LINCOLN, Neb. — Here inside the Bob Devaney Sports Center, some of the United States’ best wrestlers participated in what was basically a Final X Media Day on Friday afternoon. Media from all over peppered the 14 wrestlers with all sorts of questions. It was, well, interesting.
But perhaps the most interesting thing to come from the two-hour meet-and-greet was this: Thomas Gilman, the former Iowa star and 2017 world silver medalist, talked openly about working out with current Hawkeye star Spencer Lee in the lead up to Saturday’s competition.
“Yeah, we’re training together,” Gilman said. “We have a very close-knit family at Iowa. It’s different than it’s been. Just because he was maybe going to compete at the Senior level doesn’t change that we were working out together.”
On Saturday, Gilman will have his hands full with Daton Fix, the Oklahoma State true freshman. Fix is a multi-time age-level world medalist, including a 2017 Junior world champion. The winner of Saturday’s best-of-three final will rep the United States at 57 kilograms (125 pounds) at the 2018 world championships in Budapest, Hungary.
But Gilman allowed on Friday that the one guy he was most worried about just so happened to be working out in the same room as him. Lee won an NCAA title at 125 pounds this past season, and in doing so, he qualified for the world team trials challenge tournament last month in Rochester, Minnesota — the event Fix won to qualify for Final X.
“Maybe I might’ve been trying to work out with him more because he was the No. 1 guy I was kind of worried about,” Gilman said. “If I’m worried about anyone, I’m worried about Spencer Lee because he’s pretty dang tough.
“I wanted to get my hands on him and maybe force a little bit of big brother — if I have any left on him.”
Lee, of course, is a three-time age-level world champ, and many believe him to be a future world and Olympic champion on the Senior level. Jordan Burroughs, a four-time world and Olympic champion himself, said as much during the 2018 UWW Freestyle World Cup in April.
The last time two Hawkeye Wrestling Club members competed at the same weight for the same international team spot came at the 2016 Olympic Trials. Dan Dennis swept Tony Ramos in the best-of-three finals at 57 kilograms and advanced to Rio. That same night, Ramos announced that he was leaving Iowa City, and has trained and coached at North Carolina ever since.
Gilman doesn’t think that would happen if he and Lee were to ever clash.
“He’s a phenomenal wrestler, a phenomenal teammate, a phenomenal man,” Gilman said. “We help each other get better. Why shy away from each other just because we might be wrestling in the same tournament and maybe compete against each other? That doesn’t make sense.
“We both want to get better. We both want to be world champions. We’re going to keep working together. It’s inevitable. We’re going to wrestle. Time’s running out for that matchup, but that doesn’t mean we shy away from each other and shun each other and let things happen like the Ramos-Dennis thing. That’s just silly.”
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- Iowa's Jacob Warner makes Junior World Team
- Iowa State's Austin Gomez makes Junior World Team
- Takeaways from U23, Cadet World Team Trials
- Ballard grad Rachel Watters on the cusp of the Senior world team
Speaking of Ramos …
Gilman responds to Ramos’s Final X pick
Ramos joined Flowrestling this past week. He holds some keen insight into the Final X matchup at 57kg, seeing as he’s wrestled both Gilman and Fix — Gilman beat Ramos at last year’s world team trials while Fix beat Ramos at this year’s world team trials challenge tournament.
You can watch the video below, as he breaks it down in a wrestling X’s and O’s style. At the end, he offers his prediction: Fix, two matches to none.
On Friday, Gilman responded.
“Well, I mean, come on,” Gilman said. “You’re asking Tony Ramos who’s going to win between an Iowa Hawkeye and somebody else. Of course he’s going to take the other guy, whether he knows deep down or not that I’m going to win. Tony Ramos would rather see anybody win other than a Hawkeye.
“He’s delusional. He tries to change history and he forgets … it’s funny. Of course Tony Ramos is picking him.”
Flo posted video of Gilman’s response on Twitter — and Ramos saw it.
We’ll chalk this one up to a ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ for now.
Gilman as an underdog? Overdog?
Fix is going to give Gilman everything he can handle. His credentials are sterling — three-time age-level world medalist, 2017 Junior world champ, No. 2 overall 2017 recruit. Fix said all the right things on Friday.
“To win Final X, I have to go out and wrestle my match,” Fix said. “I have to dictate what happens and I have to put myself in as many wrestling positions as possible.”
A question was then posed to Gilman about being the underdog. It came from a member of Flowrestling, which has pumped out a lot of content over the last week to fuel the hype for the Gilman-Fix series.
Gilman just smiled.
“Good,” he said. “I mean, does that surprise me? No. Not at all. He’s very credentialed. He’s a very talented opponent. He’s won at every single level. You guys have reiterated that over and over.
“Does it matter if I’m the underdog or the overdog or whatever you want to call it? No. It doesn’t matter. I respect my opponent. If I’m the underdog, good.
“I came in here as the underdog last year without a lot of respect. I wasn’t even seeded. I’m not saying I should’ve had respect. But I think that works in my favor a little bit. No pressure as the underdog.”
Gadson vs. Snyder in a battle of super heroes
During Friday’s press conference, Kyven Gadson wore a Wakanda Forever shirt, an ode to the Marvel movie “Black Panther” starring Chadwick Boseman as the superhero character. His opponent on Saturday, Kyle Snyder, often goes by Captain America after helping the United States clinch both the 2017 world team title and the 2018 World Cup crown.
Battle of superheroes?
“I think he changed to Iron Man earlier today,” Gadson said, sparking laughter. “I don’t really know what’s going on. Either way, it’s going to be a fun one. We both have opportunities to make a world team.
“I just like the Black Panther. That’s someone I can relate to, I guess you guys could say, physically. This is all wrestling. This is all fun. I’m excited to have the opportunity to make a world team.”
Snyder did, in fact, switch to Iron Man ahead of Saturday’s competition. Here’s his singlets:
Snyder and Gadson have met before. Gadson pinned Snyder in the 2015 NCAA finals, but, more recently, Snyder swept Gadson last year in the finals of the world team trials. Snyder is a three-time world and Olympic champion.
Gadson will need a herculean effort on Saturday to unseat the champ.
Alli Ragan talks about competing with the Hawkeye Wrestling Club
A few new faces made their way into the Hawkeye Wrestling Club room this season. One of them, Alli Ragan, will be competing here this weekend.
Ragan is a two-time world silver medalist. She grew up in Illinois, and actually qualified for the state tournament as a freshman in 2007 (Ramos actually won her bracket that year). She was a two-time Women’s College Wrestling Association national champion at King University.
Now, still seeking her first world title, Ragan reps the Hawkeye Wrestling Club, among other sponsors. On Friday, she talked of how training in Iowa City has helped her prepare for this next international run.
“I am super thankful to be part of the Hawkeye Wrestling Club,” Ragan said. “You got (Tom and Terry Brands) and Mark Perry and they’re in your ear yapping every day. The environment there — everybody’s been there I hope, but if you haven’t, go sit in on a practice and you’ll see.
“Literally, you could walk in on an off day, and everybody else will be working so hard. Even if I’m just lifting that day, I better do it the best that I can. You just walk in there and want to be the best. You’re surrounding by so many great people.”
Ragan is competing at 59 kilograms, and will wrestle Jenna Burkert for the right to represent the United States on the women’s freestyle world team.
Cody Goodwin covers wrestling and high school sports for the Des Moines Register. Follow him on Twitter at @codygoodwin.
Final X Lincoln
Where: Bob Devaney Sports Center, in Lincoln, Nebraska
When: Saturday, 6 p.m.
- Bout One - Men's freestyle 70 kg: James Green (Titan Mercury WC/Nebraska WTC) vs. Jason Chamberlain (Titan Mercury WC/Valley RTC)
- Bout Two - Women's freestyle 59 kg: Alli Ragan (Sunkist Kids/Hawkeye WC/OTC) vs. Jenna Burkert (U.S. Army WCAP)
- Bout Three - Men's freestyle 97 kg: Kyle Snyder (Titan Mercury WC/Ohio RTC) vs. Kyven Gadson (Sunkist Kids/Cyclone RTC)
- Bout Four - Women's freestyle 55 kg: Becka Leathers (Titan Mercury WC) vs. Jacarra Winchester (Titan Mercury WC/OTC)
- Bout Five - Men's freestyle 57 kg: Thomas Gilman (Titan Mercury WC/Hawkeye WC) vs. Daton Fix (Titan Mercury WC/Cowboy WC)
- Bout Six - Women's freestyle 68 kg: Tamyra Stock (Titan Mercury WC/OTC) vs. Randyll Beltz (U.S. Army WCAP)
- Bout Seven - Men's freestyle 74 kg: Jordan Burroughs (Sunkist Kids/Nebraska WTC) vs. Isaiah Martinez (Titan Mercury WC/Illini RTC)