IOWA CITY — Kyven Gadson is like a kid in a candy store. Or, at least in Gadson's case, a kid in an ice cream parlor.
Gadson, a former national champion for Iowa State University, is busy preparing for the UWW Men's Freestyle World Cup this weekend at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. He is surrounded by some of the best wrestlers in the world, including Olympic gold medalist and three-time national champion Kyle Snyder, who just happens to be standing in Gadson's way to where he wants to go.
Jordan Burroughs. Logan Stieber. Thomas Gilman. Kyle Dake. David Taylor. Terry Brands. The best wrestlers and coaches in the country are all here, all working for one goal — bringing the World Cup title back to the United States.
Gadson is the backup 97 kilogram wrestler for Team USA behind Snyder. Gadson beat Snyder twice in folkstyle, including the 2015 NCAA final at 197 pounds. But Snyder has owned Gadson in freestyle, winning both matches. Gadson won't get a chance to wrestle Snyder for the starting spot. That will come later, on June 9 at the Final X in Lincoln, Nebraska.
This week, Gadson's focus is on getting better, soaking in knowledge from the world's best wrestlers and coaches, and preparing for every dual as if he will be starting.
This is what Gadson lives for.
"The biggest thing is having the opportunity to be around the best guys in the country and the best coaches in the country," Gadson said. "We have an opportunity as a team for this World Cup to show the world how good we are and build on that."
Gadson, a two-time state champion at Waterloo East High School, has been busy since graduating from Iowa State in 2015. He was the University Nationals champion in 2016 and last year won the U.S. Open, took third in both the Dave Schultz Memorial International and Cerro Pelado International and was second at the U.S. World Team Trials.
Gadson beat Snyder twice in college, but has not come close to beating the Ohio State senior in freestyle, losing 10-0 and 13-2. Gadson said the two get along as well as expected considering they are chasing the same goal and share the same dreams.
"We have a cordial relationship, a lot of respect for each other. But we don't have a lot of conversations," Gadson said. "We've wrestled four times. I won two in folkstyle and he's won two in freestyle. Now, we're both wrestling freestyle the rest of our lives. I hope in June I get an opportunity to wrestle him again. But for right now, I'm focused on preparing every day to take care of the details for every possible situation."
These days, Gadson makes his home in Ames, where he is a member of the Cyclone Regional Training Center. He is now joined by Nate Carr, a three-time national champion for the Cyclones back in the 1980s. Carr comes aboard as a coach for the club, adding to the excitement of the Cyclones' new coaching staff of Kevin Dresser, Mike Zadick, Derek St. John and Brent Metcalf, who just finished their first season at Iowa State. Gadson is glad to be a part of the resurgence of Iowa State wrestling.
"There are a lot of great college guys in there and senior-level guys," Gadson said. "I'm very excited to have Nate Carr back in town. That relationship goes back to my dad (Willie Gadson). My dad was the best man in Nate's wedding and Nate gave the eulogy at my dad's funeral. These coaches are doing everything they can to get the college program going again."
While Gadson's day to day schedule keeps him grounded, he still has some lofty goals for himself. Every day is another step closer to reaching his destination.
"I get up and eat breakfast, then get my daughter ready for school. I get in a workout, get some treatment, then go home and rest up for the next workout. Then I pick up my daughter from school, go home and have dinner, spend some good family time, then rest, recover and repeat," Gadson said. "I feel like I'm older and more mature this year. I understand myself better. I know what I need to do from a freestyle standpoint. I just have to go out and do it. I'm ready."