Thomas Gilman always seems to be looking forward.
Ask the Iowa redshirt freshman and former Omaha Skutt star about wrestling matches in the past and it’s almost as if he doesn’t remember.
Bring up the satisfaction in fulfilling the lifelong dream of being in the Hawkeye lineup — and doing so in breakout fashion — and he talks about what’s to come, even dropping an Olympic gold medal reference.
“It’s just about making improvements every day,” Gilman said this week from Iowa City.
He wrestles at 125 pounds for third-ranked Iowa, which visits Lincoln on Saturday for a dual against Nebraska.
An eight-match winning streak has Gilman ranked third in the nation.
“We love him,” Iowa coach Tom Brands said. “He’s zero maintenance, is very committed.
“Let’s keep a good thing going.”
Gilman cracked the Hawkeye lineup in December in a dual against a good Edinboro squad, with his college debut coming against a ranked opponent.
His takeover of the starting spot came two weeks later against top-ranked Penn State. That night, in front of a Big Ten Network audience, Gilman lost a tight 4-1 match to the Nittany Lions’ Nico Megaludis, currently ranked No. 2 in the nation.
Gilman hasn’t lost since.
He rolled to a title at the Midlands Championship and solidified himself as the Hawkeyes’ leadoff hitter midway through the conference season.
And in true Gilman fashion, he hasn’t looked back.
“I took that as my chance to go out and let things fly and whup up on some guys,” he said. “I was just really excited to compete.”
Some may have been surprised by Gilman’s instant success. His head coach was not one of those people.
“It’s no surprise to us,” Brands said. “It shows his ability. It shows his potential.”
Things didn’t always look so bullish for Gilman. In wrestle-offs last season, he lost out to fellow redshirt freshman Cory Clark, another highly rated recruit in a room full of them.
Clark was ranked fourth in the country and started five of Iowa’s first six duals this season before Penn State. He reached the Midlands semifinals and was one win from a title-match showdown with Gilman before losing.
“We have two guys that are very capable there,” Brands said. “We have a very good situation. There wasn’t a change. They were both in the (Midlands) bracket. Clark ended up in the top six and Gilman ended up in the top one.”
The lineup isn’t set in stone. But Brands likes the elements Gilman brings at 125.
“The thing that gave him his edge is his total commitment,” Brands said. “He’s getting better. He’s aware of things, aware of everything. He’s wrestling harder to put points on the board and doing it very well.”
While some might have begun looking at the big picture and the possibility of battling behind Clark for four years, Gilman said he never let his thoughts get too far ahead of the next day.
“You create a lot of that on your own,” he said. “You can’t look at it like, ‘this didn’t work out. Maybe next year.’ You have to have the mindset of getting better.”
His sixth career Big Ten match Saturday at Nebraska comes in the state he dominated for four years of high school.
Although he grew up and lived in Council Bluffs, Gilman attended Skutt and was one of the most decorated wrestlers in Nebraska history, winning four state titles.
“He’s an Iowan,” Brands said.
Gilman said he expects quite a few friends and family at Saturday’s meet at the Devaney Center. His former high school has a dual before the NU-Iowa clash.
“But it’ll just be another match,” he said. “I’ll be a little more excited, but I’ll need to calm down and just wrestle. Give them a show there.”