Welcome to the club, Thomas Gilman. The Olympic medal-winners club, that is. Gilman stormed through the repechage bracket today to claim a bronze medal at 57 kg in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
Gilman's Olympic journey started with a great performance but a bitterly disappointing result. Facing two-time defending World champion Zaur Uguev from the Russian Olympic Committee, Gilman wrestled a very smart and controlled match against an extremely capable and dangerous opponent. He led 1-1 on tiebreaker criteria halfway through the match, then opened up a 4-3 lead in the second period with a takedown and a push-out point. He maintained that lead into the final 10 seconds before Uguev was able to use some slick action to secure a winning takedown with just seconds left. It was a gutting loss, but certainly a performance Gilman could be proud of -- he took the best in the world at 57 kg to the absolute limit.
Fortunately, Uguev lived up to that "best in the world" billing and won his next two matches to make it to the gold medal match at 57 kg. That granted Gilman a reprieve -- and a shot to contend for a bronze medal -- by pulling him into repechage (think: consolation bracket), Given that second chance, Gilman did not waste it.
He tore through his first opponent in repechage, blitzing Uzbekistan's Gulomjon Abdullaev with a stunning 11-1 technical superiority victory in the first period. Like Gilman, Abdullaev had also taken Uguev to the limit in his match with the Russian, losing 6-6 on tiebreaker criteria after Uguev scored a takedown in the final seconds of the bout. Abdullaev got absolutely torched by Gilman, though. After an early 1-1 tie, Gilman got a takedown to go up 3-1 and then blew the match open with a series of leg lace exposures that gave him a 9-1 lead. One final takedown a few moments later secured the 11-1 win, in just 2:07 of mat time.
Beating Abdullaev sent Gilman to the bronze medal match, against Iran's Reza Atri. He did not waste his chance. He used a pair of takedowns and a push-out to open up a 5-0 lead at the break. He didn't let up in the second period, either, adding two more takedowns to open up a 9-0 lead before conceding a push-out point to make the final score 9-1. Gilman's performance on Day 2 of competition here was a brilliant display of controlled dominance; outscoring some very good wrestlers 20-2 in the repechage matches is damn impressive stuff.
Gilman is the first U.S. man to medal at the Olympics at this weight since Henry Cejudo won a gold medal at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing (the weight was technically 55 kg then). This victory also makes Gilman the 10th former Iowa wrestler to win an Olympic medal and the first since Terry Brands and Lincoln McIlravy won bronze medals at the 2000 Sydney Olympics. That's some pretty elite company for Gilman to be calling home now. The other Iowa alums to medal at the Olympics:
- Terry McCann -- gold (Rome 1960)
- Ed Banach -- gold (Los Angeles 1984)
- Lou Banach -- gold (Los Angeles 1984)
- Barry Davis -- silver (Los Angeles 1984)
- Randy Lewis -- gold (Los Angeles 1984)
- Chris Campbell -- bronze (Barcelona 1992)
- Tom Brands -- gold (Atlanta 1996)
- Terry Brands -- bronze (Sydney 2000)
- Lincoln McIlravy -- bronze (Sydney 2000)
That's a great club to be in.
Congratulations to Thomas Gilman on an excellent showing at the Tokyo Olympics. He more than held his own against some of the best wrestlers in the world at 57 kg; he was a whisker away from beating a man who's now won three straight World or Olympic titles at that weight (Uguev) and he absolutely smashed his opponents in the two repechage matches. This is certainly a performance to take some pride in. Helluva job, Thomas.
GO GILMAN AWESOME