IOWA CITY, Iowa — Top-ranked Thomas Gilman has generated extra points for Iowa in all but three of his 23 victories this year.
But the senior 125-pounder has found an area of concern that will motivate him on his quest for a national title. In his last two matches, Gilman (23-0) has gotten trapped on the bottom and struggled to pick up an escape.
Two weeks ago at Minnesota, Gilman trailed 8-0 and gave up two sets of near-fall points to No. 6 Ethan Lizak. Gilman was down 3 minutes, 53 seconds in riding time before scoring a late second-period reversal. In a stunning third period, Gilman pinned Lizak. Last week against Nebraska, Gilman chose the down position in the third period against the Cornhuskers’ No. 5-ranked Tim Lambert and was ridden out.
Gilman still won the match 6-3 and remains unbeaten. But with the National Duals and upcoming Big Ten and NCAA tournaments, the last two matches have provided Gilman with “a little more urgency” regarding the bottom position.
“I neglected my bottom position,” Gilman said. “I’ve been so successful on my feet in the room and also in competition that it’s kind of been something that’s gotten away from my attention. But now that it’s brought to my attention, it’s going to make me even better.
“Some people will think, ‘Oh, there’s a red flag there, a kink in his armor.’ All right, there was. We’ll get it pounded out, and I’ll be better than ever on the bottom. Nobody will ride me.”
Only six of Gilman’s matches have lasted all 7 minutes. He’s won nine by fall and seven by technical fall.
Gilman previously wrestled Lambert in the Midland Championships finals, and Gilman won 13-4. The Iowa wrestler controlled Sunday’s match, scoring two first-period takedowns and led 6-2 going into the third. But the rideout in the final period has coach Tom Brands discussing strategy with Gilman.
“We’ve got to — probably in the way that I look at it and how I watch Gilman for five years is — explode off the whistle and beat the first move,” Brands said. “I think we were kind of waiting to see where the guy was going. Then the guy got our ankle and it was a long ride. Then there was a stalemate and he got our ankle again. You’ve got to make adjustments there.
“I talk about making adjustments during matches and we didn’t make the adjustment there. Straighten your leg, put your weight on the foot, don’t let him grab that ankle. (Gilman) wrestling and being aggressive and being on that guy, is why you can get ridden and still persevere or whatever. I’ve got a lot of thoughts on that match. We’ll leave it at that.”
Gilman faces another ranked opponent in his next match, No. 9 Sean Russell (28-5) of Edinboro. In the Big Ten Tournament, Gilman could meet up with No. 2-ranked Nick Suriano (16-1), Lambert and Lizak again. Gilman beat Suriano 3-2 in a previous dual.
“I always welcome adversity,” Gilman said. “I always welcome the challenge. So the bottom position has been presented as a challenge, and I accept it. So let’s do it.”