The National Wrestling Hall of Fame on Tuesday announced that Nanea Estrella of Makawao, Hawaii, is the 2020 national winner of the Tricia Saunders High School Excellence Award (TSHSEA).
“I am so excited to receive this award. There were so many amazing female wrestlers up for this award and I am blessed to be a part of this group,” said Estrealla. “Tricia Saunders was a leader for female athletes and is a true role model for people like me, who are just starting their career and hope to be the best one day. I hope to one day inspire female wrestlers like she has inspired me. Thank you to all who helped me achieve this honor and I want to thank the National Wrestling Hall of Fame for this tremendous award.”
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.
The TSHSEA recognizes and celebrates the nation’s most outstanding high school senior female wrestlers for their excellence in wrestling, scholastic achievement, citizenship, and community service.
“We are excited to honor Nanea Estrella as the national winner of the 2020 Tricia Saunders High School Excellence Award,” said Executive Director Lee Roy Smith. “This award and honor represents the Hall of Fame’s pride in a young woman who has demonstrated a commitment to balancing her pursuit of excellence on the wrestling mat with academics and community service.”
The national winner of the Dave Schultz High School Excellence Award will be announced on Thursday.
The daughter of Isaac and Johanna Estrella, she was a four-time state champion for Lahainaluna High School. Ranked second at 132 pounds in the National Girls High School Rankings, she has signed a letter of intent to wrestle at Menlo College. Estrella was team captain for three years and has been ranked in the Top 10 nationally since her sophomore year.
Estrella had runner-up finishes at the Cadet Nationals in 2018 and the Junior Nationals in 2019, and won both freestyle and Greco-Roman at the 2019 Western Regionals. She earned a triple crown and was named Outstanding Wrestler in Greco-Roman at the Turf Wars in Pocatello, Idaho, and placed third at the 2019 Cadet World Team trials.
She also lettered in track and field and was a two-time Hawaii state qualifier in the 4×100-meter relay, 4×400-meter relay, 400-meter dash, 200-meter dash and long jump.
Estrella tutored fourth-grade students and is also a member of Lahainaluna High School’s Aloha Club, which performs community outreach activities including beach cleanups, food drives and preparing and serving meals to the homeless.
She is also a finalist for the 2020 Pele Award, which honors creative excellence in the art of advertising and design. Estrella submitted a PSA video called “Don’t Be A Drip” about water conservation. She has received the A&B scholar athlete award and is a CTE pathway completer in broadcast media.
For the third consecutive year, the Hall of Fame recognized a record number of state winners for the TSHSEA with 46, up from 35 winners in 2019 and 32 winners in 2018.
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.
Women’s wrestling is one of the fastest growing high school sports and there are more than 27,000 female high school wrestlers competing across the nation.
From 1998-2015 there were six states with a sanctioned girls state wrestling championship: Alaska, California, Hawaii, Tennessee, Texas and Washington. Since 2015, 16 additional states have created an official girls wrestling state championships, or have started the path leading to official sanction: Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Kansas, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Missouri, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Oregon and Utah.
Georgia, Oregon, Maine, Massachusetts, Missouri and New Jersey held their first official state championship in 2018-19 while Arkansas, Kansas, Maryland and New Mexico held an official state championship for 2019-20. Colorado voted for a two-year pilot program for 2018-19 with an official state championship for 2020-21. Arizona voted girls wrestling as an emerging sport for 2018-19 and will host an official state championship in 2020-21. Connecticut held a girls wrestling invitational tournament in 2019-20.
Sixteen states have held unofficial girls state championships, organized and run by coaches, state wrestling associations or officials associations. The 16 states with unofficial girls state championships are: Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio, South Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia and Wisconsin.
There are 81 intercollegiate women’s wrestling teams. The NCAA has approved “Emerging Sport Status” for women’s wrestling at the Division II and Division III levels, and women’s wrestling supporters are hopeful that it will approve it for Division I this summer. The NAIA also recognizes women’s wrestling as an emerging sport.
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.
All-Time National Winners of Tricia Saunders High School Excellence Award
2020 – Nanea Estrella, Lahainaluna High School, Makawao, Hawaii
2019 – Emily Shilson, Mounds View High School, North Oaks, Minnesota
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