2020 Matteo Pellicone | UWW Ranking Series

Thomas Gilman vs Spencer Lee. Who Wins at the Trials?

Thomas Gilman vs Spencer Lee. Who Wins at the Trials?

Thomas Gilman just won a loaded Matteo Pellicone. Spencer Lee dominated at Senior Nationals. What could an Olympic Trials final look like between the two?

Jan 22, 2020 by David Bray
Thomas Gilman vs Spencer Lee. Who Wins at the Trials?
The Iowa Hawkeyes have produced legendary lightweights for generations, and they're still at it. Currently, World silver medalist Thomas Gilman and two-time NCAA champion Spencer Lee could be considered to be the top two contenders for the Olympic Team spot at 57kg. So who would win if the two met in the Olympic Trials finals?

Unlock this article, live events, and more with a subscription!

Get Started

Already a subscriber? Log In

The Iowa Hawkeyes have produced legendary lightweights for generations, and they're still at it. Currently, World silver medalist Thomas Gilman and two-time NCAA champion Spencer Lee could be considered to be the top two contenders for the Olympic Team spot at 57kg. So who would win if the two met in the Olympic Trials finals?

Thomas Gilman Is Back

Thomas Gilman's silver medal at the World Championships in 2017 was the first US medal at a World Championships or Olympic Games since Henry Cejudo's gold in 2008, but Gilman lost two of three matches to Daton Fix at Final X Lincoln and did not represent the US in 2019.

Last weekend, Thomas Gilman took home gold at the Matteo Pellicone with wins over 2019 US World team member Daton Fix in the semifinals and 2018 World bronze medalist Joe Colon in the finals, suggesting that he could once again be the man to beat at 57kg.

Gilman's win over Fix was a 2-1 match without any points in the second period. The difference in that bout was a two-point exchange from a Gilman single-leg that came at the end of the first period. Gilman's solid positioning prevented Fix from scoring on any of his attacks in the second period, which put Gilman in the finals over Colon.

null

Unlock this video, live events, and more with a subscription!

Get Started

Already a subscriber? Log In


In the Matteo Pellicone finals, Gilman had to come from behind after Colon scored a takedown late in the first period. Gilman got to his shot for a stepout point before using another single to score a takedown on the edge of the mat.

null

Unlock this video, live events, and more with a subscription!

Get Started

Already a subscriber? Log In


Spencer Lee's Dominance Is Startling

While Gilman's performance in Rome was impressive, Spencer Lee was head and shoulders above the field at Senior Nationals which only built on his reputation as the greatest senior-level prospect the US has seen in years.

Before his career as an Iowa Hawkeye, Spencer Lee was famously a three-time age-level World champion. With two NCAA titles in his first two tries, Lee's senior-level debut was met with great anticipation last month.

Lee did not disappoint at Senior Nationals. He outscored his opponents 52-6 and took home the title in a bracket that included six NCAA champions.

Lee's closest match was his 8-2 title bout with Ohio State NCAA champion Nathan Tomasello, but even in that match, Lee was very much in control from start to finish.

null

Unlock this video, live events, and more with a subscription!

Get Started

Already a subscriber? Log In


The match where Lee gave up the most points came in the semifinals against Junior World silver medalist Vito Arujau, who was better than Lee in a couple of positions but still lost by technical superiority 14-4.

null

Unlock this video, live events, and more with a subscription!

Get Started

Already a subscriber? Log In


Which Hawkeye Wins in April?

Lee and Gilman both topped impressive brackets, which sets up an intriguing potential matchup between these two Hawkeye Wrestling Club members.

When comparing the two, the first thing that stands out is each guy's point differential against domestic competition. We have only seen five senior level freestyle matches from Spencer Lee, but he's averaging 10.4 points to his opponents' 1.2. Gilman's results are more expansive, but between the 2019 US Open and the Matteo Pellicone, Gilman averaged 5.92 points against domestic competition while his opponents averaged 2.92.

Lee's 9.2 average margin of victory clearly dwarf's Gilman's, which is 3. This suggests that Lee has the edge when it comes to offensive output. Gilman apologists would be justified in pointing out that Gilman has faced a stiffer level of competition than Lee did in his five senior-level matches.

The two guys Gilman beat in Rome — Fix and Colon — have accomplished more on the senior level than anyone other than Gilman in the US Olympic Trials field. Fix made a world team in 2019 and Colon won a bronze medal at the 2018 World Championships. Considering that six of Gilman's last 13 domestic matches have been against these two, it makes sense that his margin of victory might look small compared to Lee's.

Another factor in the intrigue of this matchup is the familiarity that Gilman and Lee have developed with one another over the years they've spent in the Hawkeye room. Both Lee and Gilman alluded to this familiarity in their post-tournament interviews after Senior Nationals and the Matteo Pellicone, respectively.

Bray's Pick: All of this makes a potential Lee vs Gilman match one of the most fascinating prospective matches of the entire Olympic Trials. While there are data points that suggest that either guy is capable of winning this match, I'll take Spencer Lee's offensive output even though Gilman has better senior-level wins. I am certainly not confident about this prediction, and I hope we get the chance to see this matchup in April.