Photo of Emily Shilson by Tony Rotundo
Starting this week, themat.com will interview one collegiate wrestling athlete each Thursday as a part of a new Q&A series for the 2021-22 college wrestling season. Stay tuned each Thursday for a new feature, spotlighting these student-athletes both on and off the mat.
Leading off our college wrestling Q&A series this year is Emily Shilson, a 2021 Junior World champion who will be a junior this year at Augsburg University. Shilson, who has won three age group world medals, is looking to win another at the U23 World championships next week.
Below, we talk with Emily about many things, including what training is looking like these days and hobbies that she has recently explored.
Q: What has been going on since winning your gold medal at Junior Worlds?
A: I took about a week off the mat, just to recover and really spend some time with my family. I went up to our cabin and hung out with the family and relaxed. After that, I got right back to training and was on the mat. I kept up with my lifting and cardio, so the training didn’t change too much.
Q: What was it like to have that time off, knowing you have U23 Worlds coming up, but still being able to take a week to relax?
A: It was really good. I just hung out with my family a lot since I had been gone for a couple of weeks between the training camp before and then being out in Russia [at Junior Worlds]. So during that time, I did my cardio workouts and lifts but stayed off the mat to give my body and mind a little bit of a break. But, when I was able to get back to it, I was more excited than ever to get back onto the mat.
Q: What are some of the things you do outside the wrestling room to help you improve and become better on the mat?
A: I think the biggest thing that I’ve been focusing on over the last few years is my strength training. My lifting kind of changed a little bit this summer. Instead of going to the gym I was going to, I started lifting full-time with my brother. He’s been putting me through workouts and that’s been awesome. I like to keep my circle really small, so having my family involved with all of my training has been great.
My maxes in the weight room have been going up a ton and my brother has been focusing a ton on stuff that I need, like footwork and explosiveness. He’s also been working with me on my cardio. He comes up with different workouts and has me doing a lot of heart rate training.
He’s also been helpful in working with my nutrition. For Junior Worlds, he had me doing stuff that I had never done before, and I felt really good going into that tournament.
Q: What is the environment like on a day-to-day basis at Augsburg, and what are some things you enjoy about training there?
A: One thing that I love about Augsburg is that it’s a small school, but it’s right in the middle of Minneapolis. I also love that it’s really close to home, being about 25 minutes away. But, just the wrestling community at Augsburg is super tight-knit. And I think one of the big reasons I love it so much is just the community that’s there…
Augsburg is pretty much a wrestling school. Our two wrestling teams are two of the best teams at the school, so they put a lot of focus into wrestling to where we can get the best coaches and facilities. We have an awesome wrestling room, three full mats and then all of the strength and cardio equipment you could ever need.
Q: What has it been like to be training for both the college season and U23 Worlds right now?
A: A lot of it comes with knowing that I have my own goals. I have my college goals, but I need to focus on the World Championships before I worry about the college tournaments. So, it’s just being able to pull myself out when I need to – like this week, I am going to be tapering off and I won’t be going the entire hour and a half with the team. So, it’s knowing when I need to hold back or knowing when I can do more.
Also, I have great partners who want to help me get ready for Worlds, and the coaches know what the plan is. Having my team and the coaches really support me in that has been great.
Q: What would you say are the biggest differences between who you were as a wrestler in 2018 or 2019 compared to now?
A: That’s kind of a hard question, but I think it’s just getting better every single day. I know that I’m better right now than I was even this morning. I’m just making those little improvements every day. It’s knowing that people are always going to be trying to chase me, and I’m always trying to chase the people who are ahead of me. So, just making those little improvements each and every day adds up to a ton over the course of three or four years.
Q: What are your favorite things to do outside of wrestling, something that fans might not already know?
A: I have a few things… I love going up to the cabin with my family. I like hanging out with my cousins up there, we do a lot of things on the trampoline, go swimming a lot and do some water skiing.
During COVID, I got into fishkeeping. My freshman year of college I got a fish because I missed having my cats, because I was living in the dorm. During COVID, I kind of got obsessed with fish. I think now I have four or five fish tanks and about 200 fish.
Q: You have 200 fish? What does that look like on a day to day basis?
A: I feed them every morning and every night, and I have to scrape algae off the side of the tanks. I have to do water changes, always make sure the fish are healthy, kind of just keeping up with the tanks and keeping them clean. I love watching them, too.
Q: Finally, looking ahead to U23 Worlds, what are you most looking forward to as you approach the tournament?
A: I’m really excited to compete. I haven’t been this excited in a while, just because of the things that I’ve been working on in the room. I feel like I’m getting so much better every single day. I’m doing things that I’ve never done before, just with my movement and hand fighting. So, I’m really excited to get the chance to compete, represent the USA and show what I’ve been working on the last few months.
Rapid fire round with Emily Shilson
Favorite movie: The Internship
What you’re streaming right now: The Office
Favorite partner in the Augsburg room: Gabby Skidmore and Charlotte Kouyoumtjian
Go-to cheat meal: Ice cream or pretzel sticks from Dairy Queen
Favorite sport that’s not wrestling: I like playing baseball with my family
Favorite place you’ve ever traveled to: Japan
Wrestler you look up to the most: John Smith