IOWA CITY — Team USA put itself in position to win its first World Cup in 15 years Sunday.
The United States finished its sweep of Pool A, beating Georgia, 8-2, and moving into the gold medal dual of United World Wrestling’s 2018 World Cup of men’s freestyle at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. Team USA moved to 3-0, winning 25 of 30 bouts in pool competition over the weekend, and faces Azerbaijan for the championship.
“I feel pretty good,” USA Wrestling National Freestyle Coach Bill Zadick said. “The guys wrestled hard, executing good skills. A couple things we can improve on.”
A local wrestler kicked things off for Team USA. Thomas Gilman returned to his winning ways, posting a 6-4 decision over Teimuraz Vanishvili at 125.5 pounds.
Gilman led most of the first half, giving up a takedown right before the break and falling behind 2-1. The second half of the match was primarily Gilman, who chipped away with five pushout points after the intermission.
“I was kind of feeling him out a little too much in that first period,” Gilman said. “I run into trouble with that right leg and these guys are leading out that right leg hard.”
Gilman added, “He’s very a long and funky guy. We knew that we wanted to claw at his head and get to his gas tank.”
Gilman picked up the pace for the second half of the match and controlled the action. He benefited from constant pressure, noting that he has learned how continuous attacks will get you back in a match from watching Olympic champion teammates Kyle Snyder and Jordan Burroughs and those pushouts normally turn into takedowns.
Gilman said he felt his opponent break, posting point after point.
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“Of course,” Gilman said. “That’s the best way to get into a match and open a match up is one at a time.”
Logan Stieber, Burroughs, Kyle Dake, David Taylor and Snyder all added technical falls. Two-time World medalist James Green and Nick Gwiazdowski also won for Team USA.
Dake was the highlight of the first day, entertaining the crowd with high-scoring frequency moves. He charged the crowd again with a takedown and a series of gut-wrench turns that led to a 10-0 win in 2:18.
“When you’re followed up by Kyle Dake you have to do something cool or you get left behind,” Burroughs said. “He cuts all my interviews short because he gets tech falls so quick.”
Azerbaijan had little trouble, rolling through Pool B with a 3-0 record. It handled Mongolia, 7-3, early Sunday. Team USA will assess the pairings and field a lineup to give the team its best chance for the first World Cup title since 2003.
“Azerbaijan is a great country and they are going to come hard,” Zadick said. “We’ll have to be ready to go tonight.”
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