Mission complete: Kyven Gadson pins his way to a national title

Iowa State’s Kyven Gadson celebrates his pin on Ohio State’s Kyle Snyder in the 2015 197-pound NCAA Championship. Gadson is set to face Snyder for a spot on the 2019 US World Team at Final X. David Scrivner / Iowa City Press-Citizen

Beau Berkley

There’s one particular moniker that has followed Kyven Gadson throughout the wrestling season. ISU coach Kevin Jackson first coined it back in November during media day and his teammates said it after every dual meet in which Gadson won his match — which was all of them.

ESPN broadcasters continued the trend during all of Gadson’s matches at the NCAA Tournament this past weekend.

“Kyven Gadson is a man on a mission.”

Well, mission complete.

Gadson pinned Ohio State’s Kyle Snyder (30-3) Saturday night in the second period to become the 197-pound national champion. The bout was close with not much offense until Gadson hit his signature move. Emphasis on the “signature.”

“I didn’t really commit to anything until I saw that move show up,” Gadson said. “And coach Jackson calls it ‘the Gadson’ [because] you don’t see anybody hitting it. He said you have to hit it on the big stage for it to really stick.

“Yeah, I think it’s going to stick.”

Reaching the pinnacle of collegiate wrestling has been a dream Gadson and his late father, Willie, began working for when Gadson first began getting serious about wrestling. Achieving goals is never easy, and it certainly has not been easy for Gadson.

To put it bluntly, Gadson has been to hell and back on his way to getting his hand raised under the lights at the Scottrade Center.

Gadson’s long, painful road to becoming a national champion is one that is well known. After blowing out his shoulder in his first match as a Cyclone in 2011, Gadson would be forced to sit out the entire season and would later undergo two surgeries. Just a few months later in March 2012, Gadson learned that Willie had been diagnosed with stage four lung and bone cancer, which would take his life a year later. 

After his sophomore season, Gadson walked into Jackson’s office and said he was done wrestling. But Saturday night, as Gadson leaped into the arms of Jackson backstage at the Scottrade Center, both donning grins wider than the St. Louis Arch, that meeting seemed as distant of a memory as Gadson’s first match.

But even after climbing to the top of the college wrestling mountain, Gadson was able to sum up the feeling of becoming a national champion to ESPN’s Quint Kessenich in one simple sentence.

“I just want some ice cream, man.” Gadson said.

Gadson’s career has come to an end, and aside from dipping in to a few frozen desserts or two, he has big plans for his future that go beyond the wrestling mat.

The sport he and his dad bonded over also served as a vehicle for his education, of which Gadson is taking full advantage. He is currently working on his master’s degree in higher education leadership with aspirations of becoming an athletic director, just like his mentor and current ISU associate athletic director David Harris.

Gadson said he hasn’t completely ruled out the possibility of wrestling internationally, but he has time to figure that out. For now, all of that can wait.

Gadson has some basking to do, both in the realization of his dream and potentially in a quart of Baskin Robbins. He has time to soak in everything with his teammates, friends and family, knowing that all of the hard work that he and Willie put in over the years paid off in more ways than one.

” I think my dad would be proud of me. He would be real happy,” Gadson said. “You did it, Boo. That’s what he would say.”

“You did it, Boo.”