American world finalist of the past 20 years? USA has had a handful of Men's FS wrestlers make it all the way to the finals, lose, and then never medal again. Who was the worst such man out of the bunch? Note: I didn't count Dave Shultz, NYAC, Manitoba Cup, etc. when looking at international titles.
Here's my list, but let me know if I missed anyone from 1997-2017!
Mike Zadick (2006 Silver, 2008 Olympian 60gk)
Pros: In the 2006 semis, Zadick beat 2x Olympic champ Batriov. In 2008 he lost to 3x medalist Fedoryshyn (2008 Silver). 2007 Pan Am Silver, lost to Quintana (2004 60kg Gold).
Cons: No international tournament wins. Went 0-2 (he got pulled into repechage!) in 2008 without scoring a point. 0-1 in 2007. 0-1 2010.
Bottom Line: Besides his one medal, Zadick was an olympian, made 3 World Teams, beat one 2x OC, and lost to some of the best in his prime (for whatever that’s worth). However, the multiple 0-1 appearances and no international golds don’t reflect well upon Zadick.
Jake Herbert (2009 Silver, 2012 Olympian 84kg)
Pros: In the 2009 finals, Herbert lost to 4x medalist Sokhiev, and in the semis beat world champ Gadizov (2014 Gold, 2015 Silver 97kg). 2012 he lost to Sharifov (2012 Gold, 2016 Bronze, 2011 Champ) and lost a controversially scored match in repechage to the Turk (no world medals). 2015 Pan-Am Silver, lost to 3x medalist Salas. 2011 Pan-Am Gold.
Cons: 2010 went 0-1, lost to Salas. 2011 didn't make the team behind Olympic champ Sanderson (2004 Gold, 2011 5th). 0-1 2015, lost to Sandro (2015 Bronze).
Bottom Line: Herbert also was an olympian with 3 world team appearances and multiple 0-1s. Herbert’s controversial (read “old-school FILA”) 2012 loss, and that he didn’t 0-1 at the Olympics, along with his Pan-Am Gold put him a notch ahead of Zadick.
Brandon Slay (2000 Gold*, 76kg)
Pros: In 2000, Slay beat the GOAT Saitiev (9x World/Olympic champ) 4-3, one of the two losses of Saitiev’s career.
Cons: *In 2000, he lost to Leipold (1994 Gold, 5x medalist) in the finals, but Leipold was stripped of his medals after testing positive. The 2000 Olympics was Slay’s only international competition of note.
Bottom Line: Slay only wrestled in one international tournament… but he beat the GOAT in the middle of his string of Olympic Golds. It may be his only quality win, but it’s the biggest win of anyone on this list.
Thomas Gilman (2017 Silver, 57kg)
Pros: In 2017 he made the world finals right out of college, losing to World Champ and current world #1 Takahashi. 2017 Spanish Grand Prix Gold. 2018 Pan-Am Silver.
Cons: In 2017, Gilman’s highest ranked win was against then world #17. On the other side of the 2017 bracket, #1 Takahasi beat the #s 2, 4 and 5 to get to Gilman. Lost to the #16 ranked Cuban, Ortega, at the 2018 Pan-Ams.
Bottom Line: Gilman has the least amount of quality wins of anyone on this list, but he’s still just 12 months out of college. Who knows where he’ll end up, but right now his dearth of quality wins really hurts Gilman.
Verdict: Thomas Gilman (2017 Silver, 57kg)
As a fan of Gilman and the Hawks, and as a former light weight, it pains me to say that Gilman is probably the worst USA world finalist of the last 20 years. His career is just starting, so he'll have a shot at multiple world teams and multiple medals in the future. But then again, people said the same things about Herbert and Zadick.