National Wrestling Hall of Fame Announces State Winners of Tricia Saunders High School Excellence Awards

The National Wrestling Hall of Fame on Wednesday announced the state winners of the Tricia Saunders High School Excellence Award (TSHSEA).

First presented in 2014, the award 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.

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.

“This year’s Tricia Saunders High School Excellence Award winners represent an exceptional group of student-athletes whose qualifications combine both academic and athletic accomplishments. They have also participated in a wide range of humanitarian and service-related activities for the benefit of others,” said Executive Director Lee Roy Smith. “We look forward to following their future successes and wish them all the best in sports and life.”

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 Central Region, Midwest Region, Northeast Region, Southeast Region and West Region winners will be announced on April 25 and the national winner will be announced on May 2.

The state winners of the Dave Schultz High School Excellence Award will be announced on Thursday. The DSHSEA recognizes and celebrates the nation’s most outstanding high school senior male wrestlers for their excellence in wrestling, scholastic achievement, citizenship, and community service. The regional DSHSEA winners will be announced on April 26 and the national winner will be announced on May 3.

The regional winners for the TSHSEA and the DSHSEA are selected from the state winners, and the national winner is chosen from the regional winners.

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 (11) – Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, 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

Thirty-eight state high school athletic associations have approved girls wrestling as an official sport and 38 held official girls high school state wrestling championships in 2022-23. Hawaii was the first state to host a girls state championship in 1998 while Texas began its girls tournament in 1999. The number grew to six states by 2015 and has exploded in recent years to 38 states.

States that hosted state-sanctioned girls wrestling championships in 2022-23 are Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Washington, Wisconsin and Wyoming.

To date there are 153 intercollegiate women’s wrestling teams. The NCAA has approved “Emerging Sport Status” for women’s wrestling at the Division I, Division II and Division III levels while the NAIA recognizes women’s wrestling as an official varsity sport and held their first official championship in 2023.

Women’s wrestling is one of the fastest-growing high school sports with participation growing by more than 71 percent from 16,562 in 2018 to 28,447 in 2020. Growth has continued through the pandemic and more than 52,400 female high school wrestlers competed in 2022-23.

The Hall of Fame accepts nominations for its high school excellence awards from state chapters and coaches. The nominations are reviewed by a committee, which selects state and regional winners. The committee then determines the national winners from the regional winners.

2023 Tricia Saunders High School Excellence Award State Winners

State – Name, High School, Hometown, College Attending

  • Alabama – Akerah Artis, Sparkman High School, Madison
  • Alaska – Trinity Donovan, Soldotna High School, Soldotna
  • Arizona – Trinity Bouchal, Basha High School, Queen Creek
  • Arkansas – Presley Givens, Bryant High School, Benton, Oklahoma City University
  • California – Kiely Tabaldo, Menlo-Atherton High School, Sunnyvale, Colorado Mesa University
  • Colorado – Taylor Knox, Calhan School, Peyton
  • Connecticut – Samantha Yap, Stamford High School, Stamford, Sacred Heart University
  • Delaware – Alyssa Mahan, Delaware Military Academy, Wilmington, Presbyterian College
  • Florida – Kealonie Vega, Osceola High School, Kissimmee, Gannon University
  • Georgia – Lilly Chavis, Jackson County High School, Jefferson
  • Hawaii – Isabelle Asuncion, Moanalua High School, Honolulu, University of Providence
  • Idaho – Alyssa Randles, Coeur d’Alene High School, Coeur d’Alene
  • Illinois – Attalia Watson-Castro, Homewood-Flossmoor High School, Homewood
  • Indiana – Mackenzie Konanz, Penn High School, Granger, Aurora University
  • Iowa – Lilly Luft, Charles City Community High School, Charles City, University of Iowa
  • Kansas – Makayla Rivera, Olathe West High School, Lenexa, Lindenwood University
  • Kentucky – Addison Messerly, Grant County High School, Crittenden
  • Louisiana – Gabriella Cook, Hahnville High School, Luling, Carl Albert State College
  • Maine – May Moren, Bucksport High School, Verona Island
  • Maryland – Alex Szkotnicki, South River High School, Riva, McKendree University
  • Massachusetts – Jacyln Dehney, Central Catholic High School, Pelham (New Hampshire)
  • Michigan – Emaline (Emme) Hicks, Saline High School, Ypsilanti
  • Minnesota – Joel Makem, Shakopee High School, Shakopee
  • Mississippi – Bel Manteith, Oxford High School, Oxford
  • Missouri – Maddie Kubicki, Park Hill South High School, Kansas City, Presbyterian College
  • Montana – Kassidee Savaria, Skyview High School, Billings
  • Nebraska – Reagan Galloway, Amherst High School, Kearney, Hastings College
  • Nevada – Katie Ward, Robert McQueen High School, Reno
  • New Jersey – Kira Pipkins, Bloomfield High School, Bloomfield, Columbia University
  • New Mexico – Makayla Munoz, Aztec High School, Farmington, Oklahoma City University
  • New York – Emily Sindoni, Tioga Central School, Nichols, Utica University
  • North Carolina – Jeulenea Khang, Freedom High School, Newton, University of Mount Olive
  • North Dakota – Allyssa Johnson, Grand Forks Central High School, Grand Forks, Chadron State College
  • Ohio – Josie, Davis Sidney High School, Sidney, Campbellsville University
  • Oklahoma – Peyton Hand, Choctaw High School, Choctaw, Ottawa University
  • Oregon – Destiny Rodriguez, West Linn High School, West Linn, McKendree University
  • Pennsylvania – Abbie Miles, Laurel High School, New Castle, Albion College
  • South Carolina – Caroline Gilstrap, Summerville High School, Summerville, McKendree University
  • South Dakota – Taylor Graveman, Spearfish High School, Spearfish, North Central College
  • Tennessee – Ella-Lina Gonzalez, Clarksville High School, Clarksville
  • Texas – Fernanda Lopez, Lake Highlands High School, Dallas, Southern Oregon University
  • Utah – Ashley Cannon, Westlake High School, Saratoga Springs
  • Vermont – Paityn Delong, Fair Haven Union High School, Fair Haven, East Stroudsburg University
  • Virginia – Charlize Olivia, Shuler, Grassfield High School, Chesapeake
  • Washington – Alivia White, Marysville Pilchuck High School, Lake Stevens, University of Iowa
  • West Virginia – Loralei Smith, Cabell Midland High School, Milton, Indiana Institute of Technology
  • Wisconsin – Kylie Rule, Mineral Point High School, Mineral Point, Wartburg College
  • Wyoming – Maggie Smith, Rock Springs High School, Rock Springs, Colorado Mesa University

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

  • 2022 – Sofia Macaluso, Minisink High School, Otisville, New York (U20 World Silver Medalist)
  • 2021 – Olivia Brown, Broken Arrow High School, Broken Arrow, Oklahoma
  • 2020 – Nanea Estrella, Lahainaluna High School, Makawao, Hawaii
  • 2019 – Emily Shilson, Mounds View High School, North Oaks, Minnesota (Five-Time College National Champion, Junior World Champion)
  • 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

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