Emily Shilson: Teen Wrestler

Local girl makes history by sweeping all state wrestling titles in one season.
Emily Shilson of Maple Grove claimed every all state wrestling title in just one season.

Imagine this: A wrestler training three to four times a week for 10 months straight. Each practice roughly two hours long. Starting with a 15 minute warm up consisting of tumbling and gymnastic style activities, followed by 45 to 60 minutes of intense drilling to perfect technique, and finally a 20 to 30 minute live wrestling practice against partners from around the state. Are you tired yet?

Add to that strength training at home three times a week and four to five cardio workouts a week and you have 11-year-old Emily Shilson of Maple Grove, standing 4 feet 4 inches tall and weighing 68 pounds.  Shilson inherited a love for wrestling at an early age. Her father, who is now her coach, grew up wrestling and her older brother Tyler, 13, has also picked up on the sport.

This past season (September through June) Shilson beat Minnesota’s best in every state championship and won the Quintuple Crown, an honor so grand it has never been done before. To win the Quintuple Crown, she won both the MN USA State Greco Championship and Freestyle Championship in the boys division, the MN USA Girl’s Freestyle State Tournament, the MN USA Folkstyle State Championship boys division and the MN USA Girl’s Folkstyle State Championship.

Chad, Emily’s father, has been coaching his kids since they took up the sport. “They have a built in coach, which is good and bad,” he says. “That’s the tricky part, to be the coach and the dad and separate the two.” To help ease the separation between coach and dad, Shilson has two other coaches, Olympic and World Silver medalist Brandon Paulson and 2002 Olympic Team Alternate and 2002 NCAA Champion Jared Lawrence.

Shilson was exposed to wrestling at a very young age by attending her brother’s matches on the weekends. Her parents would joke with her about signing her up for a tournament. What her parents, Chad and Margaret, did not expect was an ecstatic 5-year-old girl who truly wanted to wrestle. “Daddy, I want to wrestle,” were her exact words. Unaware of what his next response would trigger he said, “You can wrestle under one condition, you go 100 percent.” And so she has.

Not only does this ambitious young girl compete against girls her own age and size but she competes against boys as well. In fact, her first tournament was against boys and about 99 percent of her tournaments each year are against boys, Chad says.

He recalls a match she had against a middle-school boy that she went on to beat in overtime. Once the match had ended the boy’s father approached Chad, unaware he was her father, and said he would not have let his son wrestle her if he knew how tough she was. Shilson says it was a shocking but proud moment.

Aside from her father’s obvious pride in her, Margaret, Shilson’s mother, is her biggest fan. She attends all of the kids’ matches and films every single one.

It is hard to imagine this young athlete could put energy into anything but wrestling with the record she has, but Shilson is a good student, mild-mannered, and also has a passion for running. She has already run marathons and frequently runs in 5K’s as well. “We don’t put limitations on our kids,” says Chad. “Everyone thought Emily would wrestle one year and be done with it, but this is her sixth year.”

As if winning the Quintuple Crown wasn’t enough, Shilson’s goals are to make both the FILA Cadet and FILA Junior world teams –FILA organizes the Amateur Wrestling World Championship­– and eventually compete in the US Olympics.


For The Record

Shilson’s career wins include:

4 X Defending USA Girls National Folkstyle Champion
3 X USA National Greco Roman finalist and All-American

3 X USA Freestyle All-American

2 X USA Folkstyle All-American

2 X USA Wrestling Pre-season Nationals All-American

4 X MN USA Freestyle State Champ

2 X MN USA Folkstyle State Champ

2 X MN USA Greco State Champ

2 X MN USA State Triple Crown (1 X Quintuple Crown)

5 X MN USA Girls Folkstyle State Champ

5 X MN USA Girls Freestyle State Champ

2 X MN USA Top Girl Wrestler

1 X MN USA Top Youth Wrestler