Former Hawkeye wrestler Thomas Gilman won Saturday's 57-kilogram title at the World Team Trials over former teammate Tony Ramos
LINCOLN, Neb. — This is what Thomas Gilman wanted.
Years of wrestling with and months of talking about former Hawkeye teammate Tony Ramos resulted in what the Council Bluffs native was chasing all along.
Gilman won twice at Saturday’s World Team Trials to become the American representative at 57 kilograms at August’s World Championships.
“It was on my calendar,” Gilman said. “It was my goal. It’s checked off.
“I didn’t get what I wanted a couple months ago. Who cares? I’ll never be an NCAA champion. I’m over that. I want to be a world champion.”
A three-time All-American at Iowa, who placed third at 125 pounds in March’s NCAA Championships, Gilman survived Saturday morning’s challenge tournament with four victories to earn a date versus Ramos. The tense series followed weeks of verbal back-and-forth, which stemmed from Ramos’s public departure out of the Hawkeye Wrestling Club after the 2016 Olympic Team Trials.
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The talking became inconsequential once the lights dropped inside the Devaney Center and the lightweights squared off.
“We’re both Type A personalities,” Gilman said. “We’re both alpha males. We’re not going to back down when someone is talking you-know-what. I appreciate that.”
Thomas Gilman unloads on social media and trash talk ahead of his finals series against former Iowa teammate Tony Ramos at the Senior World Team Trials
Gilman never trailed in the first match of the best-of-three finals series, using a high crotch push-out to score first, then a two-point turn to take a 4-1 lead in the second period. Ramos rushed for a comeback, but could only manage to trim the margin to 4-3 before Gilman’s hand was raised and Hawkeye fans in attendance stood up to cheer.
The competitors stared each other down to start a testy second bout. Slapping and singlet-grabbing were broken up by Gilman points on a Ramos shot-clock violation and push-out. Ramos tied the match with a takedown and leg-lace attempt, which Gilman stuffed. Then the points piled up for the younger Hawkeye.
“I just had to put the pace on him,” Gilman said. “Heavy hands. I freakin’ told everyone I knew how to beat him.”
A high single-leg worked. As did a snapping turn on the tired Ramos. Once the match ended at 7-2, Ramos grabbed Gilman’s arm and spoke to him closely, eventually helping the official raise the winner’s hand.
“Ramos is still a Hawk. Ramos will always be a Hawk, whether he wants to admit it or not,” Gilman said.
“I’m not going to stand here and pretend there aren’t hard feelings. They were words toward the program. I take that personal. That’s my family.
“But I love the guy. He loves me, whether he wants to admit it or not. Once a Hawk, always a Hawk.”
Ramos received his bye through the challenge tournament as champion of April’s U.S. Open. Now training and serving as an assistant coach at North Carolina, the 2014 NCAA champion has been unable to escape Hawkeye rivals domestically. Last year’s Olympic qualifier was Ramos’s fellow HWC athlete, Daniel Dennis.
Dennis was front and center in Lincoln, but it was among Iowa’s coaching staff and cheering section — not as a competitor. They erupted whenever Gilman’s quick attacks got through Ramos’s tough defense.
“He just became a better wrestler after the NCAA tournament,” Iowa assistant coach Ryan Morningstar said. “He grew up a lot from it and handled it very well. There’s nothing but good things ahead of him.”
Gilman has won World Team Trials on three other occasions; twice as a Junior and once as a Cadet. His 2014 Junior World Championships experience ended with a bronze medal. After taking down four NCAA champions and setting aside a bitter feud, he’s got his goals set on a senior medal.
“That’s just the way he goes about his business,” Morningstar said. “It’s about what’s next. He’s moving forward. He’s very focused and very driven and he knows the past is the past.”
The World Championships are scheduled for Aug. 21-26 in Paris, France.