It’s been a wild few days in Iowa City that even the die-hard wrestling fan Nostradamus didn’t see coming. All the proverbial poo hit the fan on Thursday afternoon when Twitter erroneously exploded with news that the Hawkeye Wrestling Club’s head coach Mark Perry was leaving. Funding was cut. The HWC women were the ones being cut. They were leaving. Thomas Gilman was following Perry out the door. And everything sucked. This was mass hysteria caused by an overzealous poster that didn’t have the details, didn’t care to get the details, and had no interest in confirming the details of the story.
Folks, I’m not going to drop the name or even link to the account that posted the tweet (which some have since been deleted) but getting news half right doesn’t make it right. This diabolical twitter-tweeter heard some rumblings (while I do give them credit for somehow having sources in the first place), having half a story doesn’t entitle anyone drive it forward like it’s fact. But then again, this isn’t the first or second or third time this particular person has done this by throwing gas to the fire.
Trigger happy posts were running amuck before the first legit bombshell dropped over our collective heads.
Nearly 24 hours of hardcore speculation ran amuck until the second official bombshell exploded.
Leaving Iowa City, heading to State College.— Thomas Gilman (@thomasgilmanusa) April 10, 2020
Then a few hours after that Tom Brands thankfully set the record straight with Trackwrestling.com. I’ll let you guys dive into the transcript, but it’s vintage Brands. He’s a guy that can talk anyone off the ledge, which he certainly did here.
Sunday and Monday slowly ticked by with little to no info other than a growing list of potential replacement candidates, then suddenly Dan “The Wild Man” Dennis emerged from the backend of his pickup truck and takes the job.
So- what’s it all mean, Vern?
Mark Perry - As far as I’m aware, there’s still no official release from Perry, but it appears that he’s heading to Arizona State to be an assistant coach for the Sun Devils and head coach of the prestigious and highly decorated Sunkist Kids Wrestling Club, a regional training center located a few miles away in Scottsdale. There’s been no hidden agenda with Perry, that coaching is his dream, and while the HWC may have been his immediate dream job, there is still room for vertical growth and that’s what this move is all about.
ASU has a hell of a program and they’ve only gotten stronger with the hiring of former Olympian Frank Molinaro and now, Perry. While this sucks for us, this is a great opportunity for Perry and one that will inevitably see him jump further up the collegiate coaching ranks in a few more years.
”(Perry) asked me my opinion on a couple things and I told him that it would be great for him”There’s good leadership out there in the program at Arizona State and there’s good leadership with Sunkist.”
-Brands told Trackwrestling
Thomas Gilman – With his coach gone and Spencer Lee being his biggest threat to his Olympic dreams in the same room (both are at 57kg), it’s hard to argue with his decision to change scenery.
All Hawkeye fans have been eagerly waiting for the wrestle-off between our two stand outs, but to a degree, we’re also thankful that we get to avoid another Dan Dennis/ Tony Ramos fall out that sent Ramos to North Carolina following the 2016 OTT.
Gilman has always been a complex and outspoken character, which has led to the “love him or hate him” mentality that most of the wrestling community exists in, but he’s also been a straight shooter and doesn’t know how to sugar coat much of anything. Which again, leads into the loving/ hating relationships.
Though Brands has nothing but respect for Gilman:
“I had a conversation with him (Friday) morning and he said he was going to leave our program and he showed me nothing but respect and love in that conversation and I showed him nothing but respect and love. That’s a hard one. That hurts me. Not because there’s bitterness but because I’m a Thomas Gilman advocate, a fan. Thomas Gilman is a presence in that locker room. I’m not talking about that wrestling room, I’m talking about that locker room and that’s important. Being a presence in a locker room is different and he carried that bat so to speak. He’s definitely going to be missed.”
However, Gilman has had a few interviews following his infamous tweet that gives us insight into his departure. And it’s not necessarily him leaving that’s driving most mad, but it’s where he is going that hurts the most. Penn State.
To be fair, the Nittany Lion Wrestling Club (NLWC) is one of the only RTC’s out there that can offer Gilman what the HWC could: Elite coaches, elite training partners, elite mentality, and money. Furthermore, Gilman has been on the world team for three years now competing with Zain Retherford, David Taylor, and Kyle Snyder (who also recently arrived at State College). Mix in Bo Nickal and Jason Nolf, plus the plethora of light weights they have on the collegiate level, it unfortunately makes all the sense in the world.
“I want to put myself in the best position to be an Olympic gold medalist,” Gilman told USA Wrestling Saturday morning. ”Not saying I couldn’t do it here. Not saying I couldn’t do it anywhere else. I’ll do it in my basement. But I feel like this is a good opportunity to grow my wrestling, my mind, and as a person.”
Additionally, these moves are also influenced by world enemy No. 1, covid-19. Through these interviews it’s coming to light that Gilman and Perry were both planning on leaving following this Olympic cycle. Perry obviously to go coach elsewhere, and Gilman because he’s been in the Iowa City area for nearly a decade and his fiancé is from the Pennsylvania area to begin with. He’s simply ready to move on. But with the Olympics delayed a year, both faced a tough decision and both ultimately chose to part ways.
I guess no one cared about my dreams though. Because I had dreams of eventually seeing Lee at 57kg and Gilman at 61kg during the regular years… two Hawkeyes locking down the first two world weights, but I suppose we can flush that turd too.
Impact – Dan Dennis immediately stops the hemorrhaging, but with the two faces of our HWC leaving, the ripple effects are going to be felt for a while. When it comes to funding, Brands also had this to say in the same interview with Trackwrestling.
“We are not cutting funding. As a matter of fact, we have an unlimited budget, meaning whatever’s best for our women and whatever’s best for our Hawkeye Wrestling Club is what we’re going to do.”
That’s fantastic news that should settle the nerves for the foreseeable future and will hopefully keep the women around. Not many out there are advocating for women’s wrestling, but make no mistake about it, women’s wrestling is picking up and if the University of Iowa is looking to add a team, it starts with these ladies. While they obviously cannot compete at the college level anymore, we currently have four world team members on our club roster and that speaks volumes. Having Olympic caliber athletes around, regardless of gender, is a net positive for any program. Forrest Molinari, Micheale Beck, Alli Ragan, and Kayla Miracle are four of the very best the USA has to offer, and we need them to stick around… and Dan Dennis can make that happen.
Is Dennis a long term solution that’s going to be around in 10 years? Probably not, but then again, he doesn’t have to be. He has a special bond with Spencer Lee and even took Lee with him to Rio in 2016 to be his training partner. Dennis has been around the program enough that he also has a solid foundation with Alex Marinelli, Michael Kemerer, Pat Lugo, and the rest of upperclassmen on the college level. Assumedly, all these guys are going to transition over within the next couple years as well and having a guy like The Wild Man already in place, already with experience, is going to pay dividends.
I’ve let this Dennis acquisition marinate for a few hours now and the more I think about it, the more excited I am and I’ll tell you why soon enough…