February 21, 1966 - Present
Four-time World Champion and women’s wrestling pioneer Tricia Saunders is the first woman ever inducted as a Distinguished Member of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame.
Saunders captured World Championship gold medals in 1992, 1996, 1998 and 1999, as well as the 1993 World silver medal, and she was named the Outstanding Wrestler in the 1992 competition. The first U.S. woman to win a World wrestling title, she is the only American to win more than two.
She won a record 11 U.S. National Women’s Freestyle championships and triumphed at 11 World Team Trials. When she completed her competitive career in 2001, she had never lost a single match to a U.S. competitor.
As a member of a family of wrestlers from Ann Arbor, Mich., Saunders successfully competed as a youngster on a national level with boys. With no opportunity to wrestle in high school, she participated in other sports. However, when women’s wrestling became an international sport in the late 1980s, she returned to the mat to become the greatest women’s wrestler in American history.
As a strong advocate for women’s wrestling, Saunders served in leadership positions in USA Wrestling and pushed for women’s opportunities in the sport. She was named the first-ever USA Wrestling Woman of the Year in 1997. She was also the USA Wrestling Women’s Wrestler of the Year twice and the USOC Women’s Wrestler of the Year three times.
Saunders has continued to be a pioneer for women’s wrestling as a successful coach with the Sunkist Kids wrestling club. She served as head coach of the U.S. women’s team that swept all four gold medals in the 2003 Pan American Games, the first to include women’s wrestling. She also was a member of the U.S. Women’s World Team coaching staff in 2001, 2002 and 2003.
In 2004, alongside husband Townsend Saunders and National Women’s Coach Terry Steiner, she coached in the first-ever Olympic Games to include women’s wrestling. The U.S. women won two medals, placing second in the medal count and unofficial team standings.
For setting a standard that all wrestlers can aspire to, Tricia Saunders is honored as a Distinguished Member of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame.