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BLAZING A TRAIL: Punxsutawney Junior Jael Miller Won’t Allow Anything to Stop Her on the Wrestling Mat, Not Even a Serious Injury

PUNXSUTAWNEY, Pa. (EYT/D9) — A wrestler needs her hands and Jael Miller’s left one wasn’t working the way it should.

And it was a problem.

(Pictured above, Punxsutawney’s Jael Miller, bottom, controls her opponent/submitted photo)

The pain in the Punxsutawney’s freshman’s wrist became too hard to ignore. It was affecting everything she did on the wrestling mat.

Miller had just polished off a dominating tournament at the PAUSA Freestyle State Championship at Alvernia University last June with a gold medal at 164 pounds.

She went to the US Marine Corps National Freestyle Championships in Fargo, N.D., a month later and the wrist was still bothersome.

It got much, much worse.

Miller knew there was something wrong, more serious than the initial diagnosis of a sprain.

“I finally went to get an X-ray,” Miller said. “They said it was broken.”

Punxsutawney Area High School sports coverage on Explore and is brought to you by Redbank Chevrolet and DuBrook.


The injury was severe. Surgery was the only way to repair it.

It took two bone grafts and screw to fix.

And so began a seventh-month odyssey of pain, determination, disappointment and a rebirth of sorts for Miller.


At the age of five, Jael Miller intently watched her older brothers, John-Mark Miller and Joshua Miller, wrestle.

She was fascinated by the sport and she wanted to it too, even though it was a very male-dominated realm.

Jael didn’t care.

From the moment she first hit the mat, Jael was a natural. She blitzed through her first year of wrestling with rousing success.

Not long after, things changed.

At the age of seven, Jael broke her left wrist for the first time. The injury didn’t happen on the mat — it happened as things like this often do with an active seven-year-old girl.

Jael doesn’t remember how she broke it, just that she did.

“I think I just slammed it on something,” she said. “Or fell down. I did something.”

It took time to heal and when Jael was finally able to wrestle again, she felt off.

“It was weird for me to go back to wrestling after that,” she said. “I don’t know why. It just felt weird.”

Jael even thought about quitting. Instead, she stuck it out through a difficult season and returned again for the next one.

That’s when she started to flourish again.

By the fourth grade, Jael was one of the most dominant female wrestlers on the mat in Pennsylvania. She was winning tournaments handily — at least the ones she could find against other female wrestlers.

She was even holding her own against the boys.

“I was like, ‘Oh. I actually have a knack for this,’” she said.

Jael’s love of the sport blossomed. She sought out any and all tournaments she could find to get more experience on the mat.

She got better.

And better.

Last year as a freshman, she won two state titles — also snagging the gold at 2022 MyHouse PA Girls State Wrestling Championships in March.

Twice she earned All-American status in the 16-and-under division.

Jael was very much a female wrestler on a meteoric rise.

Then everything stopped.


“Seven months,” Jael Miller says, pausing to let that sink in. Seven month she was sidelined after wrist surgery, unable to wrestle.

“I was allowed to practice in about four months after the surgery I needed to fix it, but I had it all taped up,” she added. “I couldn’t go live — it was very light starting out. I wasn’t cleared again to compete until about February.”

Because of the nature and location of the break, the rehab was at times grueling.

“It was a lot of range of motion at first,” Jael said. “It was hard. It hurt a lot.”

Then a sophomore, Jael missed most of the high school season, going 5-1 at 160 pounds for Punxsutawney.

She has a career record of 11-1 vs. girls and 2-1 vs. boys.

Jael returned to the MyHouse PA Girls State Wrestling Championships this year and placed second at 170 pounds.

She also went to Fargo again for the US Marine Corps freestyle event this summer and fared well, winning her first three bouts before losing the next two.

Still, Jael was disappointed.

“I knew I could have done better,” she said. “It happened. I can’t really fix it or change it now.”

Jael is determined to put all of that behind her.


Jael Miller has a unique skill set for a female who wrestles in the 160-170 weight range.

She’s lightning quick, able to shock opponents with her speed. She’s also sudden at taking shots at her foe’s legs and getting them down on the mat where she can then use her developing strength.

“That’s not very common for girls at my weight,” Jael said. “I am pretty strong with that. It’s a big strength of mine.”

Jael is working in the weight room to get even stronger in her upper body so she can be more of a complete wrestler.

She has some very lofty goals for herself in the future.

“I’m aiming for the Olympics,” Jael said. “I want to go to international and world events. I want to do this for a long time.”

There are more and more opportunities for wrestlers like Jael.

Women’s wrestling is a fast growing sport in the United States. In May, the PIAA sanctioned girls wrestling as a high school and junior high sport.

More and more programs are popping up at the prep level all across the state and country. There’s been an explosion of programs started at the collegiate level.

Jael is pleased to see the growth and to be riding that wave.

“It’s so nice,” she said. “When I started to get serious about wrestling, there really weren’t that many opportunities at all. The ones there were weren’t really talked about. Now I know a ton of colleges, even if they’re small, starting a girls team or even just having a club team to get started. There’s so many places and chances for girls now and it is great.”

Jael has a pair of tournaments coming up in September before she has a break until wrestling season begins at Punxsutawney.

She’ll go to Monroeville for the Battle in the Burgh wrestling event early in the month before heading off to Indianapolis for the US Girls Midwest Nationals.

Her wrist is healed. Her goals are lofty — but within reach.

Jael Miller feels like nothing can stop her now.

“I’m getting pretty excited,” she said. “Just feeling like myself again and getting more comfortable with what I can do on the mat again, like using my wrist and hand in certain situations and not worrying about it.

“I was concerned,” she added. “I wondered if I would even be the same again, but I had a good surgeon and he promised me I would be OK. He said it could take a year before I was fully back, but I feel like I’m back and I’m excited to see what I can do.”

Punxsutawney Area High School sports coverage on Explore and is brought to you by Redbank Chevrolet and DuBrook.