IOWA CITY — World champion Yuki Takahashi denied the crowd the win they were there to see, but the Japanese wrestler who defeated Iowa alum Thomas Gilman was won over by the crowd at the UWW Freestyle World Cup at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
"It was great, like a UFC fight, so good," Takahashi said shortly after beating Gilman 4-1 on Saturday in a rematch of the 2017 World Championship match in Paris.
Takahashi wasn’t the only one who noticed the energetic surroundings.
Jordan Burroughs and David Taylor appreciated the support they received while helping the United States dominate both of its duals Saturday, a 10-0 win over India and a 7-3 win over Japan.
"It’s an insane atmosphere. I’m a Husker fan, not a Hawkeye fan, but I love it here. The atmosphere is amazing. This place is the mecca of wrestling," said Burroughs, a former Nebraska wrestler who won Olympic gold in London in 2012 and a World championship in 2017.
Saying he was used to hearing jeers from the crowd when he ran into the arena while competing for Penn State, Taylor said he fed off the energy he felt from the crowd of 6,338.
"It was a different feeling. But, you know, they’re great fans here," he said after the second win of the day positioned Team USA to earn a spot in today’s 4 p.m. gold-medal dual if it can close out pool competition with a win over Georgia in a 10 a.m. dual today.
Burroughs called the experience Team USA has had in Iowa City over the past few days "amazing," pointing to the chance to have dinner at Dan Gable’s house, spend some quality time in a sauna with Tom and Terry Brands and listen to a few bad jokes after running into Iowa assistant Ryan Morningstar in a hallway.
Coach Bill Zadick’s team responded the hospitality with a dominating effort, recording technical falls in seven of its final eight matches against India and overcoming an early deficit against Japan by finishing off its win with five straight technical falls.
"It’s all about going out and wrestling to the best of your ability, being active and being aggressive," Zadick said. "Our guys were looking for opportunities and were willing to take some chances to get after it."
The United States had to rally after Japan won its first three matches against the U.S.
Gilman picked up the match’s first point when Takahashi was called for passivity, but the reigning world champ took advantage of missed shots by Gilman to score a pair of takedowns in the second three-minute period to earn the win.
"I felt like I was moving him more than the other time I wrestled him," Gilman said. "I wanted him to feel me, and he didn’t like that in the first period. The three times I shot, I was in there to score."
Never into moral victories, Gilman conceded he may have made progress in defeat, and Takahashi didn’t dispute that.
"He has a lot of stamina and power. In a way, we’re very similar, but we have two different styles of wrestling," Takahashi said through an interpreter. "This time, his weak points were much better. He attacked my weak points. You can see he studied us this time."
The United States started the day with a 10-0 victory over India that included a 6-4 win by former Northern Iowa wrestler Joe Colon over Sandeep Tomar at 134 pounds.
The Clear Lake, Iowa, native overcame a 4-0 deficit after the first of two periods to win, using a takedown and turn to tie the match before scoring a deciding takedown.
"Down 4-0, it’s a dual, and I’ve got to find a way to win for my team. That’s what this is about," Colon said.
On a personal level for Colon, it was a chance to be part of Team USA and wrestle in his home state.
"I’ve been here when I was younger to watch Iowa, and it meant a lot to get to come here and wrestle on my sport’s biggest stage," he said. "Right now, this is as big as it gets, and to help our team win a dual in the World Cup, that’s a pretty special feeling."
Zadick inserted Colon, Hayden Zillmer and Dom Bradley into the lineup against India, giving the Midwest natives on the Team USA roster a chance to wrestle close to home.
"It was good to get them some experience in this type of an event in a part of the country where they grew up," Zadick said. "They’re an important part of our team."