Match Breakdown: Ehan Lizak vs Thomas Gilman
There isn’t a ton of wrestling going on in the world right now, and film junkies like myself have just been relegated to scrolling through YouTube and rewatching old matches. So, I recently came across an unsung gem of a match I’d like to break down today. During their respective careers, Thomas Gilman, of Iowa, and Ethan Lizak, of the University of Minnesota, consistently proved they were at a level many 125 pounders simply couldn’t meet.
This is one of my personal favorite matches to study, simply because it is a showcase of each wrestler’s strength: “The Backpack” was in prime form that night, and Gilman as always came to scrap, and showed all the fans that he also has incredible heart, fighting back from an eight to two deficit to pin the opposing national finalist. Keep in mind: this doesn’t reflect poorly on Lizak. These are both Fanatic Wrestling athletes, and they are both at the highest levels of the sport.
The display of technique is way more important to me than who won and who lost, as it should be to you. Ethan Lizak and Thomas Gilman also both have instructionals with Fanatic Wrestling, like The Backpack System, and with Thomas Gilman, Relentless Collar Tie Offense. Pick both up and become a true hammer, both on the feet and neutrally. Now, the match:
An underspoken aspect of collegiate wrestling is the three minute first round. It’s the longest matches go in wrestling, and the conditioning of both athletes is paramount. Gilman is you quintessential Hawkeye, in that he comes to scrap and he is full throttle every second. Which is why it may be of surprise to many that Lizak scores the first takedown of the match. Known for his ridiculously tough top riding, Lizak’s takedowns are an underrated part of his game. Setting up a single leg during a wirst exchange, Gilman had a solid defense going. He had a secured wrist on the inside, he had a whizzer, and his hip was far away. But Lizak finishes by chasing the heel and angle to get the first takedown. A difference I consistently find between Iowa wrestlers and other schools is they are excellent at staying on their feet.
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After Lizak starts circling for a go behind, Gilman immediately is on his feet. It wasn’t enough unfortunately as Lizak gets a cross body hook in and scores as he drops to a double and the match goes out of bounds. 2-0 Lizak, they reset at the center. 16 seconds of riding time for Lizak, a vital point for any match he’s in. As the period begins, Gilman’s initial standup is halted as Lizak uses one of his best techniques: a tight waist and underhook to set up a leg ride.
Gilman catches a leg and beings to defend, but the unique grip allows Lizak to keep both legs in, and he brings Gilman to the tight waist side to tilt and scores 2 back points. Gilman now bellied out, Lizak has both hooks still and riding time is rapidly accumulating. Gilman sits out, tries to catch a wrist, but as Gilman brings his hips back on he gets hooks once more, double underhooks this time, and pulls Gilman’s shoulders away from his hips to bring him back for more near fall. This time scoring four points, he keeps his hooks in and Gilman just can’t shake him off. The first rounds ends 8-0, with Lizak also having over two minutes of riding time, so essentially 9-0.
Lizak picks top to begin the second round, to the surprise of no one. He again beings to set up with a tight waist and underhook, as Gilman sits out and focuses on defending the legs coming in. Lizak gets to his feet, and circles before attempting to pull Gilman into his hooks. Gilman tries to catch the head, but Lizak rolls over and Gilman is once again bellied out with Lizak secure with both legs hooked. As they set up once more after a stalemate, Gilman gets to a quad pod as Lizak dives to get the underhook and leg in.
Now with a spiral ride, Gilman is in a quad pod again and trying to clear the wrist. Gilman, again with that uncanny ability to stay on his feet, catches a wrist as Lizak goes for a claw ride, is about at his feet when Lizak drops to a single leg, and holds on before a stalemate resets them.Gilman makes a great adjustment during the next exchange: He sits out, then gets his hips higher than Lizak’s. This lets him slip out of the hooks, as he gets a go behind to score the reversal, the match now 8-2 as the clock runs down to the third.
This is probably my favorite two minutes in wrestling. Gilman is down 8-2, with many thinking he’s about to lose his number 1 spot in the country, and he naturally picks neutral to begin the third. He needed a master class to pull this one off, and boy did he show up. At the whistle, Gilman briefly collar ties before stepping outside and securing a single leg. Lizak whizzers hard, and as Gilman stands up tries to dive for the legs and roll through, but Gilman’s hips are in the perfect spot to avoid disruption and he scores. Gilman stands and begins to let Lizak up.
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Gilman collars hard as Lizak faces him, this time taking a sweep single to the lead leg. As Lizak gets his knee outside to defend, Thomas just whips him down to the mat, following the momentum and scoring again. You can see the momentum gaining. This is Gilman’s territory, and he leaves the mat wrestling to the side as he cuts Lizak loose yet again. Lizak shoots, but Gilman is flowing beautifully and gets a go behind without much of a scuffle. This next sequence is the epitome of Iowa wrestling in my mind. In the space of about three seconds, Gilman: collars, fakes a single, attempts a go behind and finally circles into an underhook, securing a cow catcher and eventually the fall. From 8-0 to pinning one of the toughest mat wrestlers the NCAA has ever witnessed. That is pace and a half from Thomas Gilman.
The strengths displayed by both men in this match are just more reasons to learn from them. Gilman scored every time (save for a reversal) from his collar tie. Lizak’s backpack system was on full display, as he racked up a whole 8 points, in the first period, against the number 1 ranked wrestler in the country and an eventual world medalist. Pick them both up today, and you’ll be dominating in the most punishing areas of the sport.