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Wrestling Hall of Fame Distinguished Member biography - Tricia Saunders

Gary Abbott USA Wrestling
12/15/2005


Tricia Saunders elected as Distinguished Member of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame

Four-time World champion Tricia Saunders, who now resides in Phoenix, Ariz., will be the first woman ever inducted as a Distinguished Member of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame. The Hall of Fame has been adding honorees for 31 years, since the first class in 1976.

Saunders has been a pioneer within women's wrestling, going back to her days as a youth wrestler in Michigan. She competed on a national level against boys and was very successful, coming from a family of wrestlers, the McNaughtons of Ann Arbor. When there was no opportunity for her to wrestle in high school, she participated in other sports. However, when women's wrestling became an international sport in the late 1980's, she returned to the mats and became the greatest women's wrestler in American history.

Saunders set numerous records for U.S. women wrestlers, winning four World Championships gold medals (1992, 1996, 1998 and 1999), as well as the 1993 World silver medal. Saunders was the first U.S. woman to win a World wrestling title and the only American to win more than two women's wrestling World titles. She won a record 11 U.S. Nationals titles in women's wrestling and won the World Team Trials 11 times. She was named the Outstanding Wrestler at the 1992 World Championships.

An amazing fact is that when she completed her competitive career in 2001, she had never lost a single match to a U.S. competitor in women's wrestling.

Saunders was a strong advocate for the development of women's wrestling, serving in many leadership positions within USA Wrestling and pushing for women's opportunities in the sport. She was given the first-ever USA Wrestling Woman of the Year award in 1997, the top honor within the sport. She was also the USA Wrestling Women's Wrestler of the Year twice and the USOC Women's Wrestler of the Year three times.

Since her competitive career ended, Saunders has continued to be a pioneer for women's wrestling, becoming a successful coach with the Sunkist Kids wrestling club. She coached Sunkist Kids athletes to numerous national and international honors and served as head coach of the U.S. women's team that competed in the historic 2003 Pan American Games, the first to include women's wrestling on the program. The U.S. swept all four gold medals. Saunders was a member of the U.S. Women's World Team coaching staff in 2001, 2002 and 2003.

In 2004, alongside her husband Townsend Saunders, a 1996 Olympic silver medalist, and National Women's Coach Terry Steiner, Tricia was an Olympic Coach in the first-ever games to include women's wrestling. The U.S. won two medals in the Athens Olympic Games, and placed second in the medal count and unofficial standings.

Saunders went to Ann Arbor Huron High School in Michigan, and was a youth wrestling teammate with Hall of Fame Distinguished Member and World champion Zeke Jones. She graduated from the Univ. of Wisconsin and has a degree from Midwestern University. She now works as a physician assistant with Ahwatukee Sports and Spine. She and husband Townsend have three children.

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