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#ThrowbackThursday USA Wrestling History Lesson: Tricia Saunders

By Taylor Miller, USA Wrestling | Aug. 20, 2020, 11:45 a.m. (ET)

Photo courtesy of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame.

Welcome to a weekly series on TheMat.com called USA Wrestling History Lesson. Each week, we will highlight one athlete that has wrapped up his or her wrestling career, sharing the impact that they’ve had on the sport.

This week, we take a look at Tricia Saunders, a four-time World champion in women’s freestyle.

Saunders represented the United States at the World Championships nine times between 1990 and 2001.

During that time, she became the first woman to win a World title for the USA.

Below is a breakdown of her World Championship performances:
• 1990 World Championships (50 kg) – sixth
• 1991 World Championships (47 kg) – fourth
• 1992 World Championships (50 kg) – gold
• 1993 World Championships (47 kg) – silver
• 1995 World Championships (47 kg) – fourth
• 1996 World Championships (47 kg) – gold
• 1998 World Championships (46 kg) – gold
• 1999 World Championships (46 kg) – gold
• 2001 World Championships (46 kg) – 15th

Domestically, Saunders was even more dominant, winning 11 U.S. Open titles and never losing to an American opponent.

Sadly, Saunders was from the era before women’s wrestling was added to the Olympic Games program. In addition to wrestling, Saunders was also a leader in creating opportunities for girls and women to participate in the sport.

She helped lead the way for women’s wrestling to eventually become one of the fastest growing high school sports in the nation. In 1997, she became the first to receive USA Wrestling’s Woman of the Year.

After competing, she turned to coaching, where she was a part the U.S. coaching staff for the 2004 Olympic Games (the Olympics first to include women’s wrestling), the 2003 Pan American Games and three World Championships.

In 2006, Saunders became the first female to be inducted into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame as a Distinguished Member, the highest honor. She is enshrined alongside her husband Townsend, who was a 1996 Olympic silver medalist in men’s freestyle. Tricia has also been inducted into United World Wrestling’s International Wrestling Hall of Fame.

Check out the other USA Wrestling History Lessons HERE.