Clark, Gilman both have lineup spots


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It was a quick conversation. Heck, when Cory Clark talked about it, it sounded more as though he was simply told head coach Tom Brands that he was going to move up and wrestle at 133 pounds this year.

“I went up to him and said, ‘I’m thinking about going 133 this year.’ And he said, ‘That’s great,’ ” Clark said on Thursday during the Iowa wrestling team’s media day. “He was a little surprised and pretty happy.”

Of course, Brands was happy. Having Clark at 133 pounds allows Thomas Gilman to slide in at 125 pounds, giving Iowa a lethal one-two punch at wrestling’s lightest weight classes for the 2014-15 season.

Clark returns after earning All-American honors last season at 125 pounds. He posted a 22-4 record as a redshirt freshman en route to a fifth-place finish at the 2014 NCAA championships.

Gilman took a back seat to Clark a year ago when it came time for the Big Ten championships. He went 16-3 overall and won a 2013 Midlands title at 125 pounds, in which he beat now-two-time national champion Jesse Deglado of Illinois.

Brands said having both guys in the lineup is a good thing, considering both have both have the potential to not only earn All-American honors but to seriously contend for national championships. Gilman and Clark are both ranked fifth at 125 and 133, respectively, by Flowrestling entering this season.

“Clark came to us in June or early July, and it was basically a quick conversation,” Brands said. “It’s good, and I think it’s natural more than anything … so it works out well that way, and both those guys are super capable.”

Clark agreed with his growth being more natural. He noticeably struggled making weight at times last season, citing a lack of discipline. He said he’s smarter about his weight now but noted that wrestling up a weight relieves him the stress of making college wrestling’s smallest weight class.

But even more, having both him and Gilman in the lineup means any little rivalry the two had a year ago while the 125-pound spot was up for grabs is no more.

“There kind of had to be, a little bit,” Clark said. “We had that almost unintentional grudge toward each other.”

While Clark flourished in both the conference and national tournaments, Gilman was left to watch. After he won the Midlands, Gilman did not comment on whether he deserved to be the starter at 125 pounds.

Gilman said on Thursday he wouldn’t change how last year panned out, even though many Iowa fans were clamoring for him to start. After the New Year, he was ranked among the top five at 125 pounds by several national wrestling outlets.

“I wouldn’t change anything about last year,” he said. “It was good for my development as a person and mentality-wise. But there’s definitely a little less pressure. I can focus on what I need to focus on.

“Clark’s one of the best practice partners I have. He and I can go together without the underlying pressure. That’s off, but that said, last year was good for both of us.”

Gilman added, in the typical, confident Iowa fashion, that he and Clark are “better than [Matt] McDonough and [Tony] Ramos,” as a lightweight combination. That, of course, remains to be seen — McDonough and Ramos combined to earn All-American honors six times, take three national titles, and win more than 240 matches.

Still, both Clark and Gilman have an opportunity to help Iowa, ranked second by Flowrestling, win its first team national championship since 2010. In that year, both Iowa’s lightweights — McDonough at 125 and Daniel Dennis at 133 — made the finals of the NCAA Tournament.

There’s no question that both Clark and Gilman want to reach those heights, but March is more than four months away. Until then, their head coach would prefer if they not wait to assert their dominance.

“We’ve got to prove it every week,” Brands said. “And not just when we meet big dual meets head-on, but this weekend, next weekend, the weekend after that. And then just keep going.”

Follow @codygoodwin on Twitter for updates, news, and analysis about the Iowa wrestling team.

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