Over the course of four days our USA Men’s Freestyle Team competed at the World Championships in Budapest. From top to bottom, this is perhaps the most talented lineup we’ve ever had and the smallest guy in that lineup is the biggest guy in our Hawkeye hearts, Thomas Gilman.
Gilman has been training in Iowa City with the Hawkeye Wrestling Club and took silver in the 2017 World Championship and naturally came in with a gold medal in his sights this year.
Unfortunately, all of his hard work did not materialize the way he wanted as he went 2-2 and he finished in fifth place. Literally one point away from medaling. He opened things up against Givi Davidov (Italy) who he beat 6-3 and then dropped Giorgi Edisherashvili (Azerbaijan) 4-0 in the quarterfinals. The two impressive wins gave him a birth to the semifinals at 57kg.
From there he ran into the brick wall that is Nurislam Sanayev (Kazakhstan). Gilman gave up a takedown in the first period to keep it close, but things went from bad to worse in the second. A monster 4-point move soon followed and Sanayev went on to win by tech fall, 11-0. The only silver lining to this untimely loss, is that it pulled Gilman into the repechage round and the ability to go for bronze. In international wrestling the only way you can advance after a loss is if the opponent that beat you continues to win and reaches the finals. Thus they call it “repechage” which is French for: second chance. Thank you phone dictionary.
In the ill-fated bronze medal match Gilman faced Suleyman Atli (Turkey). After taking a 1-0 lead things went awry once again. Atli rattled off 5 points to take a 5-1 lead late in the second period. Gilman was able to rally with three push outs to get within striking distance but couldn’t keep the momentum and fell 5-4. Also, in the international tournaments, there is no 4th place. Due to the two-sided bracket and the repechage rounds, there will always be two bronze medal matches, one on each side, but the losers are unable to share 4th place.
This isn’t the outcome we wanted, but it still shows that Gilman clearly belongs at this level. He had an interview with Flowrestling and here’s a couple of my favorite snippets.
"Back to the drawing board."— FloWrestling (@FloWrestling) October 25, 2018
Thomas Gilman gives an honest assessment of his performance at the world championships. pic.twitter.com/6e0DRZtjR7
“I need to get to my leg attacks more, I need to figure out the hand fight a bit. They’re able to stay in there… I just need to get to the legs more, essentially. I can do it, it’s just a matter of doing it right. What you take away from losses you learn a lot. There’s a lot of learning to be done a lot of things I need to analyze...I don’t need to reinvent the wheel necessarily, but definitely [get] back to the drawing board.”
When asked about his bronze medal match and his late comeback he added,
“You can say that [Atli was fading] That’s the 1st thing that comes to mind, you lose you’re frustrated, but he scored 5 points to my 4… I have to take it with humility. I can say he was evading me, but he beat me fair and square.”
G-Dog also heavily thanked our armed forces for housing our wrestlers at Ramstein Air Base in Germany. Regardless of what many people seem to think about Gilman, he’s a deeply humbled guy who is proud to represent our country and for that we thank him! Oh and did you know what Cory Clark traveled with Gilman as his training partner? How awesome is that.
Forrest Molinari is another HWC member that had a solid showing in Budapest while wrestling at 62kg. She kicked things off with a solid win over Leidy Izquerdo Mendez (Colombia) 4-0 followed by a loss to Danielle Lappage (Canada) 6-2. Lappage continued to win, which pulled Molinari into the repechage where she stuck The Russian, Mariia Kuznetsova. The dramatic pin put her into the bronze medal match where she fell 1-1 on criteria to Iryna Netreba (Azerbaijan). Both ladies were put on the shot clock with Molinari being under the scope in the 2nd period but failed to score, giving Kuznetsova the tying point and ultimately the win.
Similarly to Gilman, this isn’t what Molinari set out to achieve, but it was a good showing and one she should be proud of. A 5th place finish in the toughest tournament in the world is nothing to scoff at and will give her great motivation moving forward.
The men’s USA team were the 2017 champs and entered competition looking to go back-to-back, but that also wasn’t meant to be, despite crowning three new individual champions. Kyle Dake (79kg), David Taylor (86kg) and J’den Cox (92kg) are all bringing home gold medals for the first time. Dake was the first US man in nearly 30 years to not give up a single point as he outscored his victims 37-0.
Taylor, an all time great from Penn St., successfully ran the ultimate gauntlet. The Magic Man downed the Irania Olympic and World Champion, Hassan Yazdani and teched Turkey’s top seed Fatih Erdin in the finals.
Nick Gwiazdowski, Jordan Burroughs and former UNI standout, Joe Colon also brought home bronze medals. Kyle Synder made the finals, but while defending against a tough shot he got his arm trapped and dumped (to my amateur eyes it looked like a Kelly move) and eventually got pinned. All-in-all the USA team brought home 7 medals and a second place finish. Here’s how the top three rounded out.
1. Russia, 178
2. USA, 150
3. Georgia, 105
Our women’s team also secured a third place medal coming in behind Japan and China, respectively. With Sarah Hildebrandt secured a silver medal and Mallory Velte a brone late in the tournament to help USA hold onto third place.
1. Japan, 156
2. China, 119
3. USA, 103
Our women were also a model of consistency over the past several years, and they fly back with four medals in total this time around too.
Pretty remarkable consistency from our women's program— The Wrestling Nomad (@wrestlingnomad) October 25, 2018
And just think, we have two starters in the roster in Molinari and Ali Ragan. Sadly, Ragan was injured and had to withdraw just days before the competition began.
Including Hildebrandt and Velte, Adeline Grey also won her fourth, FOURTH World Championship at 76kg and Tamyra Mensah-Stock with a bronze medal at 68 kg. Adeline also gave a stellar post-match interview and if this doesn’t make you happy and smile then you truly have no soul.
Hear from a pumped up Adeline Gray after winning her FOURTH world championship. pic.twitter.com/2PyiVXYcRB— FloWrestling (@FloWrestling) October 26, 2018
Also the head coach to the men’s freestyle wrestling team is none other than Bill Zadick, the former Hawkeye national champ. Flowrestling also caught up with him for his thoughts on how his team performed. Here’s a bit of what he had to say to the USA champs,
"We have a great product and people should be paying attention to what this team is doing."— FloWrestling (@FloWrestling) October 24, 2018
Bill Zadick shares his thoughts on Team USA's impressive performance at the world championships. pic.twitter.com/eKttBNjVsb
“Congrats, enjoy it. It’s a unique moment and it should be celebrated because of the nature of how difficult the task is and also learn and use it as motivation, use it to propel you forward onto bigger and better things. Ultimately, that’s what everybody needs to do, right? It doesn’t matter how high or how low you are, you have one choice: How you want to move forward.”
Both the men’s and women’s teams have set themselves up for a deep run next year and the 2020 Olympics. The men could enter next year with six world champions in their starting lineup and the women can now add world champs and several medalist to their ranks as well. Peppered throughout each lineup are Hawkeye Wrestling Club members. Here’s a big thank you to the bad ass HWC. Keep up the good work!