Nov. 13, 2013
Editor's Note: The following first appeared in the University of Iowa's Hawk Talk Daily, an e-newsletter that offers a daily look at the Iowa Hawkeyes, delivered free each morning to thousands of fans of the Hawkeyes worldwide.
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- One was a four-time Iowa state champion; one was a four-time Nebraska state champion. One has a signature win over the defending NCAA champion, the other placed eighth at the FILA Junior World Championships in August.
There is a battle at 125 pounds in the Dan Gable Wrestling Complex between redshirt freshmen Cory Clark and Thomas Gilman and University of Iowa head wrestling coach Tom Brands says the weight class is a dead heat.
"They're even, and we like them both," said Brands. "We knew when we recruited them we had two 125 pounders, but we also knew we had two of the best kids in the country. It wasn't an issue, and it's not an issue now. It's good for us."
Clark's style is wide open; Gilman is controlled. Both of their attitudes are all about wrestling.
"Either guy that steps out there is going to be ready to go."
UI senior 133-pounder Tony Ramos
"They have good skills, are serious about wrestling, and are coachable," said Brands. "They work hard at the sport, and they're fun to be around."
Senior 133-pounder Tony Ramos says Clark and Gillman are tough, hard-nosed grapplers.
"Clark can scramble, roll around, and he fights you at every position," said Ramos, the NCAA runner-up at 133 pounds in 2013. "Gilman is hard to get to. He makes you work to get to his legs. Either guy that steps out there is going to be ready to go."
Clark says he isn't focusing on the competition with Gilman, he just wants to continue to improve.
"I am wrestling to get better and improve where I need to and focusing on where I am best... getting to my ties and scores," said Clark, who went 20-2 at 125 and 133 while competing unattached last season. "I am more worried about that than how I can beat Thomas Gilman."
Gilman says the battle with Clark is making him a better, more focused wrestler.
"It's like a horse race, he's right there," said Gilman, who went 23-5 at 125 during his redshirt season . "If I don't feel like getting up in the morning or coming in late at night, I think about what he did today and I get in here and get that work done."
One of Gilman's losses was to Clark, 2-0, in the final of the Kaufman-Brand Open.
Clark is getting the preseason hype. He is ranked No. 4 by InterMat behind Jesse Delgado of Illinois, Nahshon Garrett of Cornell and Nico Megaludis of Penn State. Clark beat Delgado, 6-1, to win the UNI Open last season.
"Those expectations, I don't know how to take them," said Clark. "Most are the same expectations I already have regardless of what other people think. My goal is to win a national title. What other people say, I take it in, but it doesn't affect me or impact the way I am going to wrestle."
Gilman is an improved wrestler after competing at the FILA Junior World Championships.
"It modified my mindset and solidified a lot of things," said Gilman. "I had to make some adjustments, and now I am feeling comfortable with those adjustments. I am feeling good, feeling like a new wrestler."
Brands knew the pair would go head-to-head during the early portion of their careers. Now he's ready to see how the battle plays out.
"They're both making progress," said Brands. "They're even right now, and we'll see how it comes around."
The Hawkeyes open the Nov. 16 at the Luther Open. Iowa makes its Carver-Hawkeye Arena debut Nov. 22, hosting Baker, Iowa Central Community College and Cornell College in the Iowa City Duals.