Three international tournaments. One gold, two silvers, and a lot of miles logged, including roughly 7,800 from California to Kuwait (and then to Egypt) in November. A busy, productive year for Randon Miranda (60 kg, Rise RTC) it was, which is why he was named our Impact Performer for 2021.
Miranda’s overall competitive schedule delivered the most activity out of any US Senior. In addition to his foreign travels, the 24-year-old finished second in March’s Last Chance Qualifier, was a factor at the Olympic Trials, won the US Nationals, and closed out the domestic season with the World Team Trials.
Impact Performer is based on international results, and that area of Miranda’s body of work for ’21 began in late-May. At the Pan-American Championships in Guatemala City, he had put on quite the show. His record of 3-2 — good for silver — is almost misleading, for his performance featured moments of sheer dominance. All three of Miranda’s victories were recorded via technical fall — and his two losses were against one athlete, the highly-seasoned Rio Olympian Andres Montano Arroyo (ECU). Miranda actually held a 6-0 lead on Arroyo in the second period of the gold medal match until a par terre comeback from the Ecuadorian altered the outcome.
Next for Miranda was Denmark’s Thor Masters, a tournament that occurred just one week after the Trials in Lincoln. Two decisive wins assured a trip to the final round — but gold was just barely out of reach. Miranda fell to Bulgarian Dimitar Sandov (now representing SUI) via decision, though even with the loss arrived a nice little factoid: he had become the first US athlete to advance to two Thor Masters finals after first gunning for the top spot in ’18.
The third and conclusive jaunt transpired just over a month ago. Miranda had flown to Kuwait for a special training opportunity that was as much about building goodwill as it was Greco-Roman mechanics. During his stay, the chance to compete in Egypt was availed. The Ibrahim Moustafa tournament — previously thought to be in peril of cancellation — provided sufficiently staunch competition. It did not matter. Miranda scorched the bracket and emerged victorious in the final over Russian Sergey Chigirev.
If there were more, it is fair to presume that Miranda would have done more. His ledger from ’21 rekindled memories of the ’17-’18 season. In what wound up leading to his first US National Team appearance, Miranda pocketed six international medals with four golds. This is an athlete who certainly prefers a high work-rate, especially if it means challenging other top competitors overseas.
2021 5PM IMPACT PERFORMER — RANDON MIRANDA
5PM: Kuwait in November. Not a traditional “Greco country” to visit but you were looking forward to it when I last spoke to you. What did you take away from your time over there?
Randon Miranda: When I got out there it was more of a mental thing. It wasn’t like a big-time camp on the physical side, but it was on the mental side. It was a completely different part of the world. A different society, different way of thinking, different way of living. They speak Arabic over there, so I didn’t understand a word. You have to be pretty educated over there to speak English.
Even coming back from Kuwait, the experience hasn’t hit me fully yet. It wasn’t about numbers. Not everything was necessarily about the dollar bill. It was a different way of thought. It had me reflecting on being home and how much freedom we all have. That was a big eye-opener. You can do whatever you want in the US. We have endless opportunities here. If you want to create something, you can. We can have opinions, we can have discussions. As people here in the US, we have so much freedom. One thing that was different over there is, not a lack of opinions, they are used to just not having opinions. The way the government runs is the way the government runs. It is actually a federal offense to criticize political stuff there. That’s normal for them.
To hear these things, the type of stuff you can get in trouble for over there, the way women are perceived, the way marriages are… It is all completely different from the US. People in the US come here from all over the world to make opportunities for themselves.
But, the people were kind. They were positive. They have money, too. It’s an oil country like Dubai or Saudi Arabia. One of their dollars is equal to three of ours. It balanced out, though. If you went out to get food, it would only be about three Kuwait dollars, even if it was really nine bucks.
It was just really eye-opening. I would be talking to my family back home for say, a half-hour, and then walk out into Kuwaiti society and what they talk about is different. You can tell they have their own understanding of what life is, and it doesn’t necessarily have to do with money. They have it — but they also have a good understanding of things, I felt like. It helped educate me on how I should carry myself back home when I returned from that opportunity. It was really humbling.
5PM: You wrestled and won in Egypt during your stay. That tournament was originally thought to have been canceled, or close to it, but then all of the sudden there you were winning gold. Did you know you ahead of time while in Kuwait that you’d have the chance to enter that event? You also beat a solid Russian in the final, as well.
RM: I think it was right after Thor Masters, but I was already planning on going to Kuwait in November. I have a friend who is on the Kuwait national team and he actually stays with the Olympic committee over there, which is how I got the trip. I had to get a visa invitation and do a whole lot of paperwork. They had to know where I was staying and it is tough to get into Kuwait without that visa invitation because it’s not really a touristy area. They don’t really like that. It’s tough to get there if you’re not military or have some sort of deal like that.
I was just going out there for two weeks to go train and help my friend get ready for the Arabic Championships, which was actually in Egypt. So I’m hearing all this and just looking to train. We were just trying to help each other, a win-win. Although he is a freestyle wrestler and not Greco, it was good conditioning. He kept talking about the Arabic Championships and it didn’t really cross my mind. I was like, I don’t really want to go in the Arabic Championships, because I figured it was like the Pan-Ams, the Europeans, or another continental tournament. I would not even be able to enter their tournament because I’m not Arabic. But he told me, “No, there is a tournament in Egypt called the Ibrahim Moustafa that you can compete in”, since it was UWW (United World Wrestling).
So I talked to Coach (Derrick) Waldroup, talked to my dad, and we all felt that it was a good opportunity to get some competition. I was originally supposed to go from LAX (Los Angeles International Airport) to Kuwait, and then from Kuwait back to LAX. We had to do a whole flight switch so that I could fly from Egypt back home. I learned about the tournament while I was out there. I wasn’t planning on competing. I was just going out there to train because I stay in consistent shape. I just thought, I’m already over here, I’m going to go Egypt and try whatever I can to make it happen.
We went over there and had less than a week. I contacted USA Wrestling, Mohamed (Abdelfatah), Coach (Matt) Lindland, Herb (House). I was nine hours ahead of them, so communicating was tough. I had my dad calling, Coach Waldroup was setting everything up for me, I had to get my UWW license… I had to have everything set in stone. Once we got that and it was okay, I signed up for the tournament.
We had a little two-day training camp in Egypt. My friend had told me that South Korea was coming, that a Russian was going to be there. I was like, This sounds good, let’s do it. I was excited to compete. It was, Let’s go out there and give it our all. We’re not coming out here to play around. We want to win this and take it back to the States, and what better souvenir to have from Egypt than a gold medal?
The tournament was great. First match was Saudi Arabia. I made work of that and ended it in the first period 8-0. The second match was Egypt, and they’re tough. They are technical wrestlers; they’re strong, they are good pummelers, they know what they’re doing. They are not going to give it to you. I just felt good. I was in shape. I felt good, I felt in-shape. Made work of that one, as well, and finished it in the first period.
The third match was against Russia. It was a good match. He was nice and strong. I felt like he didn’t have a game plan for me and was just trying to pummel for a passive point. It ended up working out to where I got the passive point first. Got a turn, got a lift… It was 7-0 in the first period. At that point I am still looking to score, but I’m in cruise control because I know I’m in good position. He got a takedown, and then he had a position where it could have been either a four or a two, so I gave him the two. The match ended up 7-4. But, he was strong. He was a good wrestler. It was a solid tournament. That kid could give some guys trouble in the United States, for sure. He gave it his all. We were going at it.
It was a great experience. It wasn’t some tournament like, Oh, okay, I’ve got a medal. No — when I got this medal it was, This is a good medal. I’m going to remember this tournament, and remember that wrestler. I got their respect, they got my respect, and we were all friends after the competition. It was all good.
5PM: The Pan-Am Championships back in May saw you take silver and have two matches against Andres Montano Arroyo, who was an Olympian and is obviously very tough. I’m sure you were frustrated over the final after having a lead, but it was still impressive. Did this one say anything to you about where you’re at?
RM: I wasn’t really watching him but I had seen his lift. I was like, Okay, he’s got a lift. I’m not stressing about it; but he’s right in front of me, so of course I’m going to watch it. That first match? I corrected a lot after the first match. I didn’t like that performance, I was better than that. I went back to the warm-up area thinking, Alright, well, we’re going to wrestle again, since that is how they were doing it. For the second match, I stuck to the game plan. I was doing everything that I wanted to do and felt strong in there. I had my rhythm on the feet, was getting my stuff, and controlling it. I realized that he couldn’t score on me standing, so I was like, Let’s keep him on the feet. I think I let the gas off too early. My conditioning kind of fell short in that. I lacked a little bit right there. He got his chance on top and it wasn’t good a par terre defense showing for me.
That was something that I reflected on and need to get better at because I was winning the match 6-0 — and I could have possibly even ended the match in the first period. But what I lacked was the conditioning and par terre defense. He got seven points, and I lost by one point.
This is not to throw the whole tournament under the bus, but everyone was looking at him like he was “the guy”. Cuba wasn’t there so this guy was the star. He had won Pan-Ams before, he was decorated. That made me excited to have the opportunity to wrestle him. After the tournament he asked me how old I was. I told him, “24”, and then asked in return, “How old are you?” He said, “32”. Then he looked at his friends, smiled, pointed at me, and shook my hand. We were just really cool every time we passed by each other. When we shook hands, at that moment I knew that, This guy is from Ecuador but he is going to remember me. And when we see each other the next time I’m sure we will shake hands again, but on the mat together it got a little scrappy. We stayed cool, we’ll stay friends, but it’s a competition. It’s a sport. He got the better of me that day, though I will say this: he definitely knows that when we wrestle again he has something coming. He’s got something coming for me, too. It was a great competition and really confidence-boosting.
5PM: I know you like Denmark and that region but why did you think it was important to go to Thor Masters, whether or not you made the World Team? The timing this year was different in that it was only one week after the World Team Trials. You also became the first US guy to make two Thor finals.
RM: I like Denmark because they are all Greco over there. Those countries in that region have it where the men wrestle Greco and the women wrestle freestyle. I like that attitude, but not because it’s anything against freestyle. I like freestyle, I can wrestle all styles. But if I am going to pursue Greco, then that is where I want to go. I want to go where the best Greco wrestlers are. They are competitive in Denmark. I love it. I love all the Scandinavian countries. They have mean front headlocks. They’re just mean, period.
But I actually didn’t know the opportunity was available. I had just wrestled at the Trials and didn’t have a good performance. I was really bummed, and my dad and I were driving back to the airport when I got a call from Bill Sullivan, Billy Sullivan’s dad. I thank him still to this day for reaching out to me. He called and asked if I was interested in going to Thor Masters because they had an extra ticket. Something had happened and someone else couldn’t go. He said, “Don’t worry, whatever the financial situation is, we’ll figure it out.” It all ended up working out perfectly. I asked him when we would leave, because we were literally on our way back to the airport after Trials. He said, “You’ll be leaving tomorrow.” I got home, packed my stuff, and headed to Thor Masters. I didn’t even know it was happening. I can’t even explain it. I was just talking to my dad, Billy is texting me if I want to go, and I was like, Of course I want to go to Thor Masters. If this opportunity is right in front of me, I’m going to take it.
That’s how it came about. I didn’t expect to go. I did hear the tournament was happening, I just didn’t think that I would be competing in it. Being able to go out there to get some extra training, to hang out with Thor (Hyllegaard) and his club at the Barbarian Arena… It’s all about relationships and connections. I thanked Thor because he took me in on a last-minute kind of deal. It was a great opportunity.
As far as the performance goes and me being the only American to make two finals, all I can say is that I just go out there to compete and do my best. That’s all I can do. Whatever happens after that, happens. We’re all hoping for a gold medal. I was bummed to get the silver, but it was uplifting that it was a better performance than the Trials.
5PM: Even going back to the fall of 2020, you have had a lot of competitions. You entered the most tournaments out of every US Senior counting the international stuff we’re discussing from the past season. How do you feel this all sets you up for both this current year and long term towards ’24, competing so often at a high level?
Randon Miranda: I have the right people who are filling in the right pieces for me. They encourage me, they motivate me, they know my goals. They believe in my goals, and they believe in me. Their goal is for me to accomplish my goals. And my goal is to become an Olympic champ. That has been my goal ever since I was nine-years-old and it has never changed. Even in school, my teacher would tell us to write our goals down. My goal said, I want to be an Olympic champ. I didn’t know which style at that time. I didn’t know that I would be wrestling Greco. I just knew that I wanted to be an Olympic Champion.
To become an Olympic champ — from what I hear, because I want to become one — you have to compete. You have to learn how to wrestle the best of the best. You have to be around the best-of-the-best. You have to live it, breathe it, see it, taste it. I want to give a big shoutout to everyone who supports me: Team Rise, California USA Wrestling, my father, my family, and everyone who supports me in the Greco community. Everyone who I put around me believes in me. They help me, and they know that I have to stay competitive. I have to keep that in me. I have to keep that in my heart. Training is good, training is great. But it’s about competition. I have to get used to that feeling of going out there and becoming who I am on the mat.
Looking forward, it’s to keep doing what I’m doing. When I talked to Thor, one thing he told me was to never let financials stop me from competing. He said there is always a way to do it if you believe that it is going to happen. And that is the #1 word, believe. With this journey that I am on with Coach Waldroup and all of my teammates, it is believe, believe, believe. Everything that has occurred so far is all part of the plan. Sometimes, opportunities come up when you don’t expect them. But — if there is a will, there’s a way. We’re just going to keep going. We’re going to keep competing.
It’s a blessing to be able to do what I’m doing at the level I’m at. I will say that I’ve had a lot of opportunities this past year and none of them were taken for granted. It is all going towards the big show. We’re looking towards the Olympics. And we’re not looking to make the Team, we’re looking to win it. That’s the biggest thing. I don’t want to just make a Team and get a participation award. I want to make the Team, I want to get a medal, and then come back to help other people achieve their goals, as well. I want to get my medal and keep passing it on. That’s all I can do.
5PM Impact Performer
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