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Sophia Mirabella Q&A: Preparing for first international tour, from kickboxing to college wrestling at King

by Joe Wedra, USA Wrestling

Photo of Sophia Mirabella by Tony Rotundo

This year, will interview one collegiate wrestling athlete each week as a part of a new Q&A series for the 2021-22 college wrestling season. Stay tuned each week for a new feature, spotlighting these student-athletes both on and off the mat.
This week, we chat with King University sophomore Sophia Mirabella, who will be competing next week in the Dan Kolov-Nikola Petrov International in the first international tournament of her career. Last year, Mirabella finished fourth at the NCWW National Championships at 116 pounds. She is redshirting this season and preparing for a busy spring and summer of competition.
Below, Mirabella discusses a variety of topics, including how her MMA background helped her get ready for the college wrestling lifestyle.
Q: Last year, you earned a fourth-place finish at Nationals and really make a difference for King right away. What was that experience like for you, going through a full season of college wrestling?

A: Honestly, last year was really about putting in a lot of hard work, day in and day out on the mat, just grinding. Sometimes, I’d be on the mat two to three times a day just working and getting better. I knew I had to catch up with some of the girls because they have more experience than me, but I was really in the perfect room to get better. King is an awesome room full of tough girls. It was just a lot of hard work to get there and a lot of grinding.
Q: Coming up, this is going to be your first international tour ever. What has the process been like to get ready?
A: There is definitely an unknown factor that goes into it, but I am excited. Honestly, for me, it’s just getting back to where I want to be again and just grinding and trusting in my work ethic, my coaches and my partners to get me prepared for this next step.
At King, we have girls who have already competed at the international level like Ashlynn Ortega. I’ve been trying to work with her a bit more to help me get a good feel for it. But, I’m just staying on top of my training. Honestly, I’m excited to compete internationally, get my hands on someone who is not from this country and really see what it’s all about.
Q: Of course, the goal is always to go over and win. But big picture, what are you most looking forward to in terms of what you can take away from this tour?
A: Just gaining that experience. I want to feel what it’s like to wrestle girls internationally, because every country has a different style. You see it when you watch different competitions, like the Olympics. I want to really get a feel for that. Also, just working with some of the Senior World team members who I’m not able to work with regularly, just opening up my eyes to the bigger picture. I do want to make a run to the Olympics in 2024, so that’s the bigger goal for me. I want to get in as much as I can, experience everything and get better little by little.
Q: Overall, how would you describe the environment at King, and what is it like to be in that culture on a daily basis?
A: We have a room full of great girls. This year, we have hammers in the room. It’s great because we push each other. There are some days where we go in the room and just beat up on each other and grind and go live. And honestly, that’s a great thing because it’s the only way we are going to get better.
We are all friends outside of the room, but when it’s time to go and we’re in the mat room, nobody is friends in that mat room. We really want to push each other to get better. Outside of there, we have lifts, getting drills in on our own… the team is always going in to get more out of our training, so we always train extra.
Q: What did your process of choosing King as your college home look like?
A: My process to choose King, it was actually fairly interesting. I come from an MMA background, so I didn’t start fully wrestling until I was about 15 at the end of my sophomore year of high school. I took first at states in my junior year in New York. I then went to Fargo, and there I met Julia Salata (multiple-time USA Wrestling National team member, 2018 U.S. Open champion), who is our assistant coach. She’s amazing. So from there, we talked and I kind of got a feel for King. She was telling me about it and how great of a school it is.
Then, when I went to go train back in Florida – because I train at an MMA gym – there was a King alum there who was telling me about King and how he wrestled there. I went to go check it out on my trip, and I absolutely just fell in love with it. I competed at the Tornado Open, my first college open as a senior in high school. I took third, and from there I just knew it was the school for me and it was the place I needed to be at to get better.
Q: You have an extensive kickboxing background and you mention how you’ve really relied on MMA training throughout your career. How do you think that has helped you as you have prepared for college wrestling life?
A: It helped me prepare for college wrestling because I was already used to the grind and really training every day, getting ready to compete and cutting weight. I already had that toughness inside of me, the mental toughness. When I came into college, I was prepared. There was definitely an unknown factor with it being my first serious college season (last year), and it was a completely different change for me.
But, I fell in love with it. Coach Jason Moorman is absolutely amazing. I give all the credit to my success to him. He helps me every day, just working and always answering the extra questions and helping me through the mental process of getting back on the mat. He obviously knows what he’s doing. He produces Olympians. You see Sarah Hildebrandt, who just won her Olympic bronze medal in Tokyo. I’m just trying to follow in those footsteps.
Q: As you get ready for this freestyle season and the busy schedule for you up ahead, what are you most looking forward to and how would you describe your mindset as you prepare?
A: The mindset going into this is just taking one match at a time… How am I going to break the person in front of me? I believe that if I work hard enough, nobody has the right to beat me on that mat. So, it’s basically just how I’m going to break that person and get my hand raised at the end of the day. It’s trusting my hard work and really having fun out there, one match at a time.