It turns out an Iowa wrestler will again be representing the United States at 57 KG in the Tokyo Olympics this summer after all. It just won't be the one that we had hoped/expected it to be a few weeks ago. Thomas Gilman, Spencer Lee's predecessor in an Iowa singlet at 125 lbs, put on an impressive display and won the trials tournament at 57 KG.
The Olympic Trials were held last weekend in Frisco, TX to determine the 18 wrestlers (six in men's freestyle, six in men's Greco-Roman, and six in women's freestyle) who will be part of Team USA in the wrestling portion of this summer's Olympic Games. Spencer Lee did not compete in the event (he announced a little over a week ago that injuries would force him to miss the competition), but there still several wrestlers with Iowa ties in action, including former Hawkeyes Sammy Brooks and Gilman.
Gilman was the top seed in the 57 KG bracket and he left little doubt that he wasn't the best wrestler in that weight class at this event with his performances on Friday and Saturday. He won his first two matches on Friday by a combined score of 21-0, dispatching both Zane Richards and Joe Colon via technical falls. That put him in Saturday night's best-of-three finals against current college wrestler (at Cornell) Vito Arujau. While Arujau opened up a 4-0 lead in the first period of their first bout, Gilman roared back with 11 straight points before ending the match with a pin late in the second period. The second match was cagier, with Gilman scoring first on a takedown to go up 2-0. Arujau tied the match at 2-2 with a pair of step-out points and the match finished at 2-2 as well, but the tiebreaker criteria favored Gilman because he had the highest-scoring move in the match (the two-point takedown). Just like that, Gilman won the final two matches to none and officially became an Olympian.
Gilman was a three-time All-American at Iowa, as well as an NCAA runner-up and Big Ten champion during his 3.5 years in the lineup. Like Lee, he was the pace-setter for those Iowa teams, frequently leading off duals with emphatic bonus point victories. He was also the high-intensity engine for those squads. He remained in Iowa City after graduation and competed with the Hawkeye Wrestling Club, with his best result being a silver medal finish at the 2017 World Championships. But over time his relationship with the Iowa program and Hawkeye Wrestling Club became strained and he ultimately decided to depart for a change of scenery a few years ago. He landed in State College, PA, the home of Iowa's biggest current rivals, and has wrestled for the Nittany Lion Wrestling Club ever since. (The Des Moines Register's Cody Goodwin had more on Gilman in this very good article.)
That does make things a bit more awkward, but ultimately Gilman is -- and always will be -- a Hawkeye. He had a tremendous career at Iowa and we're damn proud to see another Hawkeye on the Olympic team (the 19th former Iowa wrestler to make a U.S. Olympic team), one with a chance at bringing a medal home to the United States this summer. Can Gilzilla stomp all over the competition in Tokyo in a few months? Let's hope so. Give 'em hell, Thomas.