Earning a spot on the first National Junior Olympic Wrestling Team in 1967 was probably the highlight of John’s wrestling career. After winning the California State Junior Olympic Championships at 178.5 lbs. held in Bakersfield, seventeen year-old John traveled to Illinois to wrestle for a spot on the National team. Fifty-seven finalists from around the country reported to a training camp at the Great Lakes Naval Training Center in Chicago. John won the Greco Roman tournament in his weight class at a time when that style of wrestling was almost totally unfamiliar to U.S. high school wrestlers. In Greco Roman, a wrestler cannot use his legs to take down an opponent; it is all upper body strength.
From Illinois, the two teams, made up of nineteen young men from the United States and one from Canada, traveled to Germany where they won all four dual meets against the “cream of West Germany’s young wrestlers”. After seventeen days in Europe, John returned to Bakersfield and went on to amass a 40-0 record his senior year winning the title of California Wrestler of the Year in 1968.
John lost only one match in his last two seasons at North High bringing his overall high school record to 91-6-2. He was a two time CIF Valley Champion at 175lbs and 191lbs, and, Co-MVP of the team in 1967 and ’68. After graduating from North, he went on to wrestle for two years at Bakersfield College and one year at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo on a football/wrestling scholarship.
John was a two sport athlete while at North High, playing football for three years also. He was selected to the All City Team in 1966 as a defensive back, and then in 1967, as an Offensive Back. His senior year, he was Co-MVP and team captain.
While playing for BC, he was a member of the Metropolitan Conference Championship team in 1969 and was voted to the All Conference Team in 1970.
John graduated from Cal State University Bakersfield in 1974 with a teaching credential, and taught at Royal High School in Simi Valley where he also coached football and wrestling. In 1975, John moved his family back to Bakersfield to take over his family business. His Dad, John Sr., started Oildale Auto Parts in 1960, and, John and his wife of 41 years still run it today. John met Debbie at North High in 1966, his two daughters, Lori and Erin, were North High athletes, and his son-in-law, Darin, taught and coached at North High. He also has a nine-year old grandson, Devon who loves to play football.
When John was selected as Prep of the Week, January 31, 1968, the Bakersfield Californian asked his coach, Win Bootman, this question. “Does the wrestler make the coach or does the coach make the wrestler? Coach Bootman replied, “neither”…in the case of John Miller. “I’d say the key to John’s success has been his parents…They never boast about their boy and I never have heard John boast about his accomplishments. Humility is Miller’s greatest attribute.” He went on to say, that Miller combines strength with grace and balance…and, is as great a high school football player as a wrestler.