Thomas Gilman sits at his computer every night to work on his homework — at least that’s what he’s supposed to be doing.
Inevitably, though, the same scenario plays out. The mouse wanders from classroom subjects, the Iowa recruit from Carter Lake clicks on one of his bookmarked sites and the Junior National champion zones in on the best wrestlers around the globe, despite the academics-first demands of his mother.
“I have tabs open, so I just go back and forth,” Gilman said. “She doesn’t really know.”
Gilman is a new-age wrestler who grew up DVDs, smart phones, YouTube and the technological advancements to watch the sport anytime and anywhere. The wrestling generation before him banked on Iowa Public Television broadcasts and then hoped the VCR was set correctly and repeated use didn’t destroy the VHS tapes.
“IPTV wrestling was famous worldwide,” wrestling icon Dan Gable said. “Russians would have copies of that.”
Now Gilman, with a few taps of the keyboard and a click of the mouse, can study dozens of matches featuring his three favorite wrestlers — Russian greats Buvaisar Saitiev, Mavlet Batirov and Viktor Lebedev — and incorporate their holds into his arsenal.
“I definitely feel fortunate,” Gilman said. “(Wrestlers in past generations would) go to practice, learn from their coach and learn on their own, but that was about it. But with the Internet and Youtube, you can get online and type in Saitiev and all his matches come up and you can learn techniques from him.”
Technology is revolutionizing the sport on multiple levels. Wrestlers have more technical expertise than ever at their finger tips. Coaches can scout opponents or recruits without leaving the office. Fans are able to watch wrestling year-round without getting in a car or boarding a plane.
“You’re exposed to so much more — more ideas and more creative techniques,” Northern Iowa coach Doug Schwab said. “I can watch all the Russian Nationals now. To me, it gets me more excited about wrestling. If you’re a true fan and love the sport and want to keep soaking up knowledge, you’ll keep watching.”
There’s more to watch now than ever before.
Schwab and his brothers religiously tuned into the Iowa Public Television broadcasts growing up in Osage. He said they still have stacks of VHS tapes packed away somewhere, but that inventory of wrestling reference and entertainment now fits on a hard drive or a DVR.
The technological movement exploded in 2006 when Martin Floreani, fueled by an unfulfilling college career at Cal Poly, launched Flowrestling.com out of a ranch-style house on the east side of Austin, Texas. It was the first site devoted strictly to wrestling video.
“I wasn’t a good college wrestler by any stretch of the imagination,” Floreani said. “I had a lot of passion and energy and I really thought being around the right environment or knowing more, maybe I could’ve done more. I felt like there are probably a lot of people like that.”
Floreani couldn’t bring every enthusiastic high school wrestler to Tom Brands, John Smith or Cael Sanderson. Instead, he developed a site to bring the Olympic gold medalists into every home.
Floreani traveled around the country, sleeping in his conversion van to cut costs as he made stops on college campuses to interview coaches and gathered video at major tournaments and duals. Flowrestling went global in less than two years. The site covered the Beijing Olympics, World Championships in Azerbaijan, Turkey and Russia and now makes an annual stop at the Russian Nationals.
Other sites are following suit. In July, USA Wrestling launched TheMat.TV, an online video portal showcasing events across the country. Dozens of college programs extensively promote their programs online, including some that broadcast their dual meets on the Internet.
It’s filtering down to the high school ranks. Iowa City West webcasted duals and tournaments last season.
The technological advancements are making scouting easier than ever. A decade ago, Wartburg coach Jim Miller would’ve picked up the phone and called a colleague for a report on an unfamiliar opponent. Now he goes to the computer.
Miller went on a video search earlier this month when Wartburg’s Byron Tate received an invitation to wrestle in the NWCA All-Star Classic against Edinboro’s Chris Honeycutt.
“That’s who we’re looking for — and it’s not very hard to find,” Miller said. “You look up the guy and you’ve got half a dozen matches. You can do the same thing in recruiting.”
Gable said getting his hands on a recruiting tape was like discovering gold during his days as Iowa’s coach. He distinctly remembers when a tape of Bill Zadick matches arrived in the mail. He popped it into the VCR, watched a couple matches and knew the Montana prep was Iowa material without boarding a flight.
Those instances were rare 15 years ago.
“Before, you couldn’t hardly watch any wrestling,” Schwab said. “Now if there’s a kid I want to see, I punch him up and I can find at least a couple matches of him wrestling — almost every kid.”