State Champ Mira Sonnen Draws Strength From Memories

The Peninsula High School junior is already a three-time state champion in softball and wrestling.


Mira Sonnen is in awe of high school wrestling at the Tacoma Dome.

The junior 140-pounder on the Peninsula Seahawks girls wrestling team found a spot near the mat to take in the atmosphere of the 2024 WIAA State Wrestling Mat Classic as she waited for her state championship match Feb. 17.

“When you see all those athletes, and you look up to the top of that building, there’s no way you can’t be excited to be here,” she said.

Just two years ago, having never wrestled a match in her life, Mira sat with her mom, Margaret, her oldest brother, Kel, and a swarm of other family members near that same spot, in the same building during that same state tournament watching middle brother Kylan take eighth place at the 2022 Mat Classic. That moment was special for the Sonnen family.

To Margaret, it signified the start of the family’s “comeback tour.” In 2020, the patriarch of the Sonnen family, Cory — a high school state champion and PAC-10 wrestling champion at the University of Oregon in the early 1990s — died of brain cancer. It was the first time the whole family was together since the funeral and Mira remembered all the emotions and excitement from watching her brother that day.

“I think that’s what drew me (to wrestling).” After avoiding the family legacy for 14 years, she finally cracked. Later that night she told her mom, “I think I can try this and get really good at it.”

Just a year ago, having started wrestling only months earlier, she was back at the Tacoma Dome, getting her hand raised for a hard-fought third-place finish.

Two months ago, having only wrestled for about 18 months, Mira was warming up near that exact same spot, in the exact same building during that exact same state tournament, to compete in the school’s first-ever individual state title in girls wrestling.

Talk about life coming full circle.

“I remember (sophomore teammate) Bailey (Parker) turned to me and said, ‘Within the next 10 minutes we’re going to know if we’re state champs or not. Either way, it’s going to happen,’ ” Mira said. “So, I thought, when you think of it like that, I might as well not worry about it and just go for it.”

And she did.

Mira ended up pinning defending state champion Flor Parker-Borrero from Graham Kapowsin High School in 1:30 “When the whistle blew (after the pin), it was just chills throughout my whole body,” she said. Mira will officially go into the Seahawks record books as the first-ever girls wrestling state champion in school history, but seeing as how Parker performed the same feat minutes later, Sonnen said she considered them winning it together. And the cherry on top was the Peninsula girls winning a team state championship by the end of the night.

In less than two years, Mira created a new era in her family’s wrestling legacy.

“Pressure is a privilege,” Mira said about the expectations she sets for herself in athletics. Growing up she was just as active in softball as she is now in wrestling. She was the starting right fielder on Peninsula’s 2023 3A state championship softball team.

That means with two team championships and an individual title, she can already call herself a three-time state champion. Her softball team this year is already halfway through the season and has four home games this month: April 8 against River Ridge; April 23 against Central Kitsap; April 29 against North Thurston; and April 30 against Yelm. The Seahawks play Gig Harbor April 10.

Just a few years ago, Mira never imagined wrestling would leapfrog softball as her top sport. Her mom, Margaret, was a college softball player at the University of Puget Sound and Mira was originally heading in that direction, too. But now she’s grappling with the wrestling bug.

“For me, the idea of her starting wrestling her sophomore year, I figured she would hurt herself or not do well,” Margaret said. “She’d have to go all-in, and I didn’t want her expectations to be crushed.”

Mira’s inexperience and late-blooming is now what drives her. “I only have a little bit of time to get a lot better at what I’m doing,” she said. Early on Mira focused mostly on learning techniques and honing a few main moves. She picks up the rest by competing against wrestlers better than her. Watching films, taking notes, and “getting beat up by my brothers” has also helped her along the way.

“Truly, the most I learn is from my losses,” said Mira, who finished this season with seven of them and had 12 losses in her first year.

“Mira had to be a real student of the game to get where she is,” Margaret said. “(In two years) she has bridged the gap between not knowing how to wrestle and being one of the best wrestlers in the state.”

Gary Griffin, the Seahawks longtime boys and girls wrestling coach, agreed. “What she has accomplished in this short amount of time is not normal in the eyes of the wrestling community. But she’s shown that it can be done with the right person, perspective and athletic skill set.”

Mira has another year to improve her game and she now has every intention of wrestling in college. She doesn’t know where yet but plans to study biochemistry. To prep her for the college transition, Mira will spend time this summer learning freestyle wrestling, which is used at the collegiate level, while also working on her high school-level folk style wrestling.

In honor of her dad, Mira wears a shirt at every tournament with a picture of him in his wrestling days. “I do this because he wrestled, but it’s weird because he doesn’t know that I ever wrestled,” she said, admitting she doesn’t know if she ever would have started wrestling if her dad was still alive. “I could’ve used his coaching and I wish he could’ve seen me have success.”

The Peninsula girls have a great chance of repeating as state champs next year with six of the seven state qualifiers returning. Mira hopes to use her and her team’s state championships to promote this still up-and-coming girls program, which just finished its eighth year of existence. The team had a record turnout this past season, but it was a small team compared to others across the state.

“We’re building a program that is excited to learn and grow,” Mira said. “I was able to find success and I hope others can see that and know they can, too.”