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National Wrestling Hall of Fame announces New York’s Sofia Macaluso as Tricia Saunders High School Excellence Award national winner

By Jack Carnefix, National Wrestling Hall of Fame | May 24, 2022, 2:28 p.m. (ET)

STILLWATER, Okla. – The National Wrestling Hall of Fame on Tuesday announced that Sofia Macaluso of Otisville, New York, is the 2022 national winner of the Tricia Saunders High School Excellence Award (TSHSEA).

“I am honored to be chosen from amongst an incredible group of female student athletes as the recipient of this prestigious award,” said Macaluso. “I would like to thank the National Wrestling Hall of Fame for selecting me as the national winner of the Tricia Saunders High School Excellence Award and the Upstate New York Chapter of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame for nominating me. I would also like to thank my Minisink Valley High School and New York National Team coaches for always believing in me.

“Tricia Saunders is not only a pioneer for women’s wrestling, but a much-needed role model for female athletes. It’s important to know who came before us and paved the way,” she added. “It’s extra special being New York’s first-ever national recipient, especially coming from a state that has not yet sanctioned girls' high school wrestling. I want New York girls to know that they CAN wrestle.”

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.

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.

The national winner 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 national winners of the TSHSEA and DSHSEA will be honored during the 45th Honors Weekend at the National Wrestling Hall of Fame & Museum on June 3 and 4 in Stillwater, Oklahoma. For information on Honors Weekend, visit https://bit.ly/3KAFjWw or telephone (405) 377-5243.

“The National Wrestling Hall of Fame is honored to be recognizing Sofia Macaluso as the national winner of the Tricia Saunders High School Excellence award for 2022. I want to thank our selection committee for doing such a diligent job in choosing Sofia as our national winner from the other highly qualified regional winners,” said Executive Director Lee Roy Smith. “Sofia has demonstrated that it is possible to successfully balance training and competing at the highest levels of our sport while also maintaining academic excellence and working on behalf of others in your community.”

The daughter of Heath and Nikki Macaluso, she is ranked No. 1 at 122 pounds and No. 21 in the pound-for-pound rankings in the National Girls High School Rankings for March. Macaluso wrestled on the boys varsity team for Minisink High School in 2019 and 2022, not competing in 2020 and 2021 because of COVID-19.

She will represent the United States at the 2022 U20 Championships in Sofia, Bulgaria.

In 2019, she became the first female to place at the DI Section IX tournament, finishing third, while also capturing the PSAL New York girls high school state title. Macaluso was also the Mohawk Valley Freestyle tournament champion.

In 2022, she had a 60-9 record and became the first female to reach the finals at the DI Section IX tournament while also helping Minisink capture the state dual team title, winning three matches by fall. Macaluso was also the Kittatiny and Journeyman champion and a finalist at Suffern. In 2021, she finished fifth at the Junior World Team Trials and sixth at the U23 World Team Trials while reaching the finals at Junior Nationals.

Macaluso was Junior Nationals Cadet champion, Folkstyle Nationals Cadet and Junior champion and finished fifth at the Junior World Team Trials in 2019. She was member of the New York National Freestyle team from 2018 to 2021 and finished eighth at Junior Nationals in 2018.

She interned with New York State Senator Jen Metzger, using her passion for the environment to take on a project to research municipal recycling programs across the 42nd District with the goal of developing a model program that communities could adopt or use to improve existing programs. A black belt instructor at Budo Jiu-Jitsu MMA, she volunteers at Venom Girls Wrestling Club while also donating time at various youth wrestling tournaments.

Macaluso was chosen as a member of the 2018 American Kintero World Team, representing the United States in Japan and participating in their wrestling diversion program. She and her teammates competed in the Japan Open, lived with host families, visited schools and learned about Japanese culture.

She received a New York State Senate resolution for Student Athletic Achievement in Women’s Wrestling. Macaluso has worked as a counselor at Ninja Camp USA since the eighth grade and also works as a lifeguard during the summer. Her older sister, Mia, was the New York and Northeast Region winner of the TSHSEA in 2020. Sofia was Minisink Valley High School’s Varsity Scholar Athlete in 2022. She has signed a letter of intent to wrestle at East Stroudsburg University.

Thirty-six state high school athletic associations have approved girls wrestling as an official sport and 32 held official girls high school state wrestling championships in 2021-22. 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 36 states.

States that hosted state-sanctioned girls wrestling championships are Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Kansas, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Washington and Wisconsin. Iowa, Ohio and Wyoming are scheduled to host their first official state championship in 2022-23 while North Carolina is scheduled to host its first officially sanctioned tournament in 2023-24.

To date there are 119 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.

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 33,000 female high school wrestlers competed in 2022.

TSHSEA 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 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.

All-Time National Winners of Tricia Saunders High School Excellence Award

Year - Name, High School, Hometown, State
2022 - Sofia Macaluso, Minisink High School, Otisville, New York
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 (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

2022 Tricia Saunders High School Excellence Award Regional Winners


Region - Name, Hometown, State, High School, College Attending
Central - Sarah Savidge, Colorado Springs, Colorado, Doherty High School, Life University
Midwest - Riley Dempewolf, Lafayette, Indiana, McCutcheon High School, Indiana Institute of Technology
Northeast - Sofia Macaluso, Otisville, New York, Minisink Valley High School, East Stroudsburg University
Southeast - Ella Beam, Lawndale, North Carolina, Burns High School, Presbyterian College
West - Shannon Workinger, Quincy, Washington, Quincy High School, Menlo College

2022 Tricia Saunders High School Excellence Award State Winners

State - Name, Hometown, High School, College Attending

Alabama - Yasmine Oliveira, Hoover, Spain Park High School
Alaska - Liana Carney, Wrangell, Wrangell High School, Jamestown University
Arizona - Mylei Seigla, Tucson, Canyon Del Oro High School, Friends University
Arkansas - Byanca Cook, Springdale, Har-Ber High School, Avila University
California - Jennifer Soto, Gilroy, Gilroy High School,
Colorado - Sarah Savidge, Colorado Springs, Doherty High School, Life University
Connecticut - Ella Nichols, Bristol, Bristol Eastern High School
Florida - Juliana Diaz, Orlando, Dr. Phillips High School, Missouri Baptist University
Georgia - Lisa Glymph, Marietta, Marietta High School, Life University
Hawaii - Erin Hikiji, Mililani, Mililani High School, University of Providence
Idaho - Marissa Jimenez, Caldwell, Caldwell High School, Oklahoma City University
Illinois - Alexis Janiak, Plainfield, Plainfield South High School, Aurora University
Indiana - Riley Dempewolf, Lafayette, McCutcheon High School, Indiana Institute of Technology
Iowa - Ella Schmit, Bettendorf, Bettendorf High School, University of Iowa
Kansas - Madyson Gray, Lawrence, Free State High School, Grand View University
Kentucky - Ivy Partin, Flat Lick, Knox Central High School, University of Cumerlands
Louisiana - Briana Araujo Batista, Baton Rouge, East Ascension High School, Iowa Central High School
Maine - Hayleigh Martz, Rockport, Camden Hills Regional High School
Maryland - Sarah Sunday, Lutherville Timonium, Dulaney High School, Oklahoma City University
Massachusetts - Janiah Baez, Springfield, Chicopee High School
Michigan - Eliana Bommarito, Brighton, Hartland High School
Minnesota - Brooklyn Conrad, Ortonville, Ortonville High School,
Mississippi - Meagan Guzman, Moss Point, East Central High School
Missouri - Faith Cole, Glencoe, Lafayette High School, Iowa Wesleyan University
Montana - Cabry Taylor, White Sulphur Springs, White Sulphur Springs High School,
Nebraska - Callie Arnold, Pierce, Pierce High School, Iowa Western Community College
Nevada - Sterling Dias, Las Vegas, SLAM! Nevada, University of Iowa
New Jersey - Ahsia Torres, Perth Amboy, Perth Amboy High School, Sacred Heart University
New Mexico - Princess Altsisi, Shiprock, Aztec High School, New Mexico Highlands University
New York - Sofia Macaluso, Otisville, Minisink Valley High School, East Stroudsburg University
North Carolina - Ella Beam, Lawndale, Burns High School, Presbyterian College
North Dakota - Jenna Gerhardt, Devils Lake, Devils Lake High School, University of Jamestown
Ohio - Peyton Curley, Strasburg, Dover High School, Lourdes University
Oklahoma - Samara Markwardt, Muskogee, Will Rogers High School, Carl Albert State College
Oregon - Ayana Medina, Hillsboro, Hillsboro High School, Linfield University
Pennsylvania - Grace Stem, Snow Shoe, Bald Eagle Area High School, Lock Haven University
South Carolina - Bella Hoffman, Tega Cay, Fort Mill High School, Montreat College
South Dakota - Kiana Shevling-Major, Geddes, Platte-Geddes High School
Tennessee - Valerie Smith, Nashville, McGavock High School
Texas - Avery Ashley, Fairview, Lovejoy High School, Oklahoma City University
Utah - Esther Han, Orem, Mountain View High School
Virginia - Kaylee Anderson, Berryville, Clarke County High School, Shenandoah University
Washington - Shannon Workinger, Quincy, Quincy High School, Menlo College
West Virginia - Micah Fischer, Lewisburg, Greenbrier East High School
Wisconsin - Sofia Brynman-Metcalf, Sullivan, Jefferson High School
Wyoming - Alleynah Ronnau, Cheyenne, Cheyenne East High School

National Wrestling Hall of Fame & Museum


America’s shrine to the sport of wrestling, the National Wrestling Hall of Fame & Museum was founded as a nonprofit organization in 1976 to honor the sport of wrestling, preserve its history, recognize extraordinary individual achievements, and inspire future generations. The National Wrestling Hall of Fame has museums in Stillwater, Oklahoma, and Waterloo, Iowa. The Stillwater, Oklahoma, location reopened in June 2016 following a $3.8 million renovation and now features interactive exhibits and electronic kiosks, as well as the opportunity to watch NCAA Championship matches from the 1930s to present day. It also has the John T. Vaughan Hall of Honors where the greatest names in wrestling are recognized, including iconic granite plaques presented to Distinguished Members since the Hall of Fame opened in 1976. The museum has the largest collection of wrestling artifacts and memorabilia in the world, including the most collegiate and Olympic wrestling uniforms. Wrestling truly is for everyone and the diversity and accessibility of the sport continues to be highlighted through exhibits featuring females, African-Americans, Asian Americans, Native Americans, and Latino Americans. There is also a library featuring historical documents, including NCAA guides and results, as well as books on the sport. For more information about the Hall of Fame, please visit www.NWHOF.org.