LINCOLN, Neb. — Some people were calling Thomas Gilman the underdog.
The returning world silver medalist had struggled this season and there were questions about whether he could beat Junior world champion Daton Fix.
Gilman answered his doubters in emphatic fashion.
The three-time University of Iowa All-American swept Fix, 6-3 and 2-1, to win USA Wrestling’s Final X wrestling event Saturday night before 2,916 fans at the Devaney Center.
“I came out there and did what I needed to do — I just had to take care of business and do my job,” he said. “He made some adjustments in the second match and he came at me more aggressively. I was ready for it.”
Gilman, competing just 50 miles away from where he won four state titles at Omaha Skutt Catholic, landed a berth to October’s World Championships in Budapest, Hungary.
“I’m super motivated to have another shot at winning a world title,” he said. “I’m ready to make a run at it again and win it this time. I’m settling for nothing less than a gold medal.”
Gilman had a number of local fans and Hawkeye fans backing him among the crowd of 2,916 fans.
“It was awesome having that support from the fans,” he said. “They were loud when I ran out there. That means a lot to me.”
Gilman overpowered the 20-year-old Fix, a talented young wrestler who will be a redshirt freshman at Oklahoma State next season, during several key sequences at 125 pounds.
ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT
“I’m the strongest guy in my weight class,” Gilman said. “I’m going to win those positions because I am stronger and more physical than my opponents. I prove that against every guy I wrestle.”
It marked the fifth straight year that a former Hawkeye wrestler has made a world-level team for the United States.
Gilman made his second straight world team. Tony Ramos made world teams in 2014 and 2015 before Daniel Dennis made the 2016 Olympic team.
“Obviously, we’ve got some tough wrestlers in our room with Spencer Lee and Cory Clark,” Gilman said. “And then you have Tom and Terry Brands coaching us. I appreciate Spencer Lee training with me and helping me prepare for this event. That helped a lot.”
Kyven Gadson, a 2015 NCAA champion for Iowa State, ran into a roadblock against Olympic gold medalist Kyle Snyder in the finals at 213 pounds.
Snyder, a two-time world champion, prevailed 9-0 and 8-2.
Gadson surprised Snyder to start the second match, powering in on a double-leg takedown that drove Snyder off the stage. Gadson pinned Snyder in the 2015 NCAA finals, but Snyder has beaten him the last two years in the world trials.
“I think I’m getting closer,” Gadson said.
“I’m not discouraged. I just have to keep working and keep getting better.”
Two-time world silver medalist Alli Ragan, who trains at the Hawkeye Wrestling Club in Iowa City, swept 2014 world team member Jenna Burkert in two straight matches in the finals at 130 pounds.
“I’m ready for another shot to win a world title,” she said. “I’ve been second the past two years and I’m really excited to have another shot this year. I want that gold medal. That’s all I’m training for.”