Photo Credit: USA TODAY NETWORK
That is how long it had been for Cyclone Regional Training Center (C-RTC) wrestler Kyven Gadson since he last competed in a tournament. The 2020 Senior Nationals was not only a chance to get back into the competition but a chance to get back to a sense of normalcy.
“I was extremely, extremely excited,” Gadson said. “With these opportunities, you have a chance to grow. I wanted to take this weekend to learn more about myself and put myself in a different situation. Plus, I got to try out a new hairstyle. It’s the simple things.”
Due to COVID-19, it has restricted access to most gyms and workout partners. Gadson has been training in what he likes to call his “laboratory,” which is the basement in his home where he has a wrestling mat, a bike, and a few weights.
Senior Nationals was held at Xtream Arena in Coralville, where it was three days of competition between international-style wrestlers in the three Olympic categories (men’s and women’s freestyle and Greco-Roman).
To start the tournament in men’s freestyle, Gadson defeated No. 13 Nino Bonaccorsi 5-2 in the Round of 16 and then went on to pin No. 12 Eric Schultz to advance to the semifinals.
“I give myself a C-plus or maybe a B-minus,” Gadson said. “I felt like I gave full effort. It’s interesting because there are times where I walk out of tournaments where I don’t feel okay with my performances. I look back at like when I won the U.S. Open in 2017. I walked out of there a U.S. Open Champ, right? But I let my offense go, I didn’t get to my attacks, or I didn’t shoot. I looked back and wasn’t satisfied. It was frustrating for me. On Saturday and Sunday, I felt like I opened up a little more. Although I wasn’t able to finish the tournament with a Senior Nationals title, I feel okay with the effort that was put out and the information that was received so I can go make corrections and adjustments.”
With new challenges and obstacles that have come from eight months of a pandemic, it has also brought a new opportunity for Gadson to train his mind in ways he hadn’t been able to.
From adding new books to his reading list to spending time with a counselor, mental toughness has been a big area of focus for the C-RTC wrestler.
What stood between Gadson and the final rounds was facing Kyle Snyder, an opponent that had been a mental block in the past for Gadson numerous times.
It was just last August that Gadson had lost to Snyder at the Final X tournament. When reflecting on that specific loss, the 97kg wrestler ultimately put the blame on his mind not being in the right place.
“That’s my sole focus right now. I know everything else will take care of itself as long as I am in a place of freedom when I wrestle. When that happens, I will be fine regardless of results, regardless of the win/losses. If I get to a place of freedom when I’m wrestling, I’ll be in a really good place to accomplish my dreams,” Gadson said when discussing his performance at Final X last August.
His matchup with Snyder, however, was short-lived. Gadson held a 5-0 advantage when Synder suffered a lower leg injury during the match, which ultimately resulted in him being unable to finish the match.
Gadson was automatically in to the final rounds.
What stood out about the match wasn’t so much Gadson’s physical performance but how he mentally approached the match and how he felt walking out of it.
“I felt ready. I felt capable,” said Gadson. “I felt capable of competing to the best of my abilities. I felt capable of winning and competing at a high level. I feel secure in that. It’s just unfortunate Kyle (Snyder) was injured in the process and I hope he gets himself healthy.”
Gadson went on to lose in the final match-up to No. 3 Kolin Moore 12-5 to finish second overall.
Although Gadson wanted to walk out with a title, the chance just to get back on the mat and compete was almost enough in the grander scheme of things.
“It was unique in terms of preparing. But, it was also liberating,” Gadson said. “I got the opportunity to see myself and examine myself. I was able to look at myself and tap in on those goals and what I needed to do to get myself in a position to accomplish those things. I felt like I came out of this quarantine with a different perspective on what I need to be my best self.”
What’s next for the C-RTC wrestler?
World Wrestling Championships are set for Dec. 12-20 in Serbia. Gadson is just ready to take every opportunity that comes his way from now until then.