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If you haven’t figured it out by now, Thomas Gilman is not your typical wrestler.
A three-time All-American at Iowa, Gilman has some of the same attributes as other Hawkeye greats — brash off the mat, relentless and punishing on it.
But he’s also a deep thinker who relaxes by reading about military strategy, studying the sport he loves and “practicing when I’m not at practice.”
“He’s pretty dynamic,” Iowa associate head coach Terry Brands said. “If you don’t know him, you could get the wrong impression.”
Gilman left for Germany on Saturday to put the final touches on his preparation for the 2017 World Freestyle Championships in Paris. He doesn’t wrestle until Aug. 25, but said last week, the work, for the most part, is done.
“It’s all about feeling good, staying sharp,” he said.
He’ll also spend a lot of time working on his head.
“I tend to maybe get a little bit anxious,” he said. “I need to control my emotions and just stay cool.”
He’ll do that by reading, “a lot of reading.
“I like to read to get away a little bit mentally, take you to a different place,” he said. “It just kind of calms you a little bit. It’s hard to get anxious and racy when you read. You’re not going to retain much.”
He’s reading a book about 1933 Berlin and the rise Adolf Hitler.
“It’s pretty heavy stuff,” he said.
So is the task at hand.
Gilman is new to this stage, at least at the “senior level.” He twice represented the United States at the Junior World Championships, earning a bronze medal in 2014.
“This is the biggest thing in my career so far,” he said.
He was somewhat of a surprise winner at the U.S. World Team Trials, beating the likes of Nico Megaludis, Nathan Tomasello and former Hawkeye and two-time World team member Tony Ramos. He had to battle back from a 6-0 deficit in a last chance qualifier just to get into the Trials.
He prepped for the World Championships competition by winning gold at the Grand Prix of Spain.
He said that was a good experience.
“They play their own kind of game, they strategize a little bit,” he said of his international competition. “It was good to feel that and open up some kinks in my armor.”
While he’s been working on those kinks, he’s also been studying. His subject has been potential challengers.
“I study the sport a lot,” he said. “I’ve been watching them for years. I’m no stranger to what they’re good at and what they’ll try to do.”
He, however, is somewhat of a stranger to them. He likes that.
“I think new can be scary, so we’ll keep it that way,” he said.
One thing that most know about Gilman is he’s a confident wrestler. He’s feeling very good about his chances later this month.
“I can honestly say since the nationals, I’ve learned something every day,” he said, “whether it’s on the wrestling mat or about myself.”
Brands said Gilman’s biggest challenge is not getting “caught into tricks” many foreign wrestlers employ.
“He’s a lot smarter than I was,” said Brands, a two-time World gold medalist. “He learns a lot quicker than I did.”
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