Each honoree inducted into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame has a video highlighting their career.
Here is the video for Townsend Saunders, who was inducted as a Distinguished Member in 2019.
Distinguished Members can be a wrestler who has achieved extraordinary success in national and/or international competition; a coach who has demonstrated great leadership in the profession and who has compiled an outstanding record; or a contributor whose long-term activities have substantially enhanced the development and advancement of the sport.
The National Wrestling Hall of Fame will honor 1996 Olympic silver medalist Townsend Saunders as a 2019 Distinguished Member for his lifelong dedication and commitment to the sport of wrestling.
Known as “Junior” during his prep and collegiate careers, Saunders was a runner-up in the California state championships while competing for Torrance High School. At CSU Bakersfield Athletics, he won an NCAA Division II championship at 142 pounds before transferring to Sun Devil Wrestling. As a Arizona State Sun Devils, Saunders was a two-time @Pac-12 Conference champion and a two-time All-American, finishing second at 142 pounds in 1989 and third at 150 pounds in 1990. In the 1989 finals, Saunders took national champion Pat Santoro of the University of Pittsburgh into overtime, which ended in a 6-6, 1-1 deadlock. Santoro took the title on the 10th criteria.
Saunders had a career record of 77-9 for ASU, which ties him for fourth place in school annals with a .895 winning percentage. He is also tied for fourth in dual victories in a season with 20 wins in 1989-90 and is tied for seventh on ASU’s single-season overall victories list with 40 wins in 1988-89.
Using his given name of Townsend in international competition, Saunders placed seventh at the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona, Spain. Four years later, Saunders avenged his NCAA finals loss to Santoro, winning a tense overtime victory in the final match of the best-of-three series at 149.5 pound to win the U.S. Olympic team trials. In Atlanta, Saunders gave up only two points in cruising through three opponents to meet Russia’s Vadim Bogiyev in the finals. True to form, Saunders took Bogiyev into overtime tied 1-1. After eight minutes of scoreless action, Bogiyev was awarded the gold medal with two passivity calls to Saunders’ three.
Saunders competed in six World Championships from 1991-95 and was a gold medalist at the Pan American Games in 1991 and 1995. He won a gold medal at the Goodwill Games in 1995 and was the U.S. Open national freestyle champion in 1991 and 1996.
After stepping off the mat, he was an assistant coach at Arizona State from 2001-03 while also serving as executive director and coach for the Sunkist Kids Wrestling Club. He coached the 2003 United States women’s team to seven medals in seven weights – one gold medal, four silver and two bronze medals, at the World Championships. Saunders was named USA Wrestling’s Coach of the Year in 2004 after coaching the United States women’s wrestling team the first time that women’s wrestling competed in the Olympics in 2004.
He was inducted into the Arizona State University Hall of Fame in 2011 and the California Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2013. Saunders and his wife, Tricia McNaughton Saunders, a four-time world champion, one-time world silver medalist and first woman inducted into the NWHOF as a Distinguished Member, are the only husband and wife to be so honored.
Honoree videos are created by Dave “Doc” Bennett, who we honored with our Order of Merit award in 2015.