The daughter of Brazilian political refugees, Patricia Miranda wrestled at Stanford on the men’s team from 1997-2002. She earned the starting position at 125 pounds during her senior year and is the most decorated international wrestler in Cardinal history. She earned three World Championship medals and became the first Olympic medalist in women’s wrestling history. Patricia earned her juris doctorate at Yale Law School and is currently a partner at Miranda, Magden & Miranda LLP.
My journey to Stanford wrestling was enticed by my attraction to extremes, but also a process of elimination. I am a Brazilian with no knack for soccer. An endurance athlete with a 26” inseam, a 2-inch vertical, and no family history in athletics whatsoever. My search for extremes started with my mother’s death and set me looking for answers, answers not about meaning, but about myself, my limits, and who I was deep down. Wrestling, with its naked simplicity, led me to my answer. Two bodies, two minds, two wills, with no tools or equipment, with the same objective in a zero-sum game.
Wrestling generally requires no standard body type, no exceptional height requirement, high or low, and no optimal strength-to-speed ratio. On a wrestling mat, skin colors and divided peoples can be pressed together until they are bonded indistinguishable, the actors speaking only in the language of will, resilience, and acceptance of pain. Wresting crowns champions with only one leg, and sometimes those with no limbs at all. Stanford wrestling gave me, a female, the opportunity to test my heart against the men. From the moment I walked into the basement room in Arrillaga with my future teammates, the message was always clear: if I had it in me, any wrestler at Stanford would accept me.
Wrestling at Stanford is one of the great honors of my life. There is no Olympics for me without Stanford, but it has meant so much more. As the first U.S. born daughter of political refugees, the mantra I was raised with focused on education and financial security as the only priorities. My family was alone and displaced into North America, and the tension I felt was real between the priorities echoing from my inherited circumstance and the idea that I needed to be something more. Before wrestling came into my life, I primarily heard, “to hell with happiness, and to hell with focusing on developing your character; those things are for those already ‘established.’” This clashed in me with the [admittedly privileged] yearning that I might matter as an individual, that who I am can matter. That Stanford had a wrestling program signaled to me that the highest educational institutions in this country--that that part of society we immigrants ‘needed’ to reach for safety--valued the character exploration and development that I felt compelled to pursue. Stanford wrestling taught me that a scholar-athlete could be a work in progress, not a refined result, even at a place like Stanford. That it mattered to Stanford who I was at the core and they were going to allow me to build that core even stronger, so I could be depended on by others someday when I went out into the world and contributed. Stanford cared to provide me that opportunity.
I understand that other sport activities can push individuals to their physical and mental extremes. However, there are no individuals in basketball under 5’ tall, no misshapen water polo players, and there are no 105-pound females in football. Wrestling takes all comers, and, if you choose wrestling, it will take everything you are, everything you must grow to become who you need to be. Wrestling, at its very core, only requires a willingness to be stripped down to rubble and to rebuild. Cuban wrestlers are some of the most feared in the world, but I have seen Cuban training facilities in the bare dirt and with only rusty iron plates to train with. Wrestling is where the arbitrariness of height, coordination, explosiveness, resources for technical equipment—and even gender--matters not. Stanford wrestling is where, in the entire history of the NCAA Division 1 wrestling, a female was able to make the starting lineup in a men’s program. Wrestling is the invitation to be forged by elemental fire by any and all that desire the opportunity.
Stanford has increased, many-fold, my ability to contribute yesterday, today and tomorrow. Others can rely on me now, in large part, because Stanford cared to provide the opportunities unique to wrestling, the fire pit with little to no barriers to entry that I needed as a young adult to forge into someone better. Stanford wrestling gave me the tools and confidence to warrant the Stanford name. I am forever grateful for myself and for all I touch, that Stanford provided me the opportunities it did, especially on a wrestling mat. I dearly hope that Stanford, through these challenging times, keeps this unique door open for others like me.
- Patricia Miranda