Tricia Saunders High School Excellence Award Regional Winners Announced
The National Wrestling Hall of Fame on Tuesday announced the regional winners of the Tricia Saunders High School Excellence Award (TSHSEA).
The winners are:
Central Region - Maddie Kubicki, Kansas City, Missouri, Park Hill South High School
Midwest Region - Lilly Luft, Charles City, Iowa, Charles City Community High School
Northeast Region - Kira Pipkins, Bloomfield, New Jersey, Bloomfield High School
Southeast Region - Loralei Smith, Milton, West Virginia, Cabell Midland High School
West Region - Alivia White, Lake Stevens, Washington, Marysville Pilchuck High School
The national winner will be announced on May 2. The national winner will be chosen from the regional winners.
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.
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 regional winners of the Dave Schultz High School Excellence Award will be announced on Wednesday. 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 DSHSEA national winner will be announced on May 3.
The TSHSEA and DSHSEA national winners will be honored during the 46th Honors Weekend at the National Wrestling Hall of Fame & Museum on June 2 and 3 in Stillwater, Oklahoma. To purchase tickets for Honors Weekend, visit https://bit.ly/3w2CQOM.
Regional winners for both awards are selected from state winners, and the national winners will be 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
2023 Tricia Saunders High School Excellence Award Regional Winners
Central Region: Maddie Kubicki of Kansas City, Missouri, was a four-time Missouri state champion for Park Hill South High School. She is the top-ranked wrestler at 144 pounds and the ninth-ranked wrestler in the pound-for-pound rankings in the National Girls High School Rankings. The daughter of Mike and Joanna Kubicki, she will continue her wrestling career at Presbyterian College. Kubicki was a two-time National High School Recruiting Showcase champion and twice finished third at the Super 32 tournament. She was a silver medalist at the 2021 United World Wrestling Women’s Cadet Nationals and a bronze medalist at the 2022 UWW Women’s U23 Nationals. Kubicki was a silver medalist at the U-17 Pan Am Games and finished fifth at the U-20 Pan Am Games in 2022. She is enrolled in the Northland Center for Advanced Professional Studies Medicine and Health Career Program and spends half of each school day assisting the nursing staff at North Kansas City Hospital. A member of the National Honor Society and a registered youth wrestling official, Kubicki also played goalkeeper for the PHS soccer team.
Midwest Region: Lilly Luft of Charles City, Iowa, was a three-time Iowa state champion and four-time place-winner for Charles City Community High School. The daughter of Leonard and Wendy Luft, she will continue her wrestling career at the University of Iowa. Luft was 40-0 as a senior and had a career record of 125-6, setting the state record for most career wins by a female wrestler. She was the 2023 recipient of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame Dan Gable Museum’s Iowa High School Female Wrestler of the Year and was also named the Dan Gable Ms. Wrestler of the Year by Fareway Stores, Inc. and IAwrestle in coordination with the Iowa Wrestling Coaches and Officials Association. Luft was a finalist at the Super 32 tournament in 2022 while earning All-America honors at the 16U freestyle national championships and finishing fourth at the Cadet beach wrestling world championships in Romania in 2021. She helped her family in the writing, lobbying and passing of Logan’s Law. Named in honor of her brother, Logan Luft, who was fatally injured in a Fourth of July ATV accident as a 15-year-old in 2017. Logan’s Law allows hunting and fishing license purchasers to declare as organ, eye and tissue donor. Lilly also volunteered at the Transplant Games of America, the LifeServe Blood Center, and the Iowa Donor Network. Luft also lettered in softball, track and volleyball in high school while also participating in Future Farmers of America and 4-H. Luft received The Clash – All-Scholar Athlete Achievement award and was named the Iowa High School Girls Athletic Union Athlete of the Year in 2023.
Northeast Region: Kira Pipkins of Bloomfield, New Jersey, was a four-time high school state champion for Bloomfield High School. The daughter of Robert and Shantale Pipkins, she will continue her wrestling career at Columbia University. Pipkins became the first female wrestler, and the fifth wrestler overall, to be a four-time New Jersey state champion while also becoming the first female wrestler in New Jersey history to reach 100 career wins (106-9). She was named the NJ.com Girls Wrestler of the Year and the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association Most Outstanding Wrestler. Pipkins was team captain of both the BHS boys team and the girls team from 2021-23, and received both the BHS Most Valuable Wrestler award and BHS Wrestling Scholar-Athlete award four years in a row. Pipkins gave motivational speeches to youth groups, painted murals in BHS hallways, participated in park cleanups, and produced art for senior citizens through the BHS on the Corona Homefront. She also volunteered at Unitarian Universalist Congregation at Montclair and the Montclair Emergency Services for Hope while spending time with senior citizens at nursing homes and collecting and donating to canned food drives and food pantries. An entrepreneur, she owns and operates art, personal training and babysitting businesses, including prospecting, selling and servicing clients.
Southeast Region: Loralei Smith of Milton, West Virginia, was a three-time high school state champion for Cabell Midland High School. She was unable to compete for a state title in 2021 because of COVID. The daughter of Ashley Smith, she will continue her wrestling career at the Indiana Institute of Technology. Smith is a Spatola national champion, a Nuway national champion and All-American in folkstyle and freestyle, and a National High School Coaches Association national champion and All-American. She was a seven-time member of the Academic All-State wrestling team and an NHSCA Academic All-American. Smith is also a member of National Honor Society and the National Mathematics Honors Society. Smith has worked to promote autism acceptance in wrestling and her community while also assisting in events to help suicide prevention awareness.
West Region: Alivia White of Lake Stevens, Washington, was a three-time state champion for Marysville Pilchuck High School. She was unable to compete for a state title in 2021 as Washington did not hold a postseason tournament because of COVID. The daughter of Craig and Andrea White, she will continue her wrestling career at the University of Iowa. White was Washington State Interscholastic Association Scholar Athlete state champion in 2021 and also a Washington State Girls Triple Crown winner. She was the Marysville Pilchuck Outstanding Wrestler four years in a row and was team captain for three years. White also received the National Wrestling Coaches Association and United States Marine Corps High School Scholar All-American award. She was National Honor Society president for two years and was a member of Associated Student Body all four years. White was selected to represent her high school at Inter-High leadership conferences four times. White volunteered for Challenge Air, organizing and helping children with special needs get on small planes for flights, and was also a member of the Big Buddy program, helping elementary school students. She is also an active member of Fellowship of Christian Athletes.
Thirty-nine state high school athletic associations have voted to approve girls wrestling as an official sport, and 36 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, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, 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 - Mya Moran, 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 Monteith, 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