By Taylor McNitt
Thomas Gilman and Cory Clark are two big names in the history of Iowa wrestling.
They’re also two of the many names that won’t be showing up on the roster this season. That leaves a lot of questions for the program.
“The great thing about college athletics is when you have a lot of unknowns,” head coach Tom Brands said. “There’s not really a franchise player who’s going to be there for a decade. We’re excited about that, there’s a lot of exciting things for fans to be paying attention to and looking toward, but it’s also about a lot of unknowns.”
“A lot of unknowns” is just about the best way to describe a program that lost five All-Americans, two of whom were key leaders.
Gilman redshirted his freshman year, wrestled in the 125-pound slot for the next four competitive seasons to post an overall career record of 107-12.
By the end of his senior year, he won a Big Ten title and placed third at NCAAs. He went on to take home a silver medal at the World Championships in Paris this past summer.
Brands even tagged him with his own slogan: Stay clear while machine in use.
The loss of Clark is no less of a sting for the Iowa wrestling program.
Clark also redshirted as a freshman and went into the next four years with a bang. He started out competing with Gilman for the 125-pound slot but eventually moved up to 133 and was a Big Ten runner-up and NCAA champion his senior year. His overall record was 98-15.
The two gave Iowa a great lightweight pairing and helped each other catapult to the top of the rankings and become the leaders Iowa wrestling was looking for.
But with those two leaders now gone, Iowa is left looking for others to step up and fill the big shoes.
Brands, confidently reflecting on his team, already knows who’s taking the torch: senior Brandon Sorensen and sophomore Michael Kemerer.
“I think it’s a role that got handed down to me, so I’ve got to take it seriously,” Kemerer said. “I knew even last year because we were losing a lot of guys, so I tried to focus a lot of time on watching how guys like Thomas Gilman, Sam Brooks, Cory Clark, how those guys lead and then bringing that into this year. So I have that expectation, but at the same time, those guys have had a lot of success, so people are looking toward us. It’s just something that happened naturally, and we assumed that role. We’ve just got to move forward with it.”
They have no choice but to move forward. With Clark and Gilman moving on from college wrestling, the team needs to take the next step.
The outlook hasn’t painted Iowa too positively, but the wrestlers are determined to turn that notion upside down and prove themselves.
“I wouldn’t say it’s a rebuilding year,” Sorensen said. “We have a lot of good things here, we have a lot of good things going, so let’s show them what we’ve got. We have good leaders — that’s me and Kemerer.”