A dream within reach: Kyven Gadson wrestles for national title


Courtesy of ISU Athletics

Redshirt senior Kyven Gadson lifts the leg of Iowa’s Nathan Burak. Gadson won the quarterfinal bout by 12-2 major decision. 

Beau Berkley

A young Kyven Gadson sits in his living room with his dad, Willie, and watches a video of himself wrestling. Kyven is just a boy, “hard-headed” as he puts it, and is not listening to his dad’s advice as they watch together. 

The video ends and Willie says, “This is Kyven’s first practice, and we have a long way to go, but we’re going to get there.”

Now, fresh off his victory against Duke’s Conner Hartmann and eyeing a Saturday night finals match against Ohio State’s Kyle Snyder that will decide the 197-pound NCAA Champion, Kyven Gadson is almost there. 

“I think tomorrow night is it, but I’ve got to finish it,” Gadson said. 

Through the first four matches of the NCAA tournament, Gadson has turned in several dominant performances. In the first round, Gadson scored a tech fall against Northern Iowa’s Basil Minto and followed that performance with a pin in the second round. 

Day two began without a hitch as well, as Gadson beat Iowa’s Nathan Burak by 12-2 major decision. The semi-final match with Hartmann has been Gadson’s closest match thus far, a 4-1 decision with two minutes and three seconds of riding time. 

Gadson’s opinion of his semi-final performance? Luke warm. 

“I thought tonight’s match went all right,” Gadson said. “Not enough offense on my part.”

The man that will lineup opposite Gadson tomorrow night is Ohio State’s Kyle Snyder, seeded No. 4 in the tournament. If this year’s NCAA tournament has proved anything, it’s that seedings don’t always dictate the outcome of the match, that’s apparent based on the 15 top five seeds that lost on the first day of competition. 

Snyder can attest, as he defeated No. 1 seed J’den Cox of Missouri, who was riding a 56-match win streak at the time, in the semi-finals. Snyder, who spent some time at the Olympic Training Center, has met Gadson only once before. The two faced off in December at the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invite and Gadson took that match by a narrow 3-2 decision. 

But what happened in December doesn’t matter anymore and the only thing that is for sure is that Gadson will attempt to become Iowa State’s 69th national champion in program history and for the first time since 2011, ISU coach Kevin Jackson will be able to sit in the corner of one of his wrestlers vying for a national title. 

The dream Gadson set out in pursuit for more than a decade ago is finally within his reach. His dad, who passed away in 2013, may not be here to see his son wrestle in the finals, but Gadson said he knows exactly what his dad would say to him:

“Finish it.”