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Photo: In addition to winning both the UWW Junior and U23 World Championships this year, Emily Shilson is trying to build this 42,000-piece puzzle back home in Minnesota. (Shilson family photos)
By Mike Finn
Moments after watching his daughter win a UWW U23 World championship on Nov. 4, Chad Shilson was happy. But he had a few words for Emily, who had just pinned Shivani Pawar in the 50-kilogram final, who was not smiling … despite becoming the first American woman to win a U23 championship.
“I said, ‘Show gratitude Emily, you just won a World title,’” said Chad, who has also been Emily’s coach since she first took up the sport 15 years ago at the age of 5.
During that time, since she earned a chance to wrestle after first being a tag-a-long at her older brother Tyler’s practices, Emily Shilson has been dominant among women wrestlers. The native of Maple Grove, Minn., first wrestled six years on the boys’ team for Mounds View High School, where she qualified for three Minnesota state tournaments.
Competing against women, she has continued to grow in the sport and was part of Augsburg College – located nearby in Minneapolis — starting a women’s program, where she earned a WCWA championship in 2020.
And on the international stage, Emily won a UWW Cadet World silver medal in 2017 and a gold medal in 2018. And this past year has especially been rewarding to Emily, capturing World titles in both the Junior tournament in August and most recently the U23 Worlds in Belgrade, Serbia.
During her two days of competition, she dominated all her opponents, but did give up a first-period takedown against Pawar before taking down the Indian wrestler to her back and scoring a fall in 1:38.
Giving up the two points against Pawar is what had Emily frowning after winning USA’s only gold medal in the women’s freestyle tournament. (Fellow Junior World gold medalist Kylie Welker settled for bronze at the U23s.)
“I was frustrated because I got scored on,” said Emily. “Those were the only points I gave up. I’ve always been a perfectionist. I think that high standard has developed over the course of my wrestling career.”
And no one knows that more than her father, who is a full-time financial advisor and part-time coach to Emily and the Augsburg team.
“My wife Margaret and I remind her that she tastes perfection every day that she wakes up in the morning. She is chasing perfection. She is chasing the goal of being the best in the world. She focuses on (2020 Olympic champion) Yui Susaki, the Japanese champ at 50 kilos. Emily has worked out with her so Emily knows that (Susaki’s) mindset is at a different level.”
As Emily’s coach, Chad takes on a different posture in that of her father.
“I’ve spent so much time analyzing and scouting and we look for every little flaw to benefit from. Emily wakes up every morning and she knows her goal is to be the best in the world whatever she does, whether that happens to be in wrestling or being a straight-A student in college. She’s focused on everything.”
Chad said he first saw that when she wrestled and lost her first match against a boy.
“The funny thing is that it was a youth tournament and the kid kept clasping so she couldn’t get away. The official said, ‘Well, they are just little kids and we’re not going to call clasping.’
“Emily was like, ‘Well if you don’t call clasping, I can’t get away … she ended up winning her next 12 matches in a row. She’s been laser focused ever since.”
Emily said she believes she is like her brother Tyler, a current a member of the Augsburg men’s wrestling team who is ranked No. 7 in the national rankings at 157 pounds.
“I got into wrestling because I would always go to practice with my family and I didn’t like sitting on the sides,” Emily said. “When my brother and I were younger, we’d just roll around together and rough house. I think that’s a big part of what I am today. I learned how to be tough because my brother is bigger and stronger than me.”
(To read the rest of this story, which appeared in the November issue of WIN, subscribe to the magazine by clicking here or call 888-305-0606)