CEDAR RAPIDS — Thomas Gilman was less than three days removed from retaining his spot on the U.S. World freestyle team.
The 2017 World silver medalist could have taken break, spent time to recover or returned to training for a gold medal run at this year’s World Championships in Budapest, Hungary.
Instead, the three-time University of Iowa All-American and current Hawkeye Wrestling Club member, was in a wrestling room, teaching technique and sharing life lessons with wrestlers from youth to high school levels.
“It’s about giving back,” Gilman said. “It’s not about the money or the time. I grew up doing the same thing (going to camps). It’s natural to give these kids — another generation — a feel of what it’s like to be around a guy like me.”
Gilman served as the guest clinician Tuesday for Mark Ironside’s annual Ironman Wrestling Camp held at Cedar Rapids Prairie. This marked the 21st year Ironside has held the local camp that began Monday and concludes Thursday.
During his pursuit of World and Olympic titles, Gilman’s tunnel vision prevents him from doing many camps or clinics but he said it is important to do it when possible.
“These are the kinds of things I grew up doing and I looked up to guys that did these camps, whoever it was,” said Gilman, who was flanked by current Hawkeyes Carter Happel and Cash Wilcke. “I learned a lot just being around those guys and listening to what they had to say because I never really fit in with the rest of the camp, as far as kids on break, going out, (messing) around, playing games and half-assing a workout.
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“I really paid attention to what these clinicians had to say and how they held themselves. Put us through workouts and worked out themselves. I think it’s important to show these kids that.”
Gilman’s direct approach delivered his message loud and clear, whether it dealt with topics on or off the mat. He discussed everything from his mentality to using overhook and underhook positioning and controlling the mat when an opponent wrestles on the edge of the circle to making the right choices because every decision affects success. Applying a championship lifestyle to all aspects of life is a must.
Gilman said his nutrition, social life and even his everyday responsibilities are geared to being his best in all areas, keeping wrestling a constant focus.
“He’s got good principles,” Ironside said. “He’s got good focus. He’s got a lot of drive (and) that’s a dangerous combination when you put that all together.”
Ironside has brought in World and Olympic caliber wrestlers in previous years. Among them were 2008 Olympian Mike Zadick and 2016 Olympian Daniel Dennis. Exposure to elite athletes is a great opportunity for youth wrestlers.
“You have a world-class athlete and he’s standing here telling you he’s still working on things,” Ironside said. “He’s trying to get better and learning new techniques every day. It doesn’t matter who you are or what level you’re at, there is always room for improvement.”
Gilman said young kids are impressionable and can be more loyal to people instead of principles. He said they face many distractions, including poor examples by some professional athletes on social media. Gilman also conveyed the concept that nobody is perfect, but striving for perfection is a worthy pursuit.
“I think the wrestling community, there are a lot of great examples,” Gilman said. “I’m not going to say I’m a great example, because I have my own set of flaws, but guys like (Olympic champions Jordan) Burroughs and (Kyle) Snyder are very good examples for kids to follow.”
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Gilman swept Oklahoma State’s Daton Fix in two straight bouts of the World Team Trials Final X Series on Saturday in Lincoln, Neb. He will have a chance to earn a second straight medal.
In a post-match interview, Gilman said he had to take a step down to position himself for a step up to a World title. He declined to get into the specific meaning, but mentioned a silver medal is not the standard of himself and his mentors, Tom and Terry Brands. They had an intervention when he slightly veered from made him successful.
“Just the details weren’t there,” Gilman said. “The diligence wasn’t there. It was like you didn’t get here by doing that. You got here by being a soldier, being workmanlike, so let’s get back to work.”
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