The NCAA Wrestling Tournament gets underway in New York City tomorrow and two of Iowa's best wrestlers -- and most likely championship hopefuls -- are the two guys at the beginning of the lineup, Thomas Gilman (125 lbs) and Cory Clark (133 lbs). As Andy Hamilton documents in this excellent article for Hawk Central, they've had a long, long history together, from their days as fierce opponents in junior high school to their current status as bitter rivals turned Odd Couple-style fierce friends.
Gilman considers himself an old soul who has a passion for studying history, listens mostly to classic rock and country legends like Merle Haggard and Johnny Cash and opts for comfort over style when it comes to fashion.
Clark would blend in on the California surf shores with his demeanor that Iowa coach Tom Brands says is "as carefree as it gets." His music collection is heavy on hip-hop and he prefers his jeans baggier than the ones Gilman wears.
"We definitely like different things," Clark said. "If I went through his closet, I'd have trouble finding something to put on. And vice versa."
And there's more to their differences than musical tastes and jean styles, too.
Take a couple of their favorite diversions, for instance. On a normal day in Iowa City, you might find Gilman in a coffee shop reading a newspaper.
"You'd never find me in a coffee shop," Clark said. "And you'd never find me reading a newspaper."
The best place to look for Clark when he's idling down from wrestling: Near his television with an Xbox controller in his hands. His specialty is "Halo," the futuristic military-science fiction game. At one point, he was ranked the eighth-best player in the world.
Gilman, on the other hand, would rather talk about genealogy than gaming.
"I have no interest in (video games)," he said. "I never really enjoyed it."
OK, cool, Gilman likes to read newspapers, Clark likes to game. Although "likes to game" might be a bit of an understatement:
His specialty is "Halo," the futuristic military-science fiction game. At one point, he was ranked the eighth-best player in the world.
And yeah, that whole 8th-ranked Halo player in the world thing is probably legit, as The Daily Iowan's Cody Goodwin discussed in a feature on Clark last season:
"I've played with him before, and it's crazy how good he is," Ramos says. "You just know he spends a lot of time practicing. He's got his microphone. He's got his mini screen. He knows everything. He knows all the glitches. He's pretty deep into it."
Clark's Halo skill has become part of his legend. Growing up, he and his buddies organized Halo tournaments, complete with a myriad of televisions and consoles with wires stringing across the living-room carpet. His dad jokingly thought he'd pick the game over wrestling. These days, he locks himself in his room, where he can be heard talking to his friends while gunshots ring out.
At one point, he was believed to be one of the top Halo players in the world, and his teammates continually tease him, a different kind of accountability. Former Iowa wrestler Brent Metcalf once took to Twitter and offered a scholarship to whomever could beat Clark in Halo.
So yeah: one of the best college wrestlers in the country and a video game stud, too. Cory Clark is a man of many talents indeed.
The rest of Hamilton's article is excellent and well worth reading, as well. There's some fun insight into Iowa's recruitment of Gilman:
But the signals momentarily got crossed in the summer of 2011 when Iowa scooped up a commitment in August from Clark. At the time, Gilman had gone weeks without hearing much from the Iowa staff.
"I'm pretty hot-headed as it is and I was like, ‘I'm not going to Iowa because Clark's going there,'" he said.
Brands was at a promotional outing that summer for the Hawkeye Wrestling Club when he received a call from Skutt coach Brad Hildebrandt, who informed the Iowa coach that Gilman was planning to choose between Nebraska and Oklahoma State.
The response from Brands: "Well, that's not going to happen."
He also digs into the struggles Gilman and Clark faced in the 2013-14 season, when they were battling for one starting spot (at 125 lbs):
The tension spilled into the following year when they clashed for a spot in Iowa's starting lineup.
"We tried to outwork each other every single day, so there were no days off," Clark said. "That was one of the tougher years of my life because every day was a battle to prove yourself, prove to the coaches and prove to him. And he was doing the same thing."
It's a great profile of two very different personalities -- who also happen to be two of the best athletes at the University of Iowa right now. Give it a read (but maybe don't challenge Cory Clark in Halo unless you feel like getting pwned).
EDIT: H/T to hawk6894 for his excellent image work.