“It’s just fun to me. I don’t even know how to explain it.”
That could be any human describing his or her favorite hobby but instead, it’s a 19-year old who is just coming off competing for a world championship in the sport of wrestling. Then again, Randon Miranda isn’t your everyday human. The Palmdale, California native was a multi-style star in high school and like any successful scholastic athlete, had plenty of options upon graduation. Rather than take the so-called traditional route of enrolling in a folkstyle college program, Miranda chose to pursue the glory of international Greco Roman gold. That is why he is tucked away in Marquette, Michigan on an early September afternoon trying to clear jet lag-induced cobwebs. Classes at Northern Michigan University, the home of the US Olympic Training Site, are in full-swing and Miranda has some ground to make up.
The 50 kilogram competitor went 1-2 at his first Junior World Championships appearance in Macon, France last week, so the dream of a gold medal will have to wait a little longer. That’s okay — Miranda likes dreams. Why else would he be grinding it out 2,200 miles away from home in a state where the winters are as unforgiving as the sport he devotes his life to? Being a competitive international wrestler requires giving yourself to the sport in near-totality. There are long hours, longer workouts, travel, triumphs, disappointments and if you’re an NMU athlete like Miranda, classes on top of it all. That’s okay, too. Miranda also likes work. In fact, he couldn’t wait to start punching the clock again as soon as he returned home.
Last week was an important one for the wrestler, but there will be many more just like it. To be an American Greco Roman athlete is like existing as a living dichotomy. You have to somehow embrace a fresh start while also picking up where you left off. There is constant development at play. Take the lessons to heart, learn, re-learn, grow, and move on. Randon Miranda is interested in moving on. And he can’t wait to see where this fresh start takes him next.
5PM Interview with Randon Miranda
5PM: What attracted you to wrestling growing up?
Randon Miranda: It was just something that I could do to have fun. I didn’t find it hard, I didn’t find it tiring that much. I could just do what I wanted to do and not hurt the guy, you know what I mean?
5PM: I think so, I think it says something about being able to control someone in combat without having to wound them.
5PM: Why did you choose Greco? You were good at other styles, why’d you gravitate towards Greco?
RM: Honestly, I felt like I was okay at folkstyle, I felt like I was pretty good to where I could go to a folkstyle school and wrestle freestyle in the summer. But I don’t know, I just liked Greco. By my junior and senior years I was so fascinated by it just because it was so different. I love the technique behind it. It’s just so different to me. That’s what got me really into it. So for NMU, it has the school, so I could still go to school and wrestle Greco and continue that way. So that was the main thing, that I could continue in Greco, still go to school, and travel internationally. I just liked Greco and I’m still learning from it. I’m still learning about the sport itself and I really enjoy it.
5PM: Northern Michigan alumni through the years have remained pretty close. Is it like that for you and your teammates? Is there a bond among the current NMU guys that you feel a part of?
RM: Yeah, there is. I know everyone, we eat together, we always see each other. We’re always hanging out on the weekends and doing something as a team. We’re all really close. We are all involved with each other.
5PM: After winning the Junior World Team Trials, knowing you were going to the World Championships, did it feel different as a competitor compared to all of the other accomplishments you had before?
RM: It did a little bit. Actually when you are training, it is a little different than when you’re not competitive like that, going hard. I was kind of surprised by how real it is. When we got there, I wasn’t nervous about it, I was just excited, like, Wow, I’m actually at the World Championships. Some of these athletes are not wrestling for themselves, they are wrestling for their countries. You see the signs and everything. It’s like, Wow, this is pretty cool. So I didn’t think it was different than going to Fargo or something, but it’s on a totally different level.
5PM: How was your overall preparation heading into the Worlds? I know you went to some training camps like in Colorado Springs and all that. How did you gauge your prep and what exactly did it entail?
Randon Miranda: Mentally, I would just wake up and be like, I want to have a World Championship, I just want to be a World Champion. I felt like I could really do it and I felt confident because I wrestled in international tournaments. And I was going to actually be able to wrestle at 50 kilos where I felt comfortable. It was a big cut but I felt comfortable. I was mentally prepared and every practice I would go 100% and I felt really confident in myself.
5PM: Your first match you had the Japanese wrestler Yamaguchi, and you wheeled right past him. Once you got that first match out of the way, did you feel like you were about to get on a roll here?
RM: Yeah, exactly. When I won that first match I was really confident. I was like, Wow, I did good. Those guys are going to be just as tough as the next guy. I was really excited about the win because then I could go and continue it on. I felt just as prepared for my second match as I did for my first match. I felt really well and when I went out there, I just made poor decisions with my technique. If I could go back, obviously I would change everything. I just have to learn from it, really.
5PM: Well, that was one of my questions, which is what did you learn from your first World tournament? You won a match, you went 1-2. It might not have been the tournament you were hoping for, but what do you take away from it?
RM: That they are no different than I am. I will go back next year and I will do better. I learned that I just need to work on some stuff a little more and work a little harder. And then next year, I’ll be ready.
5PM: What does your 2016-2017 season look like? What do you have coming up competitively in the near future?
RM: We have a Sweden tour I think in October and I think there are two Senior tournaments out there that we’re doing. That’ll be one thing. Whenever the NYAC tournament is, I want to go there, too.
5PM: Oh okay, so you’re looking to hop in all of the domestic Senior events, the Farrell, the Schultz, things like that?
RM: Yeah, I’m going to try. I want to go to everything. It’s going to be a little hard with school because I just came back from Worlds and I think they are on the third week right now and this is my first week. So I have a little bit of catching up to do, but I’m going to try to do my best to go to those.
5PM: You’re an up-and-coming Greco Roman wrestler in the United States during a pivotal time in the program. Things are ticking up, there is a different attitude now. What do you see for the US Greco program in the future from your vantage point?
RM: I feel like this is the best time to be a Greco wrestler. There is a lot of change that is happening. Not only is the sport going to get better, but I think think for us, this year was good and next year is going to be even better. They are putting a lot more into the sport, as they should, because I feel like there is a different mindset now.
5PM: Training at the OTC and being around the Seniors and the Olympians, did that make any kind of impression on you?
RM: A little bit. It was different. I had never spent as much time as I did this summer with the Olympians. But it just kind of prepped me up. It was the most I had ever spent with a team like that. It really helped me a lot. Wrestling Jesse (Thielke), him just showing a whole bunch of stuff, I felt like it helped me a lot.
5PM: I look at someone like you, the position you’re in, the program you are a part of, and I tab you automatically as a “lifer”, someone who is after an Olympic gold medal. Is that you? Is that your goal going forward?
RM: That’s the goal. That is the goal. It is the number one goal. That’s all I’m worried about. That is the main thing, it’s why I am in this. I don’t want to be “just good”, I want to be the best. And I feel one day I will be the best.
5PM: Whether it was when you were 16 or if it was 6 months ago, when did you realize you were good enough to where this was all worth pursuing?
Randon Miranda: I would say when I first came here, I was excited about it and about midway through my freshman year, I realized how big this sport is and how great it is. And how it looked to see to a World Champion get their hand raised. That’s what I want. That makes me feel excited. And after seeing that coming back this year, I’ve never been so excited just to get back into it.
Feel free to follow Randon Miranda on Twitter for updates on his competitive schedule and other news about his career.