At 40 years old, Nathan Marter said there are still days when he can keep up with Bryan Miraglia on a wrestling mat.
He and his star wrestler go hard at practice. But even then, Miraglia won’t accept when his coach gets the better of him. He always finds another level.
“I’m such a competitive person that I didn’t think I could ever admit that anyone could be more competitive than me,” Marter said. “But I think I met my match with Bryan.”
Miraglia describes his own competitive nature like a fire that has been burning inside him for as long as he can remember.
It’s part of the reason why he’s poised to make a run at a state championship for the Delran wrestling team this season. It would be the senior’s third trip to the big meet in Atlantic City in his high school career.
He’s also on the cusp of breaking Delran’s career wins record. At 13-0 this season, he has 118 career wins, putting him on track to challenge the record of 149 set by Phil Rogers in 2017.
But more than simply having that drive, Marter said, Miraglia’s success is owed to his ability to hone and control it.
Miraglia tells stories of what it was like growing up with his older brother, Marcus.
“Anything we did together was a battle," he said. "And either I had to win or he had to win. It was never, ‘OK, let’s just call it a tie.’ ”
Marter remembers watching Miraglia lose a middle-school tournament final in eighth grade to Justin Cariss, and Miraglia swore revenge. He had to wait until his sophomore year when Delran met Cariss’ Highland team in a dual match.
“That loss in middle school ate at him the whole time,” Marter said. “And it was pretty neat to see how satisfied he was when he beat him that night. That’s when I really realized how much he hated to lose.”
Miraglia also remembers those days after his sophomore season when he questioned whether the sacrifice was worth it.
He fought through a torn labrum for most of that season only to fail to qualify for the state tournament after two crushing defeats in the Region 6 tournament, bouts Miraglia said he should have won regardless of his shoulder injury.
It was such a tough stretch — it took so much out of him mentally — that he decided to take some time to assess why he was even putting himself through the anguish in the first place.
“Me and my dad had a number of long talks during that time, and we talked about what I wanted from the sport,” Miraglia said. “We thought about, ‘Do I want to be just a local kid who dominates South Jersey, or do I want to be on the national circuit, a state-level wrestler who wants to go on and wrestle in college?’ And I decided that’s what I want to do. That’s what I plan to do, and the only way to do that is to give everything you have to the sport.”
His reasons for that decision were simple.
“There’s just nothing like wrestling. Being on the mat by yourself and trying to impose your will on someone else — there’s nothing else like it,” said Miraglia, who is waiting to decide where he will wrestle in college. “You realize that the work you’re putting in — all those late-night runs, days in the sauna, hard days of cutting weight — is all worth it when you get a result that you’re looking for.”
That soul-searching put Miraglia in a better frame of mind his junior season.
He bounced back to win the 132-pound Region 6 tournament, beating nationally ranked Kyle Slendorn of Howell in the final. He went 2-2 in Atlantic City. That’s not quite on the podium but still a strong showing.
This year, he wants more. And his approach continues to evolve.
“I’m focusing on having fun this whole year, on scoring as many points as I can in every single match. I’m staying in the moment,” Miraglia said.
He still admits that he hates to lose more than he likes to win, and he said that standing on top of the podium at the state tournament would be a milestone that would leave him speechless.
But until that time, he’ll enjoy every step of the ride.