And if you got anything to say to me you can say it with cash. — Joe Jackson “I’m The Man”
Piling up state honors is a sign of success in high school sports. But when it goes national, then you know it’s something really, really special.
Nanea Estrella, the Lahainaluna girl who had enough energy to take down her coach immediately after winning her fourth state championship in February, is now shining brightly in the national spotlight.
Estrella is the NATIONAL winner (not just the state of Hawaii winner; there is a HUGE difference) of the Tricia Saunders High School Excellence Award. The announcement was made Tuesday by the National Wrestling Hall of Fame.
It’s been a big week for Estrella, who hails from Makawao and will wrestle next season for Menlo College. On Monday, she was named to the Hawaii High School Hall of Honor, the tippity-top of the world of honors as far as the Aloha State is concerned. That club is reserved each year for only 12 deserving seniors, and it includes new Miami Dolphins draft pick Tua Tagovailoa as well as former Heisman Trophy candidate Manti Te’o.
“I am so excited to receive this award,” Estrella said in a news release. “There were so many amazing female wrestlers up for this award and I am blessed to be a part of this group. Tricia Saunders was a leader for female athletes and is a true role model for people like me, who are just starting their career and hope to be the best one day. I hope to one day inspire female wrestlers like she has inspired me. Thank you to all who helped me achieve this honor and I want to thank the National Wrestling Hall of Fame for this tremendous award.
This ain’t no party, this ain’t no disco, this ain’t no fooling around. This is a national honor for Lahainaluna’s Nanea Estrella.
Saunders, a four-time world champion and women’s wrestling pioneer, 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 Saunders award recognizes and celebrates the nation’s most outstanding high school senior female wrestlers (state winners are picked as well) 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 Thursday.
The daughter of Isaac and Johanna Estrella, Nanea is ranked No. 2 at 132 pounds nationally.
Estrella overcame adversity as a senior. After an early season loss to her cousin, Baldwin’s Waipuilani Estrella-Beauchamp, she came back strong and didn’t lose again.
According to the Saunders news release, Estrella had runner-up finishes at the Cadet Nationals in 2018 and the Junior Nationals in 2019, and won both freestyle and Greco-Roman at the 2019 Western Regionals. She earned a triple crown and was named Outstanding Wrestler in Greco-Roman at the Turf Wars in Pocatello, Idaho, and placed third at the 2019 Cadet World Team trials.
Estrella also lettered in track and field and was a two-time Hawaii state qualifier in the 4×100, 4×400 relay, the 400 and 200 dashes and the long jump. In addition, she is a finalist for the 2020 Pele Award, which honors creative excellence in the art of advertising and design. In applying for that award, she submitted a video called “Don’t Be Drip” about water conservation.