Young wrestlers’ Olympics dream hangs on International Olympic Committee vote

by Bob San


When the International Olympic Committee (IOC) votes in Buenos Aires this Sunday, Sept. 8, to reinstate one sport for the 2020 and 2024 Olympic Games, the Shilson family in Maple Grove will look on with special interest.

Tyler Shilson, a freshman at Maple Grove Senior High, and Emily Shilson, a seventh grader at Maple Grove Junior, are both budding young wrestlers who have harbored Olympics wrestling aspirations for many years.

The Shilson family (left to right) Emily, Chad and Tyler is hoping the International Olympic Committee will reinstate wrestling in the 2020 Olympics Games.
The Shilson family (left to right) Emily, Chad and Tyler is hoping the International Olympic Committee will reinstate wrestling in the 2020 Olympics Games.

Emily first set her sights on the Olympics when she was 5. She asked her dad Chad what the Olympics were. When Chad replied that it was the biggest wrestling tournament in the world, Emily said: “OK, that’s what I want to win. If I can win the Olympics, it means that I am the best in the world at that weight.”

Tyler said, “The Olympics is the biggest and best possible tournament you can wrestle in so that’s the tournament everybody wants to wrestle in.”

The Olympics dreams for Tyler and Emily, along with thousands other wrestlers around the world, were jolted this past February when wrestling was surprisingly taken off the 2020 Olympics by the IOC. Since then, the IOC has decided to reinstate one sport for the 2020 and 2024 Games. Wrestling is competing with baseball/softball and squash for that spot.

Chad Shilson, the MN/USA Wrestling Girls Director, said there are compelling reasons wrestling should be reinstated.

“A couple of the reasons that wrestling was considered for elimination from the Olympics were that the IOC wants sports that have a broad appeal along with gender equity,” Shilson said. “These are both qualities that the sport of wrestling possesses.

In the 2012 London Olympics, 71 countries were represented by wrestlers. This representation is far greater than other Olympic sports that are completely safe from a September vote. Wrestling fans from over 180 countries have recently rallied together to help save the sport and its rich Olympic tradition. Wrestling has long been considered a core Olympic sport. In ancient Roman times, it was the marquee event.”

Shilson said that in 2004, women’s wrestling made its Olympic debut and the sport has been gaining considerable traction ever since. There is talk about increasing the number of weights in womens’ Olympic wrestling from four weights classes to possibly six. Shilson added that wrestling officials have made changes to make the sport more appealing to the general audience.

“FILA, which is the world governing body for wrestling, has been reviewing and tweaking current rules for both Olympic styles (Greco Roman and freestyle),” he said. “The goal is to make the sport easier to understand for someone that has not previously been introduced to the sport. They have also revamped the scoring system so there are a lot more points scored.”

For Emily and Tyler, the uncertainty of wrestling as an Olympics sport has not affected their intense preparation. Both train at the Pinnacle Wrestling School in Shoreview, where their coaches are 1996 Olympic silver medalist Brandon Paulson, 2008 Olympian Jake Deitchler and 2004 Olympic Trials finalist Jared Lawrence.

In addition to wrestling for the Maple Grove Crimson, they both wrestle year-round, and compete in numerous state and national tournaments. This summer, Emily finished fifth at a Greco national tournament and seventh in freestyle, where she was the only girl in the field of 33. Tyler took second in freestyle and fourth in Greco.

The 2020 Olympics is the first Emily would be eligible based on her age. She will be 19.

“She understands the process to make an Olympic team and knows that there are many, many years of hard work to put in before she will even have an opportunity to compete at the Olympic Trials,” Chad said.

Tyler faces an even tougher road to reach his Olympics goal.

“There are approximately 30, 35 times more male wrestlers in the U.S. than female wrestlers currently, therefore the list of competitors to make the men’s Olympic team is much longer,” Chad said.

Whatever the odds, Tyler and Emily are determined to pursue their Olympics dreams. They are hoping their sport will survive the Sept. 8 IOC vote.


Contact Bob San at [email protected]