Emily Shilson turned 20 just three months ago, making her one of the youngest athletes in Friday's opening draw of the U.S. Olympic wrestling trials in Fort Worth, Texas. Though she found herself surrounded by world and Olympic medalists, the Maple Grove native didn't adjust her ambitions.
"I wanted to win it,'' Shilson said. "There is no other goal.''
A 10-0 quarterfinal loss to Victoria Anthony ended Shilson's path to the Tokyo Olympics, but she still has something to gain. The Augsburg sophomore cruised to a 10-0 technical fall over Angelina Gomez in the consolation bracket of the women's 50-kilogram freestyle class, leaving Shilson with a 2-1 record on the first day of her first Olympic trials. She will continue wrestling Saturday for third-place honors.
The 2018 cadet world champion, Shilson is in her third season of senior-level competition. She doesn't often get to wrestle the world's best, making the Olympic trials an important step in her development.
"It's pretty cool seeing a bunch of really big names,'' said Shilson, who has won three national championships in her two seasons at Augsburg. "I don't think it's intimidating. It kind of takes the pressure off.
"I have nothing to lose. And I'm going to do everything I can to battle back for third.''
The No. 6 seed, Shilson started by pinning Sage Mortimer. She ran into a seasoned quarterfinal opponent in No. 3 seed Anthony, 29, who finished fifth at the world championships in 2013 and 2017. An extremely quick and assertive wrestler, Anthony took command of the match and never gave Shilson an opening.
Though Shilson said "that one stung a bit,'' Anthony had high praise for Shilson after their match.
"I see her work ethic,'' Anthony said. "A lot of people don't want to work that hard all the time. She has a ton of potential.''
Shilson said she makes incremental progress every time she wrestles the top women in her class, and the Olympic trials provided an invaluable opportunity to move up a little more.
"This is a great point in my career, just getting to be here,'' she said. "Having this experience and knowing what to expect will only help me in the future.''
Ahead of schedule
Patrons of Alary's Bar in St. Paul might have noticed a familiar face during Friday's telecast of the Olympic trials. Calvin Germinaro, who tends bar at that old-school watering hole, went 2-1 in the 67 kg Greco-Roman class and is still in the chase for third place.
Germinaro, of Anoka, has deep family ties to the sport. His uncle, Brandon Paulson, was a 1996 Olympic silver medalist in Greco-Roman and is now a prominent coach. The No. 5 seed, Germinaro had an up-and-down day; he beat No. 12 Colton Rasche 10-0 in his opening match, lost 10-0 to fourth seed Xavier Johnson in the quarterfinals and defeated No. 6 Lenny Merkin 12-4 in the consolation bracket.
At 22, Germinaro figured his best chance to make an Olympic team would come in 2024. He said qualifying for this year's trials puts him ahead of the game.
"I was at the 2016 Olympic trials, watching in the stands,'' he said. "I dreamed of wrestling in the 2024 trials, but I started having success early, and it was all gas, no brakes. It's a blessing to be here, and a huge learning experience.''
Germinaro took a semester off from his studies at the University of Minnesota — and time off from Alary's — to train full-time for the trials. After committing to the Gophers out of high school, he did not join the team, opting for the Greco-Roman training program at Northern Michigan University. He finished second at the U.S. senior nationals in 2019 and 2020.
In addition to Shilson and Germinaro, seven Minnesotans will wrestle in the consolation bracket Saturday.
In the men's 57 kg freestyle class, former Gopher Sean Russell lost in the quarterfinals, then defeated another former Gopher, Zach Sanders, in a consolation bout. Former Gophers Mitch McKee (65 kg freestyle) and Tony Nelson (125 kg freestyle) lost their opening matches, as did Augsburg alum Donny Longendyke (130 kg Greco-Roman), Jake Clark of St. Cloud (97 kg Greco-Roman) and Minnesota Storm members Eric Twohey (97 kg Greco-Roman) and Barrett Stanghill (87 kg Greco-Roman). All are still alive in the consolations.
Former Gopher Brett Pfarr (86 kg freestyle) won his first match but was defeated in the consolation bracket. Augsburg sophomore Marlynne Deede (76 kg women's freestyle) and Sanders also are out.
The Star Tribune did not travel for this event. This article was written using the television broadcast and interviews before and/or after the event.