Last spring, Nari Miller won the first Minnesota high school girls wrestling championship title in the 152 pound division. Then, she was a senior at Thomas Edison High School in Minneapolis, but now she’s in her freshman year at Texas Women’s College.
She is studying and wrestling in that school’s first season of women’s wrestling. Her coach is Randy Miller, the first Black woman to win an Olympic wrestling title. She won the bronze medal in the 2008 Olympics.
Nari Miller talks with Cathy Wurzer about he first semester at college and her plans for the future.
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Last spring, Nari became the first girls' wrestling champion in the 152-pound division in Minnesota's first girls' high school wrestling championship. In our conversation last year, I asked Nari if there was a match that was a turning point for her.
NARI MILLER: I was a freshman, and I was wrestling in a varsity match. I remember I was at North St. Paul, the team tournament. And I go out there, and I think I lost every match that day. And I got off the mat, and I was like, no. I'm like, I'm done losing. So ever since then, I've really been putting in all the effort I can.
CATHY WURZER: Nari had wrestled all four years of high school against girls and boys. And she said a lot of boys had refused to wrestle her. How do you feel about those sorts of instances where they clearly don't want to wrestle you?
NARI MILLER: It's a slap in the face because that night, I didn't get a match at all. And so it's like I'm putting in all this work. I diet. I make weight. I run in the mornings. I lift in the mornings. I go to practice after practice. There's very few people I feel that outwork me. And so just to be denied off my gender alone after I just did all this work in preparation for this match is wild.
CATHY WURZER: Well, Nari graduated. And she's now wrestling at Texas Women's University under Olympic bronze medalist Randi Miller. Nari promised to keep in touch, so Nari Miller is back. Nari, welcome back to the program. It's good to hear your voice.
NARI MILLER: Thank you for having me. How are you doing?
CATHY WURZER: Oh, we are doing great. We're having a good day. It's our birthday, as I mentioned. I can't tell you, Nari, how many people thought you were just so delightful when you and I talked about you winning the title. And you were talking about how you wanted to open a candy store when you came back home. So let's tell people where you are right now. You're in your first year of college. How's it going?
NARI MILLER: It's going great. I was kind of nervous about college, but everything that I had a fear about, I'm really flourishing here.
CATHY WURZER: Now, what were you most worried about?
NARI MILLER: Just the academic portion of everything. Sometimes I just wasn't thinking I was cut out to be a college student. I'm a first-gen university student, so I was just a little nervous to go. And just having good habits and everything has pulled me through, and I just got to keep on working on that.
CATHY WURZER: What's been the biggest surprise for you?
NARI MILLER: The bugs.
There are so many bugs out here. I didn't know that.
CATHY WURZER: Bugs? You are so funny. OK.
NARI MILLER: Yeah.
CATHY WURZER: I've never been to Texas, so you're the expert here.
NARI MILLER: They have roaches that fly everywhere. And then they have these grasshoppers that they jump on you. And it's like they'll jump on your shoulder, like they have a 100-inch vertical or something. I don't know. It's crazy.
CATHY WURZER: Don't you wish you were back in Minnesota with the snow? Bugs or snow. So I understand that this is Texas Women's University's first-ever wrestling season, which is tremendous. How is it going?
NARI MILLER: It's going really great. Our coach is everything that I thought she was going to be. I'm really excited to be training under her. And I get a lot of opportunities and stuff. She definitely has a key to success, and I'm happy to be a part of this team.
CATHY WURZER: Now, if I'm not mistaken isn't she Randi Miller? Isn't she the first Black woman to win an Olympic wrestling medal?
NARI MILLER: Yes.
CATHY WURZER: Is that right? I think she won bronze.
NARI MILLER: Yep, she was a bronze medalist.
CATHY WURZER: So why do you like her so much?
NARI MILLER: She's just one of those people who empower you when you're around her. Like your energy-- you can't not match her energy when you're around her. She believes in you more than you believe yourself. And that's something I used to struggle with a lot. And so it's important to have someone who's around you every day who says I believe that you will be able to do this. I believe that you can win college nationals. I believe that you could go to the Olympics.
CATHY WURZER: Because it's an all-women's college you wrestle for-- I remember the last time we talked, you mentioned that a lot of people were surprised when you, as a woman, came out onto the wrestling mat. So does it feel more normalized, more normal to be a woman wrestler at your school?
NARI MILLER: So with wrestling being a first-year program here, I don't think it's like-- I think just the sport in general that we do is not really normalized. But everyone's excited for us, which they don't really know what they're talking about, but I love it. I love the spirit, the energy.
There's people-- I could be in the gym or something, oh, are you a wrestler? And they'll walk up to me and-- oh, when is your season or something like that.
CATHY WURZER: So what do people say, by the way, because in high school, for folks who didn't listen to our first conversation, you weren't only a wrestler. You played defensive tackle on the Edison High School football team, which, when you told me that, I about fell out of my chair. I did that day that you and I talked. And of course, you ran track and field. When people find that out about you, what did they say?
NARI MILLER: So my athletic director does not let me go anywhere without a million people hearing the story. She tells the story to everyone. And she's like, oh, she played football. She was a triathlete and she did all of this stuff. So it's a lot of love coming from here. But at the same time, I have teammates who are-- they were doing the same thing as me, just in different states. So it's really awesome that I get a chance to meet people who are kind of just like me.
CATHY WURZER: At the beginning of our conversation, you mentioned that you were a little bit worried about the academics, but you're doing fine. And when you're in college, as you're going to find out, there are all kinds of new experiences and new subjects in school that are going to pop up. Have you discovered anything new, new subject areas that you're interested in since starting college?
NARI MILLER: Yeah. We have this class called Gender Social Change. So as a women's school, we're required to take women's studies. And we're reading this book. It's called Women and Culture. And it goes back to the 1800s of women who were in literature. And they were writing and everything. And we get to have discussions on it every single day, every day that we go to class. It's probably my favorite class to date right now.
CATHY WURZER: Is it an eye opener to learn about what women went through way back in the day?
NARI MILLER: Yeah. Because when you cover things like first wave feminism, second wave feminism, the suffrage movement, certain things I didn't know. I didn't know that Sojourner Truth went to court to win her son, and she won. You know what I mean? And it's small stuff like that that you don't really notice until somebody actually decides to bring it out, or regular history would just graze over it.
CATHY WURZER: Have you decided to switch your major? Weren't you going to go for business?
NARI MILLER: Yeah, I'm still a business major.
CATHY WURZER: OK. Because I remember the last time we talked, and that's what everyone-- everyone loved the fact that you wanted to open a candy store in Northeast Minneapolis when you came back home. Is that still a dream of yours?
NARI MILLER: Yeah, that's still the plan. I don't think I'll ever stop dreaming about that. Because it's so Northeast. It's so Northeast. Imagine Northeast without a candy shop.
CATHY WURZER: I can't.
NARI MILLER: Exactly.
CATHY WURZER: As I told you before, Nari, when you open that candy store, I am telling you, there's going to be a line of people waiting to get in after listening to you on the air. Absolutely.
NARI MILLER: I'm hoping so.
CATHY WURZER: Are you coming back home to Minnesota anytime soon?
NARI MILLER: School lets out on the 16th of December. I'll be up at Edison, probably wrestling with the guys, giving back to my team.
CATHY WURZER: OK. I'm looking forward to having you back home. I'm sure your family and your friends are too. I know you're busy because you got things to do there at college, so thank you for stopping and taking some time out and talking to us again.
NARI MILLER: Yeah, of course. Thanks for having me.
CATHY WURZER: That was Nari Miller, Minnesota's first ever high school champion of the girls 152-pound wrestling title and one of our favorite guests.
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