National Wrestling Hall of Fame

Minnesota’s Emily Shilson Named Tricia Saunders High School Excellence Award National Winner

The National Wrestling Hall of Fame on Wednesday announced that Emily Shilson of North Oaks, Minnesota, is the 2019 national winner of the Tricia Saunders High School Excellence Award (TSHSEA).

Shilson will be presented with her award during the 43rd Annual Honors Weekend at the National Wrestling Hall of Fame & Museum on May 31 and June 1 in Stillwater, Oklahoma. For information on Honors Weekend, visit or telephone (405) 377-5243.

“I am both humbled and honored to be chosen from this fantastic group of female student athletes for the 2019 Tricia Saunders High School Excellence Award,” said Shilson. “I have always admired Tricia for her great success as a competitor in addition to her willingness to continue to give back to the sport. To receive the award that is named after her is incredible. I would also like to thank the National Wrestling HOF for making this opportunity possible.”

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.

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 to honor Emily Shilson from North Oaks, Minnesota as the national winner of the 2019 Tricia Saunders High School Excellence Award.,” said Executive Director Lee Roy Smith. “This award and honor represents the National Wrestling Hall of Fame’s pride in a young woman who has demonstrated a commitment to balancing her pursuit of excellence in the fields of academics, athletics and community service.”

The daughter of Chad and Margaret Shilson, she is the top-ranked wrestler at 106 pounds in the National Girls High School Rankings. Shilson 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. She 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 is planning to enroll and wrestle at Augsburg University.

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

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.

All-Time National Winners of Tricia Saunders High School Excellence Award
2019 Emily Shilson, Mounds View High School, North Oaks, Minnesota
2018  Alleida Martinez, Selma High School, Selma, California
 Cierra Foster, Post Falls High School, Post Falls, Idaho
Katie Brock, Sequatchie County High School, Whitwell, Tennessee
Marizza Birrueta, Grandview High School, Grandview, Washington
 Marina Doi, Kingsburg High School, Kingsburg, California