USA Wrestling Tricia Saunders indu...

Tricia Saunders inducted into FILA International Wrestling Hall of Fame in Istanbul, Turkey

By Gary Abbott USA Wrestling | Sept. 11, 2011, 11:35 a.m. (ET)

Tricia Saunders poses with her FILA International Wrestling Hall of Fame plaque during induction ceremonies in Istanbul, Turkey. Larry Slater photo.

ISTANBUL, Turkey -- Four-time World Champion Tricia Saunders became the first American woman inducted into the FILA International Wrestling Hall of Fame during ceremonies at the Sheraton Atakoy on Sunday night.

"It's completely overwhelming, because you look at the other people who are in the Hall, and you think about how your name will be up next to those people you have looked up to so long, both the men and the women. It is really nice, especially at this perspective 10 years later" said Saunders.

Saunders won World gold medals in 1992, 1996, '1998 and 1999, as well as a World silver medal in 1993. She retired from competition shortly before the sport gained inclusion in the Olympic Games.

"I am proud of my accomplishments" she said. "I am mostly thankful at this point because of all the people who helped me to get where I am. The wrestling community is filled with good people. I thank those from way back in the 90's who really put together everything I have today. I have been thinking about all the things that I scored with, things that I won with, the moves I am most successful with. I remember each person who taught me those things."

Saunders made the World finals five times and won four of them, making her one of the most clutch wrestlers in American history. She credits many athletes and coaches who took the extra time to help her master the sport when women's wrestling was still in its growth years.

"A lot of it I learned training in the Sunkist room, the Arizona State room when I came back and started wrestling. There weren't women in there, but I got to go be a fly on the wall in Arizona State's wrestling room the year they won the NCAAs. Watching those guys train and the influx of Sunkist guys that were competing, those were all the people I had to model after. I learned from day one that there are a lot of different ways to get the job done" she said.

She was joined at the banquet by her husband Townsend Saunders, a 1996 Olympic silver medalist in freestyle wrestling.

Saunders becomes the sixth American inducted into the FILA Hall of Fame, and the first U.S. women's wrestler. Saunders joins men's freestyle wrestlers John Smith, Bruce Baumgartner, Kevin Jackson and Lee Kemp, along with referee Vince Zuaro in this very special Hall of Fame.

The ceremony included induction of three wrestling greats from Turkey, giving the banquet a hometown flavor.

Included were freestyle stars 1956 Olympic champion and three-time Olympic medalist Hamit Kaplan and four-time World champion and two-time Olympic medalist Huseyin Akhbas. The Turkish Greco-Roman star being inducted was 1960 Olympic champion Teyfik Kis.

Also inducted was four-time freestyle World champion Ibrahim Javadi of Iran, plus referee Stefan Kazarian of Armenia and leader Dr. Mohammed Tavakol of Iran.