Tricia Saunders High School Excellence Award regional, state winners announced

Emily Shilson recognized as Minnesota and Midwest Region winner

STILLWATER — The National Wrestling Hall of Fame has announced the state and regional winners of the Tricia Saunders High School Excellence Award (TSHSEA).

The award recognizes and celebrates the nation’s most outstanding high school senior female wrestlers for their excellence in wrestling, scholastic achievement, citizenship, and community service.

Regional winners are selected from state winners, and the national winner will be chosen from the regional winners.

The national winner of the TSHSEA will be announced on Wednesday while the national winner of the Dave Schultz High School Excellence Award will be announced on Tuesday. The national winners will be presented with their awards during the 43rd Annual Honors Weekend at the National Wrestling Hall of Fame & Museum on May 31-June 1 in Stillwater, Oklahoma. For information on Honors Weekend, visit or telephone (405) 377-5243.

First presented in 2014, the TSHSEA is named for Tricia Saunders, a four-time World Champion and women’s wrestling pioneer. Saunders was the first woman to be inducted as a Distinguished Member of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2006 and was inducted into the United World Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2011.

“We are excited that the rapid growth of girls wrestling has allowed us to recognize 35 state winners this year, which is up from 32 a year ago and 24 in 2017. This outstanding group is comprised of young women who excel on the wrestling mat, in the classroom and in their community,” said Executive Director Lee Roy Smith. “I want to thank our selection committee for the diligent work that they have done, and we are excited to follow the progress of these young women as they achieve their goals not only in wrestling, but in their lives and careers.”

Kansas recently voted to make girls wrestling a sanctioned high school sport, becoming the 16th state in the country to sanction girls wrestling and the ninth to do so in the last six months. States that will host state-sanctioned girls wrestling championships are Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Georgia, Hawaii, Kansas, Maryland, Massachusetts, Missouri, New Jersey, North Carolina, Oregon, Tennessee, Texas and Washington.

The state winners are evaluated and selected on the basis of three criteria: success and standout performances and sportsmanship in wrestling; review of GPA and class rank, academic honors and distinctions; and participation in activities that demonstrate commitment to character and community.

The Hall of Fame accepts nominations for the High School Excellence awards, and a committee, with input from Hall of Fame state chapters, selects state and regional winners. National winners are then chosen from the regional winners.

The 2019 Tricia Saunders High School Excellence Award Regional Winners are:

West: Kelani Corbett of Waipahu, Hawaii, is a four-time Hawaii High School state champion and four-year team captain for Leilehua High School. The daughter of Kevin and Cassandra Corbett, she is ranked second at 164 pounds in the National Girls High School Rankings. Corbett was a three-time Oahu Interscholastic Association champion, a three-time Hawaii Officials champion and a two-time Paani Challenge champion. She also won the 2018 MIT title and was also named Outstanding Wrestler. In 2017, she won the cadet title at Fargo, the United World Wrestling National Championships and placed fifth at the United World Wrestling Cadet World Championships. She was a three-time Fargo Junior All-American and an alternate on the Cadet World Team in 2018. Corbett also lettered in Judo for Leilehua High School and was a three-time state placer and two-time team captain. She volunteers with Caring for Hawaii Neonates and with the American Red Cross. Corbett has signed a letter of intent to wrestle for Lyon College where she plans to major in pre-medicine.

Central: Xochitl Mota-Pettis of Humble, Texas, is the top-ranked wrestler at 127 pounds in the National Girls High School Rankings. The daughter of M. Allen Pettis and Luisa Mota, she was a two-time Texas High School state champion and a three-time finalist for Klein High School. Mota-Pettis had a career high school record of 199-8 and won the junior national championship in both freestyle and folkstyle in 2018. She finished third in folkstyle at the junior nationals in 2019 after finishing fourth in both freestyle and folkstyle in 2017. Mota-Pettis is a three-time Texas USA Wrestling freestyle state champion and also captured the Greco-Roman title in 2018. She is a member of Air Force Junior ROTC, the creative writing club and the cinematography club.

Midwest: Emily Shilson of North Oaks, Minnesota, is the top-ranked wrestler at 100 pounds in the National Girls High School Rankings. The daughter of Chad and Margaret Shilson, she was a six-time Minnesota Girls High School state champion and qualified for the Minnesota AAA boys state championship three times, becoming the first girl to ever qualify for the tournament. Shilson had a career record of 139-64 with 62 pins against boys, wrestling for Centennial High School and Mounds View High School. She earned all-conference honors twice and was honorable mention all-conference two times. Shilson won the Cadet World Championship in 2018 after capturing a silver medal in 2017, and made history in 2018 when she became the first U.S. wrestler to win a gold medal at the Youth Olympic Games. She won a gold medal at the Cadet Pan-Am Championships in 2016 and 2018 when she also earned the Golden Boot awarded to the Outstanding Wrestler. Shilson is a three-time junior national champion in both folkstyle and freestyle, a two-time Cadet Freestyle national champion and a Cadet Folkstyle national champion. She organized family members and teammates to pick up litter in their community and the communities where they are training and competing, including around the Oklahoma City Memorial during the USA Girls Folkstyle Nationals. Shilson also lettered in cross country and has completed seven marathons and ultramarathons. She has a 3.97 GPA and has signed a letter of intent to wrestle for Augsburg University.

Northeast: Vayle Baker of Benton, Pennsylvania, is ranked second at 117 pounds in the National Girls High School Rankings. The daughter of Wes and Lisa Baker, she competed at Wyoming Seminary as a senior and is a five-time national women’s freestyle champion. Baker was the Pennsylvania Amateur Wrestling Federation women’s freestyle state champion in 2017 and 2018. She won the Cadet Pan-Am Championships in 2015 and finished second at the Pan-Am Championships in 2018. Baker won the Tallinn Open in Estonia, and also won the first PA versus USA women’s match at the 45th Annual Pittsburgh Wrestling Classic in 2019. She captured silver medals at the Flatz Open in Austria in 2018 and 2019 and won the Gotham City Classic and the Northeast Regional in 2018. She also lettered in soccer and helped Benton High School qualify for the state tournament in 2017. Baker has a 3.17 GPA and has signed a letter of intent to wrestle for Augsburg University.

Southeast: Isabella Badon of Johnson City, Tennessee, is a four-time Tennessee High School state champion for Daniel Boone High School and is ranked 14th at 117 pounds in the National Girls High School Rankings. The daughter of Doug and Debbie Badon, she had a career record of 105-11 while also lettering in soccer, cross country and track. Prior to her senior year, Badon had the labrum repaired in both her hip and shoulder while also undergoing surgery for a torn tendon in her bicep. She also had bone chips removed and torn cartilage repaired. She wasn’t allowed to return to the mat until early November and then was diagnosed with mononucleosis. In the state finals she defeated Tyesha Thomas, who had defeated her three times during the regular season, earning Badon the Outstanding Wrestler honor and being voted the tournament’s outstanding match. Badon has a 3.70 GPA and plans to wrestle at either Lyon College or Presbyterian College.

The regions and the states that they are comprised of are:

West (11) – Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Washington and Wyoming

Midwest (10) – Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota and Wisconsin

Central (7) – Arkansas, Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas

Southeast (10) – Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia

Northeast (11) – Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Vermont

2019 Tricia Saunders High School Excellence Award State Winners

State – Name, High School, Hometown, College Attending
Alaska – McKenzie Cook, Homer High School, Homer, McKendree University,
Arizona – Jennifer Curry, Hamilton High School, Queen Creek
Arkansas – Layne Adams, Rogers High School, Rogers
California – Mary Lopez, Liberty High School, Brentwood
Colorado – Jaslynn Gallegos, Skyview High School, Brighton
Connecticut – Joanne Ortiz, New Milford High School, New Milford, Life University,
Florida – Shania Gowan, Dr. Phillips High School, Orlando, Missouri Baptist University
Georgia – Alexa Downs, Camden County High School, Woodbine, Presbyterian College
Hawaii – Kelani Corbett, Leilehua High School, Waipahu, Lyon College
Idaho – Hannah Harvey, St. Maries High School, St. Maries
Illinois – Randi Robison, East Peoria Community High School, East Peoria, Campbellsville University
Indiana – Alara Boyd, Yorktown High School, Yorktown
Iowa – Keagan King, South Central Calhoun High School, Lytton, Grandview University
Kansas – Mya Kretzler, McPherson Senior High School, McPherson, Baker University
Kentucky – Jessica Torres, Harrison High School, Cynthiana, University of the Cumberlands
Maine – Zoe Buteau, Oak Hill High School, Wales
Maryland – Destiny Benjamin, Dulaney High School, Timonium, Ferrum College
Michigan – Megan Vondrasek, Owosso High School, Owosso
Minnesota – Emily Shilson, Mounds View High School, North Oaks, Augsburg University
Missouri – Brooke-Lynn Rush, Benton High School, St. Joseph
Nevada – Morgan Norris, Reed High School, Sparks
New Jersey – Bella Serrano, Manasquan High School, Manasquan, East Stroudsburg University
New Mexico – Jennesis Martinez, Manzano High School, Albuquerque
New York – Shola Cascen, Harry S. Truman High School, Bronx
North Carolina – Nikoly Dos Santos, Providence High School, Matthews, Gannon University
Ohio – Andrea Schlabach, Stephen T. Badin High School, Hamilton
Oklahoma – Ainslee Lane, Bixby High School, Bixby, Presbyterian College
Oregon – Sarah Conner, Central Linn High School, Brownsville
Pennsylvania – Vayle Baker, Wyoming Seminary, Benton, Augsburg University
Tennessee – Isabella Badon, Daniel Boone High School, Johnson City
Texas – Xoxhitl Mota-Pettis, Klein High School, Humble
Utah – Marlynne Deede, Springville High School, Springville
Virginia – Ashley Whetzal, Floyd E Kellam High School, Virginia Beach
Washington – Kaylee Moore, Naches Valley High School, Yakima
Wisconsin – Macey Kilty, River Falls High School, Stratford

All-Time National Winners of Tricia Saunders High School Excellence Award

2018 – Alleida Martinez, Selma High School, Selma, California
2017 – Cierra Foster, Post Falls High School, Post Falls, Idaho
2016 – Katie Brock, Sequatchie County High School, Whitwell, Tennessee
2015 – Marizza Birrueta, Grandview High School, Grandview, Washington
2014 – Marina Doi, Kingsburg High School, Kingsburg, California

National Wrestling Hall of Fame & Museum
America’s shrine to the sport of wrestling, the National Wrestling Hall of Fame & Museum was founded as a nonprofit organization in 1976 to honor the sport of wrestling, preserve its history, recognize extraordinary individual achievements, and inspire future generations. The National Wrestling Hall of Fame has museums in Stillwater, Oklahoma, and Waterloo, Iowa. The Stillwater, Oklahoma, location reopened in June 2016 following a $3.8 million renovation and now features interactive exhibits and electronic kiosks, as well as the opportunity to watch NCAA Championship matches from the 1930s to present day. It also has the John T. Vaughan Hall of Honors where the greatest names in wrestling are recognized, including iconic granite plaques presented to Distinguished Members since the Hall of Fame opened in 1976. The museum has the largest collection of wrestling artifacts and memorabilia in the world, including the most collegiate and Olympic wrestling uniforms. Wrestling truly is for everyone and the diversity and accessibility of the sport continues to be highlighted through exhibits featuring females, African-Americans, Asian Americans, Native Americans, and Latino Americans. There is also a library featuring historical documents, including NCAA guides and results, as well as books on the sport. For more information about the Hall of Fame, please visit