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Leading up to the 2020 Olympic Trials that were set for State College, PA, at the beginning of April, multiple Hawkeyes were making headlines in their quest for a spot on the national team.
The Olympic Games were set for later this month in Tokyo. Then COVID-19 happened, and after it led to the shutdown of the NCAA Championships in late March, it pushed the international event back one year.
So, instead of taking a look forward to 2021, to when the dreams of a Spencer Lee vs Thomas Gilman trial match may or may not become a reality, it’s worth looking back on the Hawkeyes who have competed – and prevailed – on the Olympic stage and how some of them could help Lee get to where he wants to go.
The Hawkeye’s most dominant showing at the Olympics came in 1984. The United States took home nine medals in the freestyle portion of the event, seven of them gold. Four Hawkeyes represented the team that year and all took home medals.
Randy Lewis and Ed and Lou Banach earned gold medals at 62kg, 90kg, and 100kg, respectively, while Barry Davis earned silver at 57kg. The first Hawkeye wrestler to ever win the gold medal at the Olympics was Terry McCann in 1960.
The most notable names, however, for 2021’s sake, come in three big names for the current Hawkeyes: Tom Brands, Terry Brands, and Daniel Dennis.
Tom Brands was the first of those three to make his mark on history and is the fifth and last Hawkeye wrestler to win a gold medal at the Olympics. In Atlanta 1996, he dominated his opponents and took home the final match against Korea’s Jang Jae-Sung with a 7-0 victory.
His brother followed as one of the two last Hawkeyes to medal at the Olympics. Terry Brands and Lincoln McIlravy both took home bronze medals in Sydney 2000, and no Hawkeye wrestler has earned one since.
Now, Terry Brands is a big name when it comes to Lee. In 2005 he joined USA Wrestling as a National Freestyle Resident Coach and worked with both Olympic and World champions in 2008. In late Dec. 2019, he traveled to Texas and was in Lee’s corner when he won the 57kg bracket to qualify for the trials.
The newest coach of the Hawkeye Wrestling Club, Dennis, isn’t too far removed from his wrestling days. He was the last Hawkeye to compete after beating another former Iowa wrestler, Tony Ramos, to win the trials and earn the 57kg spot for the 2016 Games. And no, the comparison between those two and Lee and Gilman isn’t lost on anyone.
Since the first showing of a Hawkeye wrestler in the Olympics in 1928, 18 have earned a spot on the Olympic team and together they own five gold medals, one silver and three bronze.
Now, there’s a chance to tack on a few more to that list in history. Current Hawkeyes Lee and transfer Jaydin Eierman will both be vying for a spot on the national team while working towards NCAA titles and Iowa’s first NCAA team title since 2010.
Anna attended the University of Iowa, where she covered multiple sports from volleyball to football to wrestling. She went to Pittsburgh in March 2019 for the NCAA DI Wrestling Championships and did live coverage of the entire event and Spencer Lee’s second-straight NCAA title. Follow her on Twitter.