SAINT PAUL, Minn. – Xcel Energy Center became history's arena during the state high school wrestling tournament as Emily Shilson, a Centennial High School sophomore, took her place on the mat.
On Friday afternoon, Shilson, 16, was the second girl to ever compete at the state wrestling tournament and the first girl to wrestle in Class 3A. She faced Patrick Hesse, a Sartell junior and prior opponent in the 106 lb. bracket.
She faced him with winning experience, taking first place in the Junior Nationals last summer, rising to the top of the competition in a sport dominated by boys, as one of the leading female wrestlers in the nation.
The historic nature of the match isn’t a surprise to her family. Shilson has been wrestling since she was 5-years-old. Her dad, Chad Shilson, is her wrestling coach. Her older brother competed in the state wrestling tournament as well.
“She’s got goals,” said Margaret Shilson, her mother. “She always been rough and tumble, she had a big brother she had to keep up with when she was little.”
A few minutes into the match, Shilson’s opponent gained the upper hand, and won the match 7-4.
Shilson, clearly shaken from the loss, hugged her dad after the defeat with tears.
“Good effort,” he said. “Love you.”
“We’ll come back at it again, it’s that simple,” said Chad Shilson. “I know there is no bigger critic for her than herself. She doesn’t like to lose, this match or any other match.”
Shilson's long-term goal is to win a gold medal in the 2020 Olympics. She is hoping Minnesota girls will soon have their own high school wrestling division and will also set her goals on the state wrestling tournament next year.
Her dad knows history is still in her future.
“She’ll come back tougher though, I guarantee it. She has never had a setback where she doesn’t come back exponentially stronger, tougher, faster, quicker, better,” said Chad Shilson.