Hispanic Heritage Month: Six women who have made an impact on USA Wrestling
by Taylor Miller, USA Wrestling
USA Wrestling continues its celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month spotlighting Hispanic leaders and members of the wrestling community who have made an impact both on and off the mat. This week, we take a look at six women’s freestyle wrestlers who have been trailblazers in the sport.
A daughter of Brazilian political refugees, Patricia Miranda was the first American woman to win an Olympic medal in wrestling, claiming bronze at 48 kg/105.5 lbs. at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, Greece, which were the first Games to include women’s wrestling. Additionally in her incredible career, Miranda won three World medals, including silver medals at the 2000 and 2003 World Championships as well as a bronze at the 2006 Worlds. She was a trailblazer since the beginning of her wrestling days, becoming the first female to join her middle school and high school wrestling teams. She went on to compete at Stanford University, where she became only the second woman in NCAA history to defeat a male athlete in competition. Her impact on wrestling continued as she was co-chair for the Keep Stanford Wrestling effort that was successful in reversing Stanford’s recent decision to cut its wrestling program.
With proud Cuban and Mexican roots, Jacarra Winchester is one of the current stars in USA Wrestling. She is a 2019 World champion at 55 kg/121 lbs. and most recently compiled a fifth-place finish at 53 kg/116 lbs. at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics this summer. She is the first Hispanic woman to make the U.S. Olympic wrestling team since Miranda in 2004. Internationally, Winchester has a 2021 Pan American Championships gold as well as a silver medal from the 2020 Pan American Olympic Qualifier, which secured a quota spot for the U.S. at her weight. Originally from California, Winchester was a girls state high school champion and went on to wrestle at Missouri Valley, where she won an WCWA national title in 2015.
Tatiana Suarez Padilla
A Mexican-American, Tatiana Suarez began wrestling at a young age and continued through high school, earning her the chance to wrestle collegiately at Lindenwood University. Meanwhile, she was also excelling internationally, winning a Junior World silver medal in 2007 as a high schooler and earning a spot on her first Senior international tour a year later. 2008 was a breakout year for her as she won gold at the Pan American Championships and went on to make both the Senior and Junior World Teams. In both World Championships outings, Suarez earned bronze medals. She also competed at the 2009 Senior World Championships, taking fifth. In 2011, her world was shaken at the discovery of cancerous cells in her thyroid. Suarez underwent surgery and eventually beat the disease. A few years later, she transitioned to MMA and made her debut in 2014. She quickly went up in the ranks, joining the UFC in 2016. She is undefeated in MMA with an 8-0 record.
The Blades Sisters
Korina and Kennedy Blades, 17 and 18 years old, respectively, are Mexican, Honduran and African American and have cemented themselves as the future of women’s wrestling in the U.S. Over the last few summers, Korina and Kennedy have put the United States as well as the world on notice. Korina is a 2019 U15 World champion and competed this summer at the Cadet and Junior World Championships. While an injury kept Korina from a Cadet World medal, just weeks later, she powered through and secured a bronze medal at 62 kg/136 lbs. at the Junior Worlds. Alongside her sister, Kennedy also scored a medal at the Junior World Championships, winning gold at 72 kg/158 lbs. It was the first time in U.S. history that a sister duo won medals at a Junior Worlds. Additionally, Kennedy was the U.S. Olympic alternate at 68 kg and U.S. Senior World alternate at 72 kg. Both played crucial roles in helping the USA to World team titles this summer.
Of Mexican and Salvadoran descent, Jessica Medina currently serves as the National Women’s Freestyle Development Coach. She has excelled in the two short years since she joined the USA Wrestling staff. This summer alone, she has coached the Cadet and Junior World Teams to multiple individual medals as well as World team titles in both divisions. Overall, Medina has led the U.S. age-group athletes to 13 gold medals, seven silver medals and eight bronze medals across the U15, Cadet and Junior divisions. Prior to joining USA Wrestling, Medina was the head women’s coach at Ferrum College in Virginia. As an athlete, she was a multiple-time National Team member and competed at the 2009 and 2010 World Championships. Additionally, Medina won two Pan American silver medals.
Check out the interview below that USA Wrestling did with Coach Medina earlier this month on the significance of Hispanic Heritage Month.