AMES — Iowa State’s highest-ranked wrestler, Kyven Gadson, paused his Monday workout to field reporters’ questions.
“Man,” the gifted 197-pound sophomore said a smile,” those stairs.”
Gadson’s ascension as a top national contender — he’s ranked seventh entering today’s Big 12 Conference Dual Championships at Stillwater, Okla. (Update: Gadson won his match 6-5 but the Cyclones lost to Oklahoma State, 27-6) — has come despite tearing up both shoulders a total of four times in the past four seasons.
The talent was never in question, nor were the bloodlines.
His father, Willie, attained all-America honors twice as a Cyclone.
But injuries became a fact of on-the-mat life for the younger Gadson (20-2), so much so his seemingly unshakeable bedrock trait — confidence — began to show faint fractures.
“I was definitely not the most confident person when I was shaken up or what not with the injuries and everything that was going on with the family,” said Gadson, who won two state titles for his dad while at Waterloo East.
Willie Gadson was diagnosed with lung cancer last spring.
He’s been battling it ever since while remaining a source of strength for his son and countless other former and current Trojans he’s coached.
“He’s a fighter, that’s all,” Gadson said. “That’s all I know. I believe in miracles, so we’re just looking for one right now.”
Gadson tangled with what-if worries of phantom future injuries early this season.
A loss at Midlands showed him how far he’s come and hastened a mental metamorphosis — steeled to uncertainty, centered on dominance.
“I guess you kind of mature a little bit, you kind of just grow,” Gadson said.
The self-styled poet and avid Twitter user’s intent on crafting an epic this March.
That begins with three dual matches today and continues Saturday when a total of 19 NCAA Tournament bids are up for grabs.
It’s a grueling schedule the Big 12 finally adopted this season to mixed advance reviews.
“It’s something we have to do, something we have to embrace,” said Cyclone coach Kevin Jackson, whose team has won eight of its past nine dials. “It’s a tough deal. It’s a little bit like the Olympic Trials or the World Team Trials where you’ve got to be at a guy two out of three matches. That’s a tough thing to do, but our mentality is if you can beat him on Friday you’d better beat him on Saturday. And if you lose to him on Friday you’d better beat him on Saturday. So that’s kind of the mentality that we’re taking into the event.”
It’s not a new mindset to Gadson, who is a perfect 12-0 in duals this season.
Climbing ain’t easy.
Hand holds can give way.
But up he goes, fueled by the challenge — eyes fixed on the peak, feet firmly planted on the ground.
“I really don’t feel any pressure right now,” Gadson said. “It’s fun again, so I don’t feel the pressure. I’m really not worried about any of it. There’s bigger things.”
The following video feature on Gadson was done by Cyclones.tv‘s Johnnie Jindrich.
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