---- — —¦and life ain't nothing but a funny, funny riddle; thank God I'm a country boy." -- The late John Denver
By Harold Raker
The Daily Item
MIFFLINBURG -- One-time PIAA Class AA champion wrestler Nazar Mironenko is going to go a travel a long way for a chance to wrestle in an area which will remind him of home.
Mironenko didn't exactly face a funny, funny riddle. But he did have a couple of choices to make.
The Wildcats' senior 285-pounder, who also starred as a two-way lineman in football, decided his original plan, to play Division I college football, was less likely than a shot at D1 wrestling.
That choice made, Mironenko headed south for a visit to the University of North Carolina, where he could wrestle in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
But the country boy did not care too much for the city atmosphere of Chapel Hill. So he flew out west to Fargo, N.D., to check out North Dakota State, and he was sold.
"It is a long way (from home) but they are down-home people, they are not arrogant. When you fit somewhere, you fit somewhere," he said.
Monday morning, Mironenko, son of Nikolay and Yvonne Mironenko, made it official, signing his National Letter of Intent to wrestle for the Bison.
Mironenko said the Bison are a program on the rise and their recruiting class was ranked No. 4 in the nation, but since improved to No. 2.
"They are building talent and their coach (Roger Kish) is really young, the youngest coach in Division I," he said. "They are definitely a top-15 team. They are an up-and-coming program, and I would like to be able to help push the team into the spotlight".
Mironenko will redshirt his first year and spend five years in Fargo, majoring in geology with an emphasis on geography and mapping.
And the sport which was once his favorite, well, he will get to spend Saturday afternoons watching a college team that won the FCS national championship last season are ranked No. 1 again as they head back to the playoffs.
"I was leaning toward football a lot and then I figured out that if you are not as tall as everybody else, (Mironenko is 6-foot-1)…they can teach you everything else, but they can't teach you to be taller, and they can't teach you to be faster."
He said there was not a lot of interest in him for football during the visits he took.
"It did take me back, but it came down to being able to get a good education and wrestle, or paying more money to be able to play football," Mironenko said.
"I really wanted to (play football), but I came to the realization that it's not the best thing to do," he added.
In addition to the down-home feel he got from North Dakota, Mironenko said the wrestling style fits his own very well.
"They like to bang heads, there is no pussy-footing around," he said.
"From now on it's straight wrestling and I'm not going to worry about anything else."
That will begin in a few weeks, when he gets back on the high school mats to try to repeat his state title from two seasons ago, and erase the memory of last year, when a disqualification in Hershey cost him a chance at a repeat.
Mironenko was 78-7 the last two seasons.
He will have to sit out the season-opening event, the Top Hat Tournament in Williamsport, because of the disqualification.
"I want to bounce back from last year, work hard, don't complain about anything," he said.