A little over five months ago, Iowa fans -- and the wrestling world -- were stunned when Thomas Gilman dropped a 4-2 decision in sudden victory overtime to Lehigh's Darian Cruz in the semifinals of the NCAA Wrestling Tournament. He entered that match 30-0 and a significant favorite to win an NCAA championship a day later in the Saturday night championship finals. Instead, his tournament ended on Saturday morning in the consolation bracket when he bested Virginia Tech's Joey Dance and Oklahoma State's Nick Piccininni to finish third in the nation.
I'm not 100% certain, but I don't think Gilman lost another match after that Cruz match until today, when he lost a 6-0 decision to Japan's Yuki Takahashi in the finals at 57 KG. Gilman made a spirited charge through the bracket at 57 KG, but his run unfortunately came up short against Takahashi, who just seemed a little too slick for Gilman in the final. In the first period, Takahashi was able to push Gilman out of bounds and used a caution and two ruling to open up a 2-0 lead. He doubled that lead shortly before the end of the period with a sharp takedown countering a Gilman attack.
The second period saw Gilman on the attack throughout, but he was unable to score on the very skilled Takahashi. Gilman was able to get to Takahashi's legs, but whenever he did his foe was able to use smart defense or slick countering skills to evade trouble. Late in the match Gilman appeared to have him trouble and looked set to take him feet-to-back, which would have given Gilman at least four points and the lead on criteria. Unfortunately, in the scramble to score, it was Takahashi who ended up on top of Gilman and with another takedown. That gave him a 6-0 lead with only a few seconds remaining; the win was academic at that point.
It's unfortunate that Gilman fell short in his quest for a gold medal because he was so close -- he was in the finals and his attacks against Takahashi looked pretty good... just not good enough. Gilman was seeking to become the fifth Iowa wrestler to win a gold medal at the World Championships, after Chris Campbell (1981), Tom Brands (1993), Terry Brands (1993, 1995), and Bill Zadick (2006). Still, his silver medal is also pretty rarified air -- both for a former Iowa wrestler and U.S. lightweights in general, as IAWrestle's Ross Bartachek note:
Heck of a summer for Gilman. Best U.S lightweight finish since '08, best finish by an Iowa alum at any weight since '06 (Zadick x2)
— Ross Bartachek (@rossbchek) August 25, 2017
And it really has been a heck of a summer for Gilman. In less than six months he's gone from finishing 3rd in the NCAA -- to 2nd in the world. That's awfully impressive. He's made tremendous strides so far and we certainly hope that the best is yet to come. But in the meantime, congratulations on an excellent ride, Mr. Gilman.
Gilman's silver was the high point for an overall strong day for U.S. wrestling in freestyle -- J'Den Cox and Nick Gwiazdowski joined Gilman in the semifinals at their respective weights (86 KG and 125 KG) and while they lost those matches, they were still able to secure bronze medals for the U.S. Three medals in one day is a pretty great day for U.S. wrestling and there should be opportunities for more tomorrow, when Jordan Burroughs, Kyle Snyder, James Green, and Zain Retherford wrestle for the U.S.
Nor was Gilman the only Hawkeye Wrestling Club member to earn a medal at these World Championships. Over in the women's bracket new member Alli Ragan also earned a silver medal at 60 KG.
— Mark Perry (@MarkPerry165) August 24, 2017
She's got a wicked headlock:
What a match! Alli Ragan with another fall and is now on her way to the finals of the World Championships! pic.twitter.com/tUvTHbw5D3
— Trackwrestling (@trackwrestling) August 24, 2017
And while she doesn't have any connections to Iowa or the Hawkeye Wrestling Club, we have to give props to Helen Maroulis, who was simply unstoppable in Paris. The reigning Olympic gold medalist won her second straight World Championship (after winning gold in Las Vegas in 2015), but it wasn't just that she won a title, it was how she won it. She decimated the competition in Paris, winning her five matches by a combined score of 52-0. That's not a typo: fifty-two to zero. She won her first match 10-0 in under a minute, won her second match 10-0 in just over three minutes, won her quarterfinal match 11-0, bulldozed to a 10-0 win in the semifinals, and topped it all off with an 11-0 first period win in the finals. That's one of the all-time great performances for an American wrestler, by any gender, at any weight. Wow. Hats off to Helen.
— Trackwrestling (@trackwrestling) August 23, 2017
Andy Hamilton's article on Maroulis' jaw-dropping performance is also worth reading.