ standout.
As for his future, Miers is looking into wrestling in college. “I wouldn’t let it necessarily dictate where I went to college but if it helped me get a better education then I would certainly do it,” said Miers. “I have to decide over the next couple of months as I start to look at colleges.”
Johnson certainly believes his junior standout has what it takes to wrestle at the next level.
“Definitely, he has the right attitude that you need to make it,” said Johnson. “You have to be very self-motivated to succeed at the college level.”
But for now, Miers wants to emulate the wrestlers he saw at regions as a freshman. “I want to be talked about by everyone in the wrestling community,” said Miers.