"As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another."
The Bible verse from Proverbs 27:17 often serves as a mantra in team sports for how one person can make his or her teammates better.
In a combat sport like wrestling, your sparring partner is often just as important as the individual technical work you put in between competitions.
With that in mind, it should come as no surprise that Grand Haven's Daniel Guillen and Cody Miller have used their daily battles in the wrestling room to become Division 1 state qualifiers this winter.
Guillen at 130 pounds and Miller at 125 use each other's skill sets to sharpen their own in what has turned into some fierce competitions at practice.
"I've worked a lot with (Daniel) over the past year, and he's been my biggest motivation for probably two years now," said Miller of Guillen. "He's gotten me to where I am today just by working with me and pushing me to get better at all the little things.
"He kicks my butt every day," he said with a laugh.
GUILLEN THE GREAT
The head-to-head battles helped the two Buccaneer grapplers to top-four finishes at a loaded Division 1 individual regional competition at Grand Ledge High School on Feb. 17.
Guillen opened his day with a 10-3 decision over Patr Thang of Battle Creek Lakeview and added a pinfall win over David Emch of Pinconning in the semifinals.
In the championship match, Guillen fell via pinfall to Jared Riggins of Jackson to finish second-place overall and earn his second straight trip to the state finals.
"Excitement is probably my biggest emotion right now," he said of his final high school wrestling event. "I'm feeling pretty confident right now, especially with how regionals went. I made it all the way to the championship match, but I got pinned in the finals. I'm using that as extra motivation a little bit. I'm working a lot on my flaws from that particular match to get ready for the state finals."
The senior standout reached the 100-career win mark during the postseason, but could have been a lot sooner had he not been forced to battle through a groin injury during the regular season.
"It was tough to deal with initially, especially because it was during the end of the regular season," he said. "We had a little break in our schedule, which allowed me to rest a little bit and that helped. At the time, it was really frustrating because I couldn't really practice or lift or do anything. I was basically out for a full week or so.
"I didn't feel 100 percent until after districts. After that, I stopped babying my injury and I was able to push myself at practice."
Guillen's goals for the state finals are to medal and reach higher than he did last year when he finished eighth overall in the state.
"At the beginning of the year, I set my goal for top five at state," he added. "I'm sticking with that, but I know anything can happen once I get there. I'd like to get another shot at the kid I lost to at regionals.
"Winning another medal would mean a lot to me. I've been wrestling for as long as I can remember, so to close out my high school career with two All-State medals would be amazing. Everything I've worked for has been for this weekend. I've basically been working the last 11-12 years for this weekend."
Miller lost to Zach Johnson of Brighton, 5-0, in the opening round of regional. However, the junior standout bounced back with pinfall wins over Ian Abel of Forest Hills Central (2:24) and Marcus Hurst of East Kentwood (4:27) in the consolation bracket to reach the third-place match and clinch a spot in the Division 1 state finals field.
In the third-place match, Miller dropped to Johnson of Brighton in a rematch, 14-3.
"I lost in overtime of the blood rounds as a sophomore at regionals," reflected Miller. "That absolutely killed me when that happened. Ever since then, I've been looking forward to getting back there and proving myself.
"I've been able to stand toe-for-toe with a lot of guys that are considered better wrestlers than me and they have all been close matches. I know where I stand and I know what I am capable of. I'm excited for this weekend to prove myself against the best in the state.
"I want to place top eight. I've wrestled four kids that were state qualifiers, so I know I can do it."
For Grand Haven head coach Vince Gervais, seeing two of his hardest workers benefit with positive results is a reward in itself.
"They've been two of our most consistent performers all season," said Gervais. "I expected Daniel to make it back as a returning state medalist. Cody did all the right things during the offseason to get better. He wrestled a lot in the spring, went to a lot of camps in the summer and has been a steady performer in and out of the room all year round.
"I had a feeling both of them would be state qualifiers this year just because of the amount of work they've both put in since last season ended. Cody qualified for regionals as a freshman, so we knew he had high potential. As a sophomore, he lost in the blood rounds before he could qualify for the state finals, but he's gradually improved his final standing each season."
While Guillen and Miller hope to medal, Gervais has bigger plans for the two.
"Daniel placed eighth last year, and he set a goal for top five, but personally, I think he's easily top three," he added. "If he can compete to the best of his ability, he has that kind of talent and that kind of potential. The state finals are anyone's game. I think Cody is more than capable of placing in his weight class, as well. If he can get going early, there's no telling how far those two can go."
As impressive as their seasons have been on the mat, Guillen and Miller's leadership off the mat doesn't go unnoticed by their coach.
"They both lead by example and they are both team captains for us," Gervais added. "They are leaders in and out of the room, too. They are hard workers and that work ethic has paid off with success out on the mat. They are seeing the direct results of those hours in the wrestling room right now and they are hoping to get rewarded with a high place at the state meet.
"This is something that no one can take away from there. I'm excited for them and I know they will be out there giving it their all."
MHSAA Individual wrestling state finals
When: Thursday – Saturday
Where: Ford Field, Detroit
Local matchups: Daniel Guillen of Grand Haven (31-5) vs. Austin Hale (42-8) of Bay City Western at 130 pounds; Cody Miller of Grand Haven (34-7) vs. Kyle Kantola of Hart (52-1) at 125 pounds; Zach Sykes of Fruitport (41-9) vs. David Jividen of New Boston Huron (45-5) at 119 pounds.