Team USA perfect on opening day of World Cup

By Matt Levins For The Predicament

61 kg/134 lbs. – Joe Colon (USA) decision over Sandeep Tomar (India), 6-4

IOWA CITY — Joe Colon came home this week, returning to Iowa for the United World Wrestling Men's Freestyle World Cup at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.

Colon made sure his return would be a triumphant one.

Colon, wrestling at 61 kilograms for Team USA in the opening dual against India on Saturday morning, found himself in a quick 4-0 hole against Sandeep Tomar.

With the crowd cheering his every move, Colon stormed back, getting a pair of takedowns and a two-point exposure with a gut wrench to pull out a 6-4 win, lifting Team USA to a 10-0 victory.

For Colon, a native of Clear Lake, there really is no place like home.

"It's great. It's awesome to be able to come out here and wrestle in front of all these people. These are the best fans in the world here in Iowa," Colon said. "I'd like to wrestle every match, but it's not up to me. I can only control what I can control."

Team USA came back from an early 3-0 deficit against Japan in the afternoon session to post a 7-3 win to move to 2-0 in Pool A heading into its final dual in pool action.

Down 4-0 early in the second period, Colon knew he had to come up with something big. He did just that, scoring a takedown, then using a gut wrench to turn Tomar for two back exposure points to knot the match. He added another takedown moments later to secure the win.

"I knew I would have to get a takedown and a turn," Colon said. "Once I got the (second) takedown, he tried to go out of bounds but I just stayed with it, popped my hips and scored it. It felt good."

Thomas Gilman, a three-time All-American for Iowa, was not as fortunate in his return to Carver-Hawkeye Arena. Gilman, who was 30-3 at Carver-Hawkeye heading into Saturday, received a forfeit against India, then suffered a 4-1 loss to Yuki Takahashi of Japan, the reigning world champion who beat Gilman at the 2017 World Championships in the gold medal match. This time, Gilman scored first on a passivity point, but Takahashi scored on a pair of counters, taking advantage of Gilman's aggressiveness.

"Gilman is real direct attacking. He is really aggressive. I try to let him attack and then I use that against him with my quickness," Takahashi said. "This time Gilman pushed the match, He attacked my weak points. I can definitely see where he has improved since the last time I wrestled him."

"Tactically that was a better match than the World Championships. I'm not moral victories, but I'm talking improvement, more positives. I wrestled a better match. I dictated the whole match. He's a counter wrestler. I wrestled him at the World Championships and he scored off all my attacks with counters. That's what he did today, too. There were a couple places where I could have done better. I thought I had two, but I need to secure that leg and get the points. I need to work on securing those leg attacks, just getting solid, real solid," Gilman said. "It's very frustrating. I'm not frustrated with him as an opponent. I'm frustrated with myself. I'm competitive, right? So any time I lose it's frustrating. It's not what he's doing. It's what I'm letting him do to me. It's not about him sitting around and countering. Maybe that sounds negative. I'm not being negative. It's a kind of wrestling — counter wrestling. I'm more frustrated with myself that I'm letting him do that, that I'm not more solid."

Team USA, which rolled to a relatively easy win over India, had its hands full against Japan. Japan won the first three matches, putting Team USA squarely against the wall.

Former Nebraska national champions James Green and Jordan Burroughs answered the bell, and former college rivals Kyle Dake and David Taylor put the finishing touches on Team USA's 7-3 win.

Team USA will take a 2-0 record into today's 10 a.m. dual against Georgia. With a win, Team USA will wrestle in the gold medal dual at 4 p.m.

Team USA, after absorbing losses by Gilman (57 kg), Kendric Maple (61 kg) and Logan Stieber (65 kg) got the ball rolling behind Green and Burroughs. Green cruised to an 8-5 win over Kirin Kinoshita at 70 kg and Burroughs, one of the most decorated wrestlers in U.S. history, rallied from an early 1-0 deficit to post a 7-1 win over Yuhi Fujinami.

"I think if I wrestle hard I'm pretty hard to keep up with. It's difficult because there is a balance between discipline and aggression," Burroughs said. "I think with a high frequency of attacks, this guy can never shoot. The best defense is a good offense. The more I shoot the less he gets to shoot."

That put momentum squarely in Team USA's corner and the U.S. would be relentless from there, scoring five straight wins by technical superiority.

While Green and Burroughs woke the crowd up, Dake brought down the house with a pair of five-point moves in a 10-0 win.

"I was just trying to go out and score points and get off the mat as fast as possible," Dake said. "It was awesome. I tried to get the crowd involved. This is a big dual for us."

Taylor followed with a 12-2 win against Masao Matsusaka at 86 kg. J'Den Cox posted an 11-0 win at 92 kg, Kyle Snyder had a 10-0 win at 97 kg and Nick Gwiazdowski polished it off with a 10-0 win at 125 kg.

"All I know is I'm going to go out there and do the best I possibly can and wrestle hard as a team and do our very best," Taylor said. "It's awesome. It feels good to go out to Carver-Hawkeye Arena and be cheered for, for sure. But this is an amazing crowd ... it's great to be here and be a part of this team and get to wrestle in the World Cup."