Back when Gabby Miller was a youth wrestler in the Jamesburg Recreation Wrestling program, she remembers asking her father, Jeffrey, one evening if she could be a high school state champion someday.
Even though the odds were stacked against Miller at the time, with girls wrestling not yet an NJSIAA sanctioned sport, her father told her that if she put her mind to it and worked harder than anyone else, she could be a state champion.
When Miller entered high school during the 2018-19 academic year, the NJSIAA announced that girls wrestling would begin that same year and that a state tournament for girls would take place just like the boys.
It was “great timing” for Miller, who roared to winning the first-ever 147-pound girls state championship as a member of the Monroe Township High School wrestling program.
Now a grappler for the Old Bridge High School wrestling team, Miller saw her hard-fought road to winning a second state championship, this time at 128 pounds, come to fruition on April 10 at Phillipsburg High School.
Miller used all the hard work she did in the offseason to work on her technique and conditioning to top Emily Klein of Paramus High School in the 128-pound final by a 6-2 decision, becoming a two-time state champion and the first girls wrestling state champion for Old Bridge.
Seeing her mother, Jessica, in the stands cheering her on after the victory, relief and excitement set in for Miller, who was now a two-time state champion.
“Everyone was excited,” Miller said about winning her second state championship. “It was strictly business for me walking into the tournament. I took things one match at a time and was focused on winning each match.
“When I won my first, it was an historic moment. After looking back on my second one, it’ll be something I’ll always remember doing when I get older.”
Miller’s second state title was a redemption tour of sorts.
In last year’s 135-pound state final bout, Miller fell just short of winning her second straight state crown with a 5-4 loss to Delran High School’s Emma Matera.
The loss in the state final was “humbling” for Miller.
She said it helped her grow as a person and become more driven to work on her abilities as a wrestler to become a champion again.
“There is more and more work you need to do to win a (championship) again,” said Miller. “I was more driven than ever to get back and win it this year.”
Miller didn’t let the coronavirus pandemic slow her down in preparing for her junior year, using some of that time to rest her body and recharge and then getting after it by training hard on upgrading her technique and getting stronger.
“I didn’t want to skip a beat,” she said.
Besides the pandemic, Miller saw another change in her life by moving to Old Bridge.
Her parents are both Old Bridge alum and wanted to move back home.
Because of friends in the Old Bridge area and in the wrestling program, the move for Miller and her brother, Austin, was not an issue at all.
Miller said that being a part of the Old Bridge wrestling program is like being a part of a family and that she had a fun first season as a Knight.
“We’re like a big family,” Miller said. “It’s exciting to see us maturing and growing as a team.”
Miller pulled double duty this season for Old Bridge. She competed at 132 pounds in dual meets for the boys varsity team before switching over to competing against the girls during the NJSIAA South Region Tournament.
Miller went 4-5 in dual meets while going a perfect 6-0 during the girls wrestling postseason tournaments to win her second state title.
“She took to our culture like a fish to water,” said Old Bridge wrestling Coach John Post. “She wanted to wrestle in the varsity dual meets right off the bat. She earned every one of her victories. All her matches were a war of nutrition and she always had a technical approach to her matches. She’s the type of kid that younger wrestlers in our program look up to.”
Post said having Miller in the fold to lead Old Bridge’s young group of girl wrestlers is “special” and he hopes it can translate to the Knights having a full girls varsity wrestling lineup for dual meets in the future.
A third state championship is the goal next year for Miller to cap a stellar high school career.
Once a young girl asking if she had the chance to be a state champion, Miller stands today as a two-time state champion and a trailblazer for girls wrestling in the state of New Jersey.
“I want to win it again next year and finish off high school as a three-time state champ,” she said.