By Roger Moore
Special to the Register
STILLWATER, Okla. – Thomas Gilman knows a thing or two about tough competition.
On almost a weekly basis during the past nine months, the Council Bluffs native has seen the likes of Iowa teammates Matt McDonough, Tony Ramos, and Cory Clark. Likewise for fellow freshman Sammy Brooks, who battled daily in the workout room during a redshirt season.
Those workouts certainly proved advantageous for both this weekend at the 2013 U.S. Junior World Team Trials as Gilman and Brooks each claimed titles to qualify for the Junior World Championships in Bulgaria this August.
Gilman swept Nathan Tomasello in the best-of-three Championship Series to claim top honors at 55 KG (121 pounds). The four-time Nebraska state champion for Skutt Catholic beat Tomasello in the finals of the FILA Junior Freestyle Nationals to immediately advance to Sunday’s finals where he won 6-1 and 7-2 in two six-minute bouts.
“It is mentality more than anything, especially being in the Iowa room,” said Gilman. “I’ve improved exponentially over the last year. Last summer I was getting my butt kicked left and right, but now I am scrapping. It’s crazy how much you improve when you have those workout partners.
“Wrestling McDonough, Ramos, and Ballweg last summer I was just trying to stay off my back. Now, if I’m not at least exchanging takedowns then it has been a bad practice.”
Brooks, sporting a full head wrap and battling some nagging injuries, beat teammate Alex Meyer in the Challenge Tournament 84 KG (185-pound) final, then swept Victor Avery, a sophomore at Edinboro who won the Junior National title in April, 6-0 and 9-4, in the best-of-three.
“I was working through a couple of injuries, so (Sunday) was about being tough and doing what I had to do,” said Brooks, who wrestled six matches. “Now it’s about getting ready for the Worlds.”
Like the Seniors the two previous days, most Juniors, including Brooks, like the new rules.
“I think they benefit (Iowa’s) style,” said Brooks. “I say whatever makes it more interesting. I like these rules a lot more, maybe make the technical fall a little more maybe. But they are better.”
Junior Nationals champion Kyle Snyder swept Southeast Polk’s Willie Miklus in the 96 KG (211.5-pound) best-of-three final. Miklus redshirted his first season at Missouri in 2012-13. Iowa’s Nathan Burak, a freshman 197-pounder in 2012-13, advanced to the Challenge finals, but was pinned in the closing seconds by Miklus.
Iowa State recruit Adrian Cordova, a Junior Nationals champion, lost two straight to Ethan Lizak in the best-of-three finals at 50 KG (110 pounds) to finish second.
Southeast Polk’s Nolan Hellickson picked up a technical fall to open his day, but lost to Lizak in the Challenge Tournament final. Northern Iowa’s Dylan Peters, a Denver product, also advanced to the Challenge finals, but ran into Tomasello at 55 KG.