Flames 197-pound recruit Miller driven to succeed on racetrack, wrestling mat
Racing and wrestling run in the blood of Liberty University men’s wrestling recruit Carder Miller, a two-time VHSL Class 2A state champion from James River High School in Buchanan, Va., who is projected to fill the shoes of Flames 197-pound NCWA Grand National champion Josiah Murphy starting this fall.
“Racing’s my first love,” said Miller, who won his first race at the age of 12. “Wrestling’s kind of my second sport. We’ll see what happens. I’d like to (race after college). That’s how I make a living right now, racing Late Model dirt track cars.”
“I’ve never had a racecar driver before,” added Flames Head Coach Jesse Castro, who has been at the helm since 2005. “He lives and breathes vehicles.”
Miller, who started in motocross before an injury in an accident convinced him to shift gears to auto racing, said driving Late Model cars on the dirt tracks is often a bump-and-grind sport, not unlike wrestling.
“It can be a little bit (dangerous),” he said. “It’s just one of those things, like with wrestling, you don’t really think of the consequences, you just go out and do it.”
Miller has won multiple races at Natural Bridge Speedway as well as Wythe Raceway in Rural Retreat, Va., among others. Wrestling has come just as naturally to him, as he didn’t start competing in the sport until his sophomore year at VHSL Class 3A powerhouse Christiansburg High School.
He placed fourth individually at 191 pounds at the state meet in Salem to finish 27-11 for the year. When it didn’t look like Christiansburg would have a season in 2020-21 due to COVID-19 restrictions, Miller transferred to James River and proceeded to finish 60-1 over his junior and senior seasons.
“It all worked out for the good,” Miller said. “I don’t have that much of a wrestling background, so I’m trying to get as much experience as I can.”
“That’s impressive,” Castro added. “One of the reasons we’re really high on him is the fact that he’s like Josiah (Murphy) in the sense that Josiah had very little experience coming in. But athletically, and with his strength of will and his passion for the sport, we think he’s going to accelerate fast.”
While competing for the Knights, Miller reached out to Liberty as a prospective program where he might want to continue his career, while pursuing a technical studies associate’s degree in plumbing and welding and potentially a bachelor’s degree. through the School of Business.
“I started looking into it my sophomore year and got in touch with a couple guys here (Murphy and three-time 235-pound NCWA Grand National champion Jeff Allen), and they kind of invited me and my family here and I just loved it,” said Miller, who traveled to Lynchburg two to three times per week to practice with the Flames over the past two seasons. “Coach Castro lets me come up here and it’s just an awesome environment.”
Miller likes both the individual and team aspects of wrestling.
“Honestly, I just like how it’s a single individual sport,” he said. “You can’t point your finger to blame anybody but yourself. When you get on the right team, it’s a blast every day. Since the first day I stepped foot in the door, they invited me in just like family.”
Miller has bulked up to 210-215 pounds over the past three months, but believes he’ll be in shape to compete at 197 pounds by November, when the Flames’ 2022-23 season begins.
“I’ll have to lose some weight, but I hope to (wrestle at 197),” he said of succeeding Murphy. “I’ve got some big shoes to fill.”
“Right now, we have him slated for 197, but when Jeff (Allen) graduates at 235, he might bump up,” Castro said. “He’s tall enough, he’s big enough, and strong enough to handle that.”
However, Miller has hesitations over gaining much more weight due to his preexisting health condition.
“I’ve got diabetes, so I can’t afford to get too much bigger,” Miller said. “I try to eat as healthy as I can and watch what I do, count my carbs. It’s a struggle during wrestling season, especially trying to cut weight. Coach Castro puts us through a good workout and as long as we can stay on that program, we’re going to be (successful).”
By Ted Allen/Staff Writer