A little about Coach Chad and his family;
To say that Chad is part of a wrestling family may be a bit of an understatement. You see, not only did Chad compete but is still very active on the mat. Chad has won 10 Veteran National Titles and placed 5th at the Veteran Worlds last year in Serajevo, Bosnia. When Chad isn’t on the mat competing you might find him on the marathon track. That’s right, Chad has completed 54 marathons and ultra marathons.
You may have heard the expression opposites attract. I guess Chad and his wife Margaret either haven’t heard that or just don’t believe that. Margaret is also a wrestling coach and currently holds a Bronze level certification through USAWrestling.
Chad and Margaret’s 2 children also wrestle. It’s funny because I asked Chad the age of his children and while most Fathers would give you their chronological age, Chad gave me their age division according to FILA and USAWrestling. Tyler is a Cadet and Emily is a Schoolgirl. Chad was recognized in 2013 for his coaching abilities by being voted the Minnesota USAWrestling Coach Of The Year. Considering how many USAWrestling coaches there are in any particular state, this is a great honor.
Q- How long have you been in the role of Director for women’s wrestling in Minnesota for USAWrestling?
A- I (we) was asked in 2008 to take over the girls program and the women’s program in 2009. My daughter Emily was getting very involved with the sport at the time and MN USA saw that it would be a good fit. I had been a youth and high school coach at the time as well. We had just rebuilt a youth program from a couple dozen wrestlers to consistently having more than 100 register. I say we because I do not think anyone could do this job alone. I get great support from my wife Margaret.
Q- What are some of your short term goals for the women wrestlers in your state?
A- Our short term goals are to increase our Freestyle numbers over last year for our MN USA Girls State Freestyle Tourney along with increasing our female competitors at Fargo this summer. We feel pretty good about both of these goals.
The other constant short term goal that we are always focused on is increasing our Sunday practice numbers. We run an all girls practice two Sundays per month at the Pinnacle Wrestling facility. We will typically get 25 girls at these practices. Their weight, age and experience cover all levels.
We are always recruiting, always asking this girl or that girl “do you want to wrestle?” or “why aren’t you wrestling?”. Word of mouth from other wrestlers, coaches and parents is essential for recruiting.
Q- What are some of the long term goals for the women wrestlers in your state?
A- Long term, we would like to see the Minnesota State High School League (MSHSL) sanction girls wrestling as a varsity sport. We would also like to see one or more colleges and/or universities in Minnesota offer women’s wrestling. We have begun talks regarding women’s wrestling at the collegiate level and are optimistic about our preliminary discussions.
We are also making a strong effort at building a solid coaching staff. Last season, we were lucky enough to get Kelli Rasmussen and Ali Bernard to commit to becoming assistant coaches. Ali was also appointed to the position of MN USA Assistant Girls/Women Director & Coach in 2013. Both women bring so much to our program as they both have competed nationally and internationally. Kelli was a junior national champ and college national champ. Ali’s credentials are incredible as she is a two time Olympian and two time Junior World Champ. Kelli and Ali are great with the girls. They provide enough toughness when it is needed, leadership, along with the technical background, and of course, they’re female.
Q- Have you had a lot of wrestler and parent support?
A- Our wrestler and parent support has been very, very good. It is not perfect but it is very, very good. I do not like to see a single girl miss an opportunity to practice or compete. When I know that there is even one girl that missed a practice or a tournament because they were not able to get a ride, it weighs on me. We are lucky to have the parents in our program that we do. Some have offered to drive other kids that they do not really know 12 hours to nationals. Last year I sent an email out to our families because one of our girls suddenly needed a ride to nationals at the last minute because there was a medical emergency in her family. Within a half hour, I had four other families offer assistance. That’s pretty cool.
Q- Is there anything that the parents and wrestlers could do to help you out?
A- Yes, compete and practice at every opportunity that is offered at the female level. The more they participate, the more our sport will grow. Spread the word, grab a friend and bring them to practice. If we could just get all of the sisters of older brothers that wrestle the numbers would go through the roof.
Q- I see you just put on the states first high school women’s wrestling state championship with 17 participants. Do you have a plan in place on how you will grow this number each year?
A- Yes. We needed to get the tournament on the map. We were going to host it if we had three girls. We are constantly identifying more middle school and high school girls each season that wrestle. We have been educating/informing the high school coaches that we are out here and we want your female wrestlers contact info. So many of them still are unaware that there is a girls program that they can also be a part of.
We put together our first MN USA Girls Wrestling poster this season with the objective of getting them into as many schools as possible. It has been a great way of advertising our program.
Q- What does the youth girls wrestling in Minnesota look like? Participation numbers?
A- We are growing at the youth level. We need to because those are going to be our Fargo participants in a few years. It is easier to get the younger girls to come out compared to a junior high or high school girl that has never wrestled but once they are out, we need to keep them out. This is where that wrestler and parent support come into play as well. Making each wrestler feel included and a part of the team is so important and the teammates and parents can help make the atmosphere more inviting. Our parents are pretty good at this.
There are approximately 75-100 youth girl wrestlers in MN. The year before I came onboard, we had 12 girls compete at the MN USA State Folkstyle Tournament. In March, we had 58. We are growing and I look forward to the day when we have a couple hundred.
Q- Do you have a plan in place to grow the numbers at the youth level for girl wrestlers?
A- Yes. It has been a grassroots effort to get to this point but I have other marketing ideas as well. It will take a commitment from a few individuals but should have solid results if we can make it happen. We will also continue to use all of the other resources available to us to get in front of a potential female wrestler.
Q- Do you have any support from other states? Do you talk to any other state Directors about what they are doing and what is working or not working?
A- I will talk to anyone and everyone when it comes to growing this sport. There are some great wrestling minds out there and when you combine that with clever and productive marketing people, it’s hard not to get excited about the future of the sport.
Q- Do you have any sites that you would like to promote to get more visibility for the women wrestlers of Minnesota?
A- Our web site at www.mnusawrestling.org
Our Facebook page Minnesota Womens Wrestling at
Q- Do you have any programs, tournaments or camps you would like to plug for this summer taking place in Minnesota?
A- As of right now, our remaining tournaments are the MN USA Girls Freestyle Tournament, Body Bar, Northern Plains Freestyle and Fargo (Cadet and Junior Nationals). Marcie Van Dusen is hosting her 2nd annual all girls camp in California this summer. It sold out last year and looks to be a good choice if you are able.
Thank you Coach Chad Shilson for taking the time out of your busy schedule to participate in this Q&A. From all of us at True Wrestling Insider we wish you the best of luck in your path to accomplish your goals and build women’s wrestling in Minnesota. We will be sure to ask our fans and members to like your facebook page and keep an eye on the ladies of Minnesota as they persue their dreams. Please give Margaret, Tyler and Emily all our best—on the mat and off.