Tricia Saunders

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Tricia Saunders
Personal information
Born (1966-02-21) February 21, 1966 (age 57)
Ann Arbor, Michigan, U.S.
CountryUnited States
Medal record
Women's freestyle wrestling
Representing the  United States
World Championships
Gold medal – first place 1992 Villeurbanne 50 kg
Silver medal – second place 1993 Stavern 47 kg
Gold medal – first place 1996 Sofia 47 kg
Gold medal – first place 1998 Poznań 46 kg
Gold medal – first place 1999 Boden 46 kg

Tricia Saunders (born as Patricia McNaughton; February 21, 1966)[1] is an American amateur wrestler and pioneer in the sport of women's freestyle wrestling.[2] She earned a total of five FILA Wrestling World Championships medals, four gold and one silver. Throughout her career she never lost to an American opponent, and collected eleven national titles.

Saunders was the first woman to be inducted to the National Wrestling Hall of Fame as a Distinguished Member in Stillwater, Oklahoma and the first American woman to be inducted into the FILA International Wrestling Hall of Fame in Istanbul, Turkey.[3]


Saunders's grandfather was an All-American wrestler at the University of Michigan in 1930; her father, and her older brother, Jamie, were also wrestlers. As a child, she would accompany her brothers to practice. At age seven, Saunders was bored with watching and wanted to compete in wrestling herself. Her father asked if she wanted to wrestle, in which she replied yes. In her first tournament, at nine years old, she won seven of her nine matches, all against boys.[1] By the time she reached the "Regional Nationals", she was a force to be reckoned with in the 50-pound weight class.

Saunders appeared as a featured guest on a 1975 episode of the syndicated version of To Tell The Truth.[4]

She stopped wrestling against boys in folkstyle wrestling at age 12, compiling a record of 181-23 and was retired from wrestling up to that point. After receiving her undergraduate degree from the University of Wisconsin ten years later, Saunders returned to wrestling competition, this time in the international style of freestyle wrestling, competing against other women.


Saunders won the 1992 World Wrestling Championships in Villerbanne, France, competing at 103.5 lbs, becoming the first American woman to win a World title.[5] She won the silver medal at the 1993 World Championship, and three more Gold medals at the 1996, 1998, and 1999 Worlds, the most World titles of any American woman at the time.[5]

In 2006, Saunders became the first woman to be inducted as a Distinguished Member of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame. In 2011, she was inducted into the United World Wrestling Hall of Fame.[6]


Saunders became one of the first coaches of the U.S. Women's Olympic Wrestling Team at the 2004 Summer Olympic Games in Athens.[5]

Saunders is the namesake of the Tricia Saunders High School Excellence Award, given by the National Wrestling Hall of Fame. The award honors the most outstanding high school seniors in women's wrestling. Criteria include wrestling accomplishments, scholastic achievement, and community service.[6]


Tricia is married to Townsend Saunders, a 1996 Olympic silver medalist in men's freestyle wrestling. They have three children, two daughters, Tassia and Tatiana and a son, Townsend.


  1. ^ a b "CNN/SI - SI for Women - Spotlight: Tricia Saunders, Wrestling - Tuesday April 27, 1999 10:06 AM". Archived from the original on 2001-11-07.
  2. ^ "National Wrestling Hall of Fame".
  3. ^ "Tricia Saunders inducted into FILA International Wrestling Hall of Fame in Istanbul, Turkey | - USA Wrestling". Archived from the original on 2012-04-25.
  4. ^ Archived at Ghostarchive and the Wayback Machine: "To Tell the Truth (1975)". YouTube.
  5. ^ a b c Gary, Abbott. "Women's Feature – Tricia Saunders, first U.S. World Champion". Team USA. USA Wrestling. Archived from the original on March 4, 2015. Retrieved 18 June 2019.
  6. ^ a b "Tricia Saunders High School Excellence Award State, Regional Winners Announced | National Wrestling Hall of Fame". National Wrestling Hall of Fame. Retrieved 18 June 2019.

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