| Gilman after defeating Nathan Tomasello in the 2016 NCAA semis.
Photo: Tony Rotundo, WrestlersAreWarriors.com
The Hawkeye senior has shown complete ownership of the weight class throughout the 2016-17 NCAA season, and there is still more to come.
In his career, he has consistently been on the cusp of reaching the top of the NCAA podium. Last season, Gilman, the No. 4 seed, made his way to the finals after picking up a pin in sudden victory over top-ranked and defending champion Nathan Tomasello of Ohio State in the semifinals.
In the finals, on the biggest stage in college wrestling, he faced third-seeded Nico Megaludis of Penn State, who owned a win over Gilman from just weeks earlier at the Big Ten Championships.
Megaludis notched two takedowns in the bout that Gilman was not able to overcome and the Nittany Lion took a 6-3 win and the national title at 125 pounds.
“It was very emotional and embarrassing,” Gilman said. “That’s one thing that I don’t deal with very well is embarrassment because I’m usually the one embarrassing people out there on the mat. Everything just kind of unraveled in that match. I didn’t do enough to get back in that match. When that final whistle blew, I just couldn’t get off that stage fast enough. You got the whole world staring at you and you just got your butt kicked. That’s a motivating factor on top of everything else.”
This year, Gilman, a two-time All-American, has made it his mission to impose his will on each and every one of his opponents.
He’s been able to do just that with a change in his mindset.
“Some people want to point to this or that with my training, but it’s really nothing different other than believing in myself and believing in my skills and not worrying about giving up a takedown or reversal or a point here or there because I’m scoring in bushels,” Gilman said. “I’m not having one-point matches like I did freshman or sophomore year. I’m just throwing everything at the guy and seeing what happens and not holding back.”
As a result, he boasts an 18-0 record this season with 16 bonus-point wins.
Gilman said he has bigger reasons behind seeking out bonus points other than just breaking his college opponents. He uses it as training for his future international opponents.
“Coming into the season this year, it was a goal of mine to get bonus points in every single match,” Gilman said. “Obviously, I’m looking for the pin or tech fall, but sometimes those majors are all that present themselves. I just want to show my dominance. Something I think about all the time is if I can only beat my opponents here in the states by a decision then how am I supposed to beat my future opponents in international competitions? My career is far from over after this year so I need to really dominate this field and put my skills to work now so that transition into the international field is a little bit smoother.”
Until he makes it to the world stage, Gilman is focused on every match until the NCAA Championships in St. Louis, Mo., and stirring up a little controversy along the way.
In the past, Gilman has been known for not being afraid to say what he’s thinking. This year has been no different.
“People within my camp really like what I have to say and they appreciate the intensity and the harshness, but people outside my camp hate me and they want to see everything go against me and see me lose. It’s fun for them when I give them a little fuel to their fire,” he said.
“I’ve always been that way, but I was more humble about it in the past. When you live under your parents’ roof and they’re paying for things, you have to watch yourself and be respectful when they tell you to be respectful. That’s what I did, but now I live on my own, pay my bills and I’m making a living on my own now so I’m not near as respectful as I was growing up and that’s kind of showing. It’s not that I disrespect my opponents, but I don’t necessarily respect them either.”
His opponents are starting to get tougher and tougher.
The third-ranked Hawkeyes are entering the most competitive point of their season, having just wrestled No. 1 Oklahoma State and No. 2 Penn State in back-to-back weeks.
Despite two-consecutive team losses, Gilman has stayed consistent in his winning ways, recording a major decision over No. 11 Nick Piccininni of Oklahoma State and shutting down freshman phenom and No. 3 Nick Suriano of Penn State.
This week, he gears up for a meeting with Ohio State’s Jose Rodriguez, who has reached as high as No. 11 in Flowrestling’s rankings this season. The Buckeyes hold a No. 4 ranking as a team in the most recent NWCA Coaches Poll.
“I’m not going to change my mindset now that I’m wrestling ranked opponents compared to earlier in the season when we were wrestling non-ranked opponents and lower division guys,” Gilman said. “I think the mentality that I bring the whole time helps me stay ready for these big matches. When I’m getting ready for the Luther Open, I’m preparing the same way that I would for Penn State. The only difference is that I’m aware of certain things like there’s more at stake now.”
The college postseason is approaching quickly, with just six weeks until the Big Ten Championships. As a senior, Gilman will have one final shot at a Big Ten title, with second and third place finishes under his belt, as well as one more chance to take the top prize at NCAAs.
“I have to have ice running through my veins,” he said. “Guys are going to come out and try to keep it close, but I just can’t get frustrated. I can’t make silly, stupid mistakes like some of the mistakes I made in the two matches I lost last year. I can’t get overzealous in positions where I know the guy is good just because I think I have him. If I make a mistake, I have to overcome it right away and get right back in that match. I don’t want to get out there and get embarrassed. I want to go out and embarrass the other guy and pound my chest in victory.”