After his stirring run to win a silver medal at wrestling’s World Championships in Paris, Thomas Gilman spent his next days in the most Thomas Gilman way.
A World War II buff who would read military books between sessions at the NCAA Wrestling Championships, Gilman and his longtime girlfriend paid a humbling visit to Omaha Beach — site of the infamous “D-Day” invasion on June 6, 1944, by Allied forces on the northern coast of France — and the Normandy American Cemetery.
Nearly 2,500 Americans were killed on “D-Day,” and an estimated 209,000 in the Allied forces lost their lives in the weeks-long Battle of Normandy, which turned the tide in World War II.
“It’s emotional,” said Gilman, the former three-time all-American at Iowa and native of Council Bluffs. “If you know the history, you know what sacrifices our soldiers have made. It makes you very grateful that we live in such a great country, that people are willing to sacrifice their lives for us.”
Gilman is now back in the U.S., and he’s wearing a brown fedora — something he picked up while training in Germany — just about everywhere he goes.
Except, of course, inside the wrestling room.
He’s back at it, now as a post-graduate member of the Hawkeye Wrestling Club.
Although he wants to “figure out where things went wrong” in falling one spot short of a gold medal in late August, Gilman’s World Freestyle Championships run was nothing short of spectacular. He went from a last-chance U.S. qualifier to running the table at the U.S. World Team Trials in Lincoln, Nebraska, to dispatching four foes in less than five hours before falling, 6-0, to Japan’s Yuki Takahashi in the 57-kilogram final in Paris.
“I knew I was the best guy in the world, and right there with all of them,” Gilman said. “That just was reassuring to myself and my coaches and the (Hawkeye) program. I don’t know a lot of people outside this program that believed in me or whatever, but I don’t really care about them anyway.”
Gilman’s latest focus: more wrestling.
His next big tournament is the 2018 Freestyle World Cup on April 7-8 in Iowa City.
Meantime, he’s rolling around the mats with two-time former NCAA champ Jesse Delgado (who competes for Mexico) and new Hawkeye freshman Spencer Lee, already a lightweight wrestling phenom.
“My role doesn’t really change, except maybe these younger guys are looking up to me a little more,” Gilman said. “Maybe I have more influence over them. So, I’ve really got to keep doing what I’m doing."