PARIS – Thomas Gilman wasn't considered one of the top medal contenders on the loaded U.S. freestyle wrestling team.
But he was the first to earn a medal.
And the first to reach the finals.
Gilman turned in a strong showing to earn a silver medal in his first World Championships appearance on Friday at AccorHotels Arena.
Gilman's magical run was finally halted in a 6-0 setback to Japan's Yuki Takahashi in the finals at 125.5 pounds.
"I'm upset and disappointed," Gilman said. "I know I made everyone proud by making the finals, but I also feel like I let people down as well."
Gilman, 23, a three-time All-American for Iowa, was unable to generate any offense against the rock-solid defense of Takahashi, who scored all of his points on counters.
Gilman fell behind 4-0 after the first period after being driven out of bounds and after Takahashi scored on a slick re-shot. Gilman nearly scored in the second period with a single, but Takahashi exploded out of danger and spun away before scoring a takedown to lead 6-0.
"I needed better set-ups on my shots, better penetration and better finishes," Gilman said. "I just have to get better. That was a humbling experience. Now it's back to work."
Gilman's momentum was finally halted after he powered through four matches in the first session Friday to reach his first World-level final.
Gilman bounced back from a disappointing third-place finish at his final NCAA tournament in March where he was the No. 1 seed.
Gilman became the first former Hawkeye wrestler to medal at a World Championships since Bill Zadick (gold) and Mike Zadick (silver) in 2006. Zadick is now the U.S. National Coach in freestyle.
Gilman, a past Junior World bronze medalist for the U.S., also became the first U.S. lightweight to medal in a world-level event since Henry Cejudo won Olympic gold in 2008.
Gilman gave up the first takedown before taking control in a 5-2 first-round win over Ukraine's Andrii Yatsenko. Gilman finished single-leg attacks for takedowns in each period and used another single to earn a pushout point.
Gilman held off a late takedown attempt to down Iran's Reza Ahmadali Artinagharchi in the second round. Gilman scored on a shot-clock point and a pushout to lead 2-0 before the late scramble.
Gilman routed Uzbekistan's Nodirjon Safarov 12-1 in the quarterfinals. Gilman fired in on two leg attacks early and converted them into takedowns for a 4-0 lead. He kept the pressure on in the second period.
Gilman rallied from a 3-2 deficit to outlast North Korea's Hak-Jin Jong 5-4 in the semifinals. Down by one, Gilman hit leg attacks to score a takedown and pushout. He then held off a furious charge by Jong in the final seconds to prevail.
"I know my pace is the best in the world and my conditioning is second to none. That's reassuring," he said. "I should've used it a little more to my advantage in the finals."
Gilman's coach, two-time world champion and Iowa assistant Terry Brands, was impressed with his wrestler.
"Thomas' focus has been phenomenal with the work he's done," Brands said. "He's really continued to develop, and he's improved by leaps and bounds. He competed hard, and I'm very proud of him. I'm impressed with the way he works. It didn't go his way in the finals. We had some good dialogue after the match, and I'm very impressed with his demeanor and mindset right now."
Gilman was asked prior to a post-match interview if he wanted to put his medal on.
"No way," he said. "Not right now."
It was a breakthrough performance for Gilman, but the medal he earned wasn't the color of the one he envisioned winning.
"I only came here for one reason," he said. "To win the whole thing."