Cierra Foster appreciated being nominated for a national award.
She didn’t think she had a chance at being the winner, though. Especially since she hails from a state that doesn’t have a state wrestling tournament for girls.
Ecstatic doesn’t begin to describe how Foster felt when she learned last Thursday she is the 2017 recipient of the Tricia Saunders High School Excellence Award. It is the female version of the longtime Dave Schultz High School Excellence Award given to boys.
“It’s really amazing,” Foster said in a phone interview from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, where she’s training for the USA Wrestling Junior World Team Trials. “It’s hard to explain how I feel. This is the first year they opened the award up in states that don’t offer girls state tournaments. I was really surprised. There are so many talented, talented women across the United States. I thought there was a chance, but I wasn’t going to get my hopes up.”
The award in Saunders’ name was established in 2014 honoring the four-time world champion and women’s wrestling pioneer. Saunders was the first woman inducted into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2006 and was inducted into the United World Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2011.
The Saunders and Schultz awards recognize the nation’s most outstanding high school seniors for their excellence in wrestling, academic achievement, citizenship and community service. Foster will be presented her award during the 41st annual Honors Weekend at the National Hall of Fame and Museum on June 2-3 in Stillwater, Oklahoma.
Foster signed a letter of intent to wrestle at Oklahoma City University.
“It’s a huge honor,” Post Falls coach Pete Reardon said. “There’s no higher honor for a female high school wrestler in the nation.”
Foster was named the Idaho winner and a West Region winner prior to the national award announcement.
Dalton Young of Lakeside, a four-time state champ who finished his career 170-0, was the Dave Schultz winner for Washington and Casey Randles of Coeur d’Alene was the Idaho recipient. Both will continue wrestling in college – Young at Stanford and Randles at Wyoming.
Foster flew to Oklahoma last Friday to prepare for the Junior World Team Trials. She participated in her first practice Monday morning.
She will remain in Oklahoma until heading to the Trials in Irving, Texas, on May 20. The top three in each weight class make the national team. She will wrestle at 59 kilos – roughly 129 pounds.
Foster has been a trailblazer in Idaho. As a freshman, she became the first female to place in a boys state tournament her freshman year when she took third at 106 pounds. She won a regional title the week before state – a first by a female.
“She’s accomplished a lot of firsts in our state,” Reardon said.
Foster competed again against the boys as a sophomore but with less success.
“It got to the point I couldn’t cut enough weight to compete with the guys and they were so much stronger than I was,” Foster said. “I was getting injured.”
As a junior, she went to girls invitational tournaments in Washington, posting a 24-1 record. She went 4-0 in one tournament last winter but suffered a season-ending meniscus tear.
“I’m back and better than ever,” Foster said.
Foster won a gold medal in the 123.25 pound division at the 2016 Pan American Cadet championships. She helped the U.S. capture the team title. And she received the Golden Boot as the Outstanding Wrestling at the event, winning all three of her matches by pin.
She is a two-time champion and five-time finalist at the USA Wrestling Folkstyle Nationals. She also won the USA Wrestling Cadet Freestyle Nationals.
Foster said some of her medals along with a couple of singlets will be put in a case in the National Hall of Fame Museum.
She will graduate with a 3.96 grade-point average. She wants to major in biochemistry with hopes of being a forensic pathologist.
Foster is doing most of her homework while in Oklahoma by correspondence.
She is the daughter of Todd and Angelique Foster. They will accompany their daughter when she receives the national award.
Foster will have a busy summer training and competing in other junior-age tournaments before heading off to college.
Foster is hopeful that Idaho will create a state tournament for girls.
“The sport is growing in Idaho,” Foster said. “Someday girls will have a state tournament. It’s closer than people think.”
Reardon said the topic came up at a pre-state coaches meeting last winter.
“Wrestling for girls is popular in neighboring states,” Reardon said. “I think once girls get the opportunity to compete against each other it’ll grow.”