IOWA CITY — Thomas Gilman hates to lose.
Don't believe it? Just ask him about his runner-up finish at the World Championships last year and you will quickly draw his ire.
"We don't train to finish second. That's first loser. That's not what we're about," said Gilman, a three-time All-American at Iowa who is the 57-kilogram wrestler for Team USA in the United World Wrestling Senior Men's Freestyle World Cup today and Sunday at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. "That's definitely been a driving force for me, getting all the way to the finals and coming up short. That's never the goal, to get a medal or get to the finals or get second. The goal is to win. I am never satisfied with anything short of winning."
Winning is something Gilman is accustomed to doing at Carver-Hawkeye Arena, a place where he racked up a 30-3 career record as a Hawkeye. Getting a chance to step out on the mat again in a place he called hom for five years and compete in front of a partisan Iowa crowd once again is something that Gilman not only anticipates, but cherishes.
"It's a great opportunity to represent the United States and in particular Iowa. I'm especially happy to do it in Iowa City, my home town and home crowd. I'm real excited about that," Gilman said. "Any time you can compete in your home arena, it gives you an advantage. I've trained here the last six years and lived here the last 6 1/2 years. That gives you a little big of an edge.
"It's the greatest place to compete, period. It's one of the best atmospheres to compete in with the way the fans represent themselves and the team. It's a little different at the international level than it was in college."
Gilman, after placing third at 125 pounds for Iowa as a senior, immediately jumped into the senior level wrestling, where he found immediate success. He won the Grand Prix of Spain and the U.S. World Team Trials. Gilman made it to the finals, where he lost, 3-0, 6-0 to Yuki Takahashi of Japan. Gilman will get a chance to avenge that loss when Team USA wrestles Japan at 2:30 p.m. today.
"I'm definitely excited to get to wrestle in a dual format again," Gilman said. "I'm wrestling the same weight as in college, so I will get to start the dual and get some points and momentum for our team right away."
Gilman said that while there are subtle differences between folkstyle and freestyle wrestling, the objective is still the same — score more points than your opponent.
"Everybody makes a big deal out of the styles. Wrestling is just wrestling," Gilman said. "You've got to go out there, control the match and put you opponent down and put him down hard. If you wrestle like you've always wrestled, it's not a hard transition. You've got to get off bottom, score on your feet and be a hammer on top. You put an arm bar on a guy in folkstyle, you do the same in freestyle. You use a two-on-one in folkstyle, you do the same in freestyle."
Gilman said one difference he has noticed at the international level is the different mentality each country has. He tries to gain every advantage he can, and his interest in history helps immensely.
"It's just a different mentality, a different mindset and upbringing when someone is from a foreign culture.," Gilman said. "That's where being a history major gives me an advantage. I study a lot of these cultures and their different upbringings, their socioeconomic upbringing. A lot of these countries will let you score some points early and just lay back and score at the end to win. Some of them just go out and score points and are very hard to score on."
Gilman is benefiting from the coaching of Team USA assistant and Iowa associated head coach Terry Brands, as well as Mark Perry, a former Iowa wrestler who is now the head coach of the Iowa Wrestling Club. As far as Gilman is concerned, it doesn't get any better than that.
"Mark Perry is an awesome addition to our program. He has a little different point of view, but he's a Hawkeye. He always has been. Sometimes you need to leave and come back to learn," Gilman said. "It helps having the best wrestlers and coaches right there in the room every day. Regardless of whether it's Terry or Tom (Brands) on the mat with me or Cory Clark, Nick Dardanes, Chris Dardanes, Spencer Lee, Matt McDonough of Daniel Dennis when he stops by once in a while, you are training with the best every single day."