Community Sports

Peninsula wins state girls wrestling title behind two individual champions

Posted on February 20th, 2024 By:

The Peninsula High girls wrestling team won the Class 3A/4A state championship at Mat Classic XXXV in the Tacoma Dome on Saturday, Feb. 17, led by individual champions Mira Sonnen (140 pounds) and Bailey Parker (145 pounds).

Five other wrestlers collected valuable points for the Seahawks, who finished with 122 points. Second-place Curtis had 119.

Mira Sonnen overcomes tragedy

It was an especially meaningful day for Sonnen (38-7 on the year), a junior and the daughter of a prominent wrestling family who had a couple relatives in her corner at Mat Classic.

Sonnen’s father, Cory, was a three-time Oregon high school wrestling champion before winning a Pac-10 title for the Oregon Ducks. He is considered a legend in the Oregon wrestling program.

Sadly, Cory Sonnen died of brain cancer in 2020.

His former UO teammates described as a “man’s man” the “captain of captains” and “the guy that everyone wanted to be like.”

Cory Sonnen as a wrestler at the University of Oregon. Photo courtesy Mira Sonnen

Mira and her father now share the title of state champion after she dominated defending state champion Flor Parker-Borrero of Graham-Kapowsin, winning the title match by pin at 1:30 of the first round.

“I felt like I could do it, but you never really know because wrestling has so many factors to it,” Mira Sonnen said. “But everything went according to plan and I executed well.”

Sonnen described herself as calm, present and aggressive before the match, and elated after it. She leaped into coach Gary Griffin’s arms after the match in an emotional scene.

Peninsula’s Mira Sonnen celebrates winning a state championship at Mat Classic XXXV on Friday, Feb. 17, 2024, in the Tacoma Dome. Photo by Meegan M. Reid/Kitsap Sun

Tips from a famous cousin

Mira got tips during her run to the title from her cousin, Chael Sonnen. Chael was an All-American wrestler at Oregon and is one of the most successful Ultimate Fighting Championship competitors of all time.

“He’s been giving me advice all season and has been super helpful,” Sonnen said. “He told me before my final match to treat it like any other match and to be aggressive from the very beginning. He didn’t want me to let up and think too much because it was the finals. … He said he knew I could do it.”

After Mira placed third at state last year, Chael used his YouTube channel to talk about her success after tragedy in a heartfelt tribute to his cousin.

Though her family has deep wrestling roots, Sonnen only picked the sport up a couple years ago. She watched her brother, Kylan Sonnen, finish eighth in the Tacoma Dome for the Seahawks in 2022.

It was a meteoric rise in the sport for Mira. But it’s not the only athletic endeavor in which she found success. She was also a starting outfielder on Peninsula High’s state championship fastpitch team in 2023.

Bailey Parker ropes a 145-pound title

Parker is also a two-sport star. Off the mat, she is a nationally ranked calf roper getting ready to perform at the Junior Worlds Rodeo Championships in Las Vegas.

She was even more dominant on her way to a state wrestling title, going 37-1 on the season.

Only a sophomore, Parker could rack up a couple more state wrestling titles before she graduates.

On Saturday, she pinned her final opponent in only 1:19. She treated her opponent like a calf roper treats a steer: grabbing the legs, flipping them over and gaining control.

“All of the coaches have been amazing and super encouraging,” Parker said, “and all my teammates as well. … Mira was my wrestling partner this year and she helped me to improve so much with her being about the same weight.”

Parker is looking for more competition this summer. She expects to perform in a few high-level freestyle wrestling events before getting back on the Seahawk mat next winter.

That, and trying to win a rodeo title with her favorite horse, Pipsey.

Peninsula’s Bailey Parker won the Class 3A/4A 145-pound championship bout at Mat Classic on Friday, Feb. 17, 2024.

Team effort

Several other Seahawks contributed Mat Classic points to the championship team. One is junior Olivia Griffin, who placed fifth in the 100-pound weight class with a 4-1 decision over Ella Nimrick of Gig Harbor.

The Seahawks also received seventh-place finishes from sophomore Georgina Johnson (105 pounds) and freshman Paige Powers (120 pounds). Sophomore Lindsay Shipp and senior Kylie Michalke didn’t place, but won enough matches to earn six and seven points, respectively, to the team effort.

Peninsula’s Paige Powers, right, wrestles Mount Vernon’s Parker Halgren during their 120-pound bout for Mat Classic placing at the Tacoma Dome on Friday, Feb. 17, 2024. Photo by Meegan M. Reid/Kitsap Sun

After the event, The Seahawks and coach Griffin were as happy as could be as they gathered on the podium to flash their state championship smiles for the first time in only the eighth year that wrestling has been a sport for girls at the school.

The Seahawks return all their wrestlers except emotional leader Michalke and will be favored to repeat as state champions next season. Griffin and assistant coaches Johnny Walker, Chance Stoltz and volunteer assistant Mark Nickels have the girls program on solid footing as a hungry group of youngsters are rising from the ranks.

Asked if the Seahawks can repeat, Sonnen said: “I absolutely think so. In the two years that this program has been popular and doing well, we’ve only been growing. Underclassmen have been coming up to me, asking about the program. And now to win the state championship by just a few points everyone can see that every small or big victory counts towards the overall goal of winning a state title.”