Gilman Shows Progress, Maturity in Claiming 1st World Championships Gold

By Ken Marantz

OSLO, Norway (October 5) -- Winning a first world title confirmed the progress Thomas GILMAN (USA) has made as he continues to learn the international game. Now he hopes to use it in a quest to avenge a recent loss that still lingers.

Gilman showed a new-found maturity and composure when he carved out a 5-3 victory over Alireza SARLAK (IRI) in the freestyle 57kg final on Monday night in Oslo, giving him the gold medal in his third trip to a World Championships.

The victory at Jordal Amfi arena came two months after Gilman was dealt a heartbreaking 5-4 loss in the first round of the Tokyo Olympics by two-time world champion Zavur UGUEV (ROC), who went on to take the gold.

Gilman, who worked his way through the repechage to take home an Olympic bronze, noted the difference in the two matches beyond their outcomes.

"If this was a fist fight with the Iranian, Uguev was like a chess match," Gilman said. "He's very good at winning. Obviously he's a great wrestler, and a great athlete. I think what he's best at is finding a way to win, and he showed that at the Olympic Games."

The 27-year-old Gilman, who won a silver medal in 2017 and placed fifth in 2018 in his previous World Championships, said the loss to Uguev opened his eyes to the need to wrestle depending on the situation, and to not just wantonly try to score points.

Thomas GILMANThomas GILMAN (USA), second from left, with the other three medalists at 57kg. (Photo: UWW / Kadir Caliskan)

"I'm starting to learn how to win as a competitor," Gilman said. "I think I'm a pretty decent wrestler. But I don't know if I know how to really win on a consistent basis yet. Uguev, he can. I'm looking forward to that rematch. I respect him a lot."

In their Olympic showdown at Makuhari Messe, Gilman was leading 4-3 when Uguev managed to conjure up a takedown in the final seconds to snatch the victory.

"It's a mental thing, maybe an emotional thing," Gilman said. "Where instead of just wrestling through the positions, I kind of try to win. When you start trying to win, that's when you lose.

"In the Uguev match, I went from just wrestling to score points to, 'OK, there's 46 seconds left,let's try to win this match,' and I got taken down and lost the match."

Against Sarlak, a 2019 world U23 bronze medalist, Gilman fought his way to a 3-0 lead going into the second period. He used his previous experience facing Iranians and knowledge of their tendencies to then score a well-executed single-leg takedown that gave him a decisive five-point cushion.

"I was pretty familiar with that position," Gilman said, citing past matches with lightweight star Rezi ATRINAGHARCHI (IRI). "Iranians are really good at throwing your head to the outside, bust your lock, focus on those very fundamental things.

"I just kind of chuckled to myself, like, 'This is familiar. This is Iran right here.' If I could describe Iranian wrestling, it would be beyond the underhook and their hand wrestling. It would be fundamental and hard leg defense."

Gilman said he appreciates scrappy wrestlers like Sarlak because they force him to raise his level.

"You always know that when you are wrestling Iranians, they are known for their toughness and their hand fighting. A lot like the way I wrestle, so I was looking forward to the fist fight, the dog fight....I am grateful to him as an opponent to push me and make me better."

Thomas GILMANThomas GILMAN (USA) defeated Alireza SARLAK (IRI) in the 57kg final. (Photo: UWW / Tony Rotundo)

In the post-match interview, Gilman referred to "we" as the winner. Asked to explain, he noted how wrestling, while an individual sport, needs a team for success.

"From me, myself and I, all the way to me and my wife, my dogs, my unborn child, my coaching staff, USA Wrestling, my training partners, my annoying cameraman," said the Iowa native, who moved to the Nittany Lion Club in Pennsylvania in 2020 to prepare for the Olympics under Cael

"Don't let this fool you, I did nothing really. I did 20 minutes of work out there, but it's all the people behind the scenes, the people who you don't see, people who would never take credit for anything. That's we."

The support of his wife was vital, particularly when it came to just making the tough decision to enter the World Championships so soon after the Tokyo Olympics.

"I didn't want it to be emotional, I wanted it to be the right decision," Gilman said. "So I got home and talked to my wife, and some of those conversations were a little bit difficult....But she understood, she said, hey, I know you want to do this, you have to do it."

Zavur UGUEV Thomas GILMANZavur UGUEV (ROC) defeated Thomas GILMAN (USA) in the opening round at the Tokyo Olympics. (Photo: UWW / Tony Rotundo)

Born in Council Bluffs, Iowa, Gilman attended high school in neighboring Nebraska, where he won four state titles. He went to collegiate powerhouse Iowa and twice medaled at the NCAA Championships.

His international debut came in 2011 at the world cadets, where he placed 10th. After finishing eighth at the 2013 world juniors, he returned in 2014 and made his first podium by winning a bronze medal.

Three years later, he was in the final of a senior World Championships, taking the silver at Paris 2017 after losing to Yuki TAKAHASHI (JPN), who would finish out of the medals at the Tokyo Olympics.

As an Olympic medalist, Gilman's place on the team to Oslo was assured without having to go through the U.S. team trials. But that doesn't mean he didn't have hurdles to get over, including having to get his weight back down again and contracting Covid-19.

"Every competition offers something unique as far as adversity," Gilman said. "Sometimes the adversity is very small, sometimes the adversity is very big. This is no different. It was a quick turnaround."

The bout with the coronovirus three weeks ago posted the greatest threat to his preparations. But he also viewed it as another test of his resilience to overcome hardships.

"I was like, shoot, am I going to be able to go and pass the tests?" Gilman said. "I came to the conclusion that God was telling me, 'You think you're tough? Well let's see how tough you are.'

"It was more mental, emotional and spiritual than physical, because physical you can push through anything. I did and we're here, and now it's time for a break."

Known for being deeply religious and patriotic, Gilman said he had some qualms about taking a victory lap with the American flag draped around his shoulders, saying he considers the act disrespectful.

"But it's a tradition, it's what we do, so I'll deal with my stepfather when I get home," he said. "Just to stand on top of the podium, after being silver, fifth, bronze, now gold, to see our flag the highest where it belongs and hear our national anthem, that's very special to me."

As he aims to continue improving and awaits a second shot at Uguev, Gilman can now sit back and bask in what he has accomplished over the past two months.

"It's a lot coming off the Olympic Games. You're at maybe an all-time high, I was so close to accomplishing one of my lifelong dreams," he said "I was pretty proud of myself. I still am. It's nothing to really slough off, being an Olympic bronze medalist."


#WrestleOslo Top Historical Moments: Sadulaev, Geraei Double Up; Moldova Claims Firsts

By Vinay Siwach

OSLO, Norway (October 19) -- After the World Championships in Oslo, an uncharacteristic number of wrestlers etched their names in wrestling's history books. 

For the first time in wrestling's tradition-rich history, the World Championships and Olympics took place in the same year, which led few with the opportunity to become a champion at both events. Then, a few first-timers reached the pinnacle in Oslo. 

Here are the top moments from the annual event.

FS 97kg - Abdulrashid SADULAEV (RWF)


Abdulrashid SADULAEV (RWF) is chasing history and greatness. He became a two-time Olympic champion in Tokyo after winning the 97kg gold medal, adding to his 86kg gold from Rio.

In 2021, once the IOC announced the postponement of the Tokyo Games, it provided a unique opportunity for Sadulaev to win an Olympic and World Championships medal in the same year. A gold in both tournaments may well give the wrestlers extra motivation to wrestle at the highest level twice in two months.

Sadulaev did precisely that. After capturing the gold in Tokyo, he wrestled his arch-rival Kyle SNYDER (USA) in the 97kg final in Oslo, Norway and came home with a gold medal, making him the only freestyle wrestler to achieve the rare feat.

The Russian Wrestling Federation wrestler has seven World or Olympic gold medals. He's tied for fourth on the all-time list, which Alexander MEDVED leads with ten combined gold medals from Worlds or Olympics. Three former wrestlers have eight gold medals, while Buvaisar SAITIEV (RWF) sits number two with nine titles.

In a rematch of the Olympics final, Sadulaev won 6-3. He handed Snyder a 6-0 loss in Oslo and improved the head-to-head record to 3-1. His lone defeated came in 2017 at the Paris World Championships.

GR 67kg - Mohammadreza GERAEI (IRI)


Like Sadulaev, Mohammadreza GERAEI (IRI) also wrote his name in history books after becoming an Olympic and world champion in the same year.

He won the top medal at the 67kg Greco-Roman weight class in Oslo, two months after Tokyo.

Geraei, the younger brother of world medalist at 77kg Mohammadali, was the only Olympic champion entered in the Greco-Roman. He proved why he's Iran's next superstar.

The U23 world champion burst into the scene when he won the senior Asian title in 2019 and followed that with the U23 world title. Earlier this year, he claimed the gold at the Asian Olympic Qualifiers and later the Olympics.

In Oslo, Geraei kept his fans on the edge of their seats. On multiple occasions, his bouts ended in a close affair. In the first bout against Tsuchika SHIMOYAMADA (JPN), he trailed 6-1 in the second period before the Japan wrestler went for a big throw but got caught in the move and Geraei secured a pin. In the semifinal, Geraei defeated Ramaz ZOIDZE (GEO), 7-6, after the Georgian was cautioned twice for fleeing, giving up four points. He defeated Nazir ABDULLAEV (RWF) 5-2 in the final.

WW 65kg - Irina RINGACI (MDA)


For the 18 years Moldova participated in women's wrestling at the World Championships, they never won a medal. However, in Oslo, they had two. 

Irina RINGACI (MDA) won the country's first-ever world title in women's wrestling, while Iulia LEORDA (MDA) ended with a silver medal. Ringaci outperformed her 65kg rivals and claimed her second world title in less than two months.

Ringaci, who came to Oslo after winning the junior world title in August, defeated Miwa MORIKAWA (JPN) 8-6 in the final. Earlier in the semifinal, she had a close call when she secured a fall over Tokyo Olympian Mimi HRITSOVA (BUL). Trailing 8-0, she completed a big throw for four and then kept the Bulgarian on her back to win.

Since winning the silver at the 2020 Individual World Cup in 2020, Rigaci has been on a stellar run which includes winning the senior and U23 European titles.

But the 20-year-old pioneer of Moldovan women's wrestling has already racked up wins at the senior level and will not be a pushover in the coming years.

GR 60kg - Victor CIOBANU (MDA)


It was a historical final and Victor CIOBANU (MDA) came out on top. The Moldovan wrestler won the gold medal at the 60kg weight class in Oslo, Norway, thus denying Zholaman SHARSHENBEKOV (KGZ) and Kyrgzstan its first-ever Greco-Roman senior world title.

Ciobanu came close to winning the title in 2018 but reversed his luck this year and with his high-scoring throws, won 9-3 in the final. Sharshenbekov now has two silver medals from the World Championships as his country waits for the gold.

Earlier this year, the Moldova wrestler ended a 25-year-wait for his country to send a wrestler to the Olympics, and he came agonizingly close to winning a medal as well.

He wrestled Sharshenbekov in Tokyo as well and blanked him 9-0 in the quarterfinals.

Apart from the final, Ciobanu had a great run throughout the tournament. He began with a win over Zhora ABOVIAN (UKR), then defeated 2018 world champion Stepan MARYANYAN (RWF) and later won against Gevorg GHARIBYAN (ARM) in the semifinal. Barring the first match, his bouts were close-affairs as he beat Maryanyan, 7-6, and Gharibyan, 9-6.

With Ciobanu's win, Moldova now has atleast one senior world champion in each of the three wrestling styles.

FS 70kg - Mogomedmurad GADHIEV (POL)


The Russian Wrestling Federation dominated the freestyle competition, along with the USA and Iran. But among the three wrestling powerhouses, Poland had its first world champion in freestyle as Magomedmurad GADHIEV (POL) claimed the gold medal at the 70kg weight class.

Ever since his first senior World Championships in 2015, Gadzhiev had won two medals, including a silver in 2017 and a bronze medal at the 2019 edition.

But in a bid to qualify for the Olympics, the European champion dropped down to 65kg but failed to medal there. However, he came back to 70kg and claimed the gold medal in Oslo after beating Ernazar AKHMATALIEV (KGZ) in the final.

In the quarterfinal, he had to go past 2017 world champion Zurabi IAKOBISHVILI (GEO), 4-1, and the U23 world champion Turan BAYRAMOV (AZE), 4-2, in the semifinal.

In 2020, he claimed the gold medal at the Individual World Cup in Belgrade, Serbia at 70kg. The veteran was a former Russian Wrestling Federation wrestler till 2012 and also won a junior world title in 2008.

Before Gadzhiev, Pawel KURCZEWSKI (POL) in 1971, Wladyslaw STECYK (POL) in 1977, Marian SKUBAZ (POL) in 1981, Adam SANDURSKI (POL) in 1982 and 1983, and Marek GARMULEWICZ (POL) in 1998 had reached the final but fell short to claim the coveted gold.

WW 76kg - Samar HAMZA (EGY)


Samar HAMZA (EGY) could have retired after the Olympics (she did for a brief time), and yet she would have been the most successful women's wrestler from her country. But she decided to wrestle one more time at the Senior World Championships in Oslo.

The only female wrestler to compete at the Olympics for her country, Hamza improved her resume after she became Egypt's first-ever world medalist. She won a bronze medal in the 76kg weight-class

Hamza can be proud of herself as she reached the semifinal in Oslo and only lost to world champion Adeline GRAY (USA) in the tournament. Then, in the bronze-medal bout, she defeated Kiran GODARA (IND) to claim the historic medal.

FS 79kg - Jordan BURROUGHS (USA)


A familiar name was back on the top of the podium. Jordan BURROUGHS (USA) won his last world title in 2017 and after a gap of four years, he returned to the gold-medal position in Oslo, Norway, by winning the 79kg weight class.

With that, Burroughs became the first male wrestler from America to win the gold medal five times at the Worlds, surpassing John SMITH (USA) who has four of them. Combining World and Olympic titles, the two are tied with six each as Burroughs won the gold medal at the London Olympics in 2012.

In Oslo, Burroughs was wrestling at a new weight class for the first time internationally after giving up his position at 74kg to Kyle DAKE (USA). Burroughs failed to win the Olympic Team Trials as Dake claimed the best of three series. Dake later won a bronze medal at the Olympics to confirm his direct participation in Oslo.

But Burroughs was unchallenged in Oslo. He stormed to his fifth world title outscoring his opponents 30-6, including wins over Radik VALIEV (RWF) and junior world champion Mohammad NOKHODILARIMI (IRI).

The win gives him a shot at becoming the most successful male American wrestler if he can win another gold medal until the end of his career, which is likely to continue until the Paris Olympics in 2024.

Burroughs now has an Olympics gold, five gold and three bronze from the World Championships.

WW 57kg - Anshu MALIK (IND)


As a 20-year-old, Anshu MALIK (IND) did what no other Indian female wrestler ever could. The former cadet world champion reached the final of the Senior World Championships in Oslo and became the first wrestler to achieve the feat in women's wrestling. She won a silver medal in 57kg after losing to Helen MAROULIS (USA) in the final.

The Asian champion wrestled in Tokyo as well but lost in her first bout. After getting a chance in the repechage, she failed to get past Valeria KOBLOVA (RWF) and had to exit her first Olympics without a medal.

But in Oslo, she reached the final after beating junior world champion Nilufar RAIMOVA (KAZ) in the first bout, Davaachimeg ERKHEMBAYAR (MGL), 5-1, in the quarterfinal, U23 European champion Solomiia VYNNYK (UKR) in the semifinal, but she suffered a fall in the final.

Before her, India had five bronze medalists at the World Championships dating back to 2006 when Alka TOMAR (IND) won a bronze. Geeta PHOGAT (IND) and Babita PHOGAT (IND) won in 2012, Pooja DHANDA (IND) won one in 2018 while Vinesh PHOGAT (IND) won the medal in 2019. In Oslo, Sarita MOR (IND) also won a bronze, making it the first time that Indian women's wrestlers had two medals at the same Championships.

WW 76kg - Epp MAEE (EST)


Epp MAEE (EST) has been the pioneer of women's wrestling for Estonia. She is the only wrestler to compete at the senior level be it the World Championships or Olympics. In 2015, she became the first female wrestler from the country to win a medal at the World Championships. She repeated the feat in 2019.

Two years later in Oslo, she became the first wrestler from Estonia to reach a World Championships final in women's wrestling. At 76kg, she made a spectacular run and reached another milestone for her country. However, she fell to six-time world champion Adeline GRAY (USA) in the final.

Back in 2014, Maee wrestled in her first-ever medal bout but ended up losing that in Tashkent. After winning the medal in 2015 which also gave her the qualification for Rio Olympics, she finished fifth in 2017 and 2018. But she was once again back on the podium in Nursultan.

At the 2021 Worlds, Maee won her first two bout via technical superiority and survived a scare against Aiperi MEDET KYZY (KGZ) in the semifinal, winning 3-3 on criteria. Trailing 1-3 with 20 seconds remaining, Maee hit a single-leg and continued the pressure to claim an exposure with five seconds remaining to enter the final.

GR 130kg - Aliakbar YOUSOFI (IRI)


Iran brought the best to Oslo and did not disappoint. After their freestyle team put on a show, the Greco-Roman team also mesmerized the fans with four gold medals. Aliakbar YOUSOFI (IRI) won the 130kg gold medal and became Iran's first-ever Greco-Roman heavyweight world champion.

Yousofi earned his shot in Iran's lineup after a lucky break. It was only after the original entry, Tokyo bronze medalist Amin MIRZAZADEH (IRI) tested positive for COVID-19 infection that Yousofi earned his berth to Oslo. 

And he returned home with the gold medal, defeating Zurabi GEDEKHAURI (RWF) in the final.

He began with a win over David OVASAPYAN (ARM) and later handed local boy Oskar MARVIK (NOR) in the quarterfinal. In the semifinal, he faced the tough task of beating Tokyo Olympic fifth-place finisher Yasmani ACOSTA FERNANDEZ (CHI). But a perfectly planned bout helped him go past the Chilean wrestler, 2-1. The final was also a story of passivity and stepout points as he won 6-1.