U.S. wrestler Patricia Miranda, who won a silver medal in the 105.5-pound class at the World Championships of Freestyle Wrestling in New York City on Sunday. Miranda, 24, a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Stanford, deferred enrollment at Yale Law School in order to train for the championships and the 2004 Athens Games, where women's wrestling will make its Olympic debut. She did so against the wishes of her father, Jose, a physician, who used to sneak into Patricia's matches against boys at Saratoga ( Calif.) High to scratch her name off the entry lists. "It wasn't a gender thing with him," Patricia says. "He just thought it wasn't the place for his daughter to spend her time when she could be getting an education."
Patricia agreed to drop wrestling if her GPA ever fell below 4.0, but it never did. Like most of the girls wrestling in high school (there are 3,000 today), she competed on the boys' team and was twice named captain. At Stanford, where there was no women's program—only six colleges now have one—Miranda, an economics major, wrestled for four years but rarely cracked the lineup. In her senior season she won her first match against a male foe after 20 tries, despite weighing 110 pounds, 15 below the lightest men's weight. That was the year the IOC announced it was adding women's wrestling to the Olympics.
In New York, Miranda led her final match 3-1 but dropped a 5-4 decision to Ukraine's Irini Merleni, a two-time world champion. U.S. women won medals in all seven weight classes, with two bronzes, four silvers and 147.5-pound Kristie Marano's gold. "Now we have this amazing opportunity to prove all the nay-sayers wrong," says Miranda. Even those who are close to home.