Before Kyven Gadson left for Las Vegas, before he stormed through the field to win another U.S. Open crown, he got a small message of encouragement from his daughter.
“We sat down to eat on Tuesday, and she told me, ‘Dad, I don’t want you to think about me when you wrestle,’” Gadson recalled. “‘I want you to just think about wrestling.’ It’s so simple, but so hard.
“I think I did a good job of doing that in this tournament.”
Good job? Try great job.
Gadson, a former Iowa State wrestler, blew through his competition to win his second U.S. Open title in men’s freestyle on Saturday inside the South Point Arena. He went 4-0 to win at 97 kilograms (213 pounds), capped by a 5-0 win over Cornell’s Ben Honis in the finals.
Not only did Gadson not lose a match, he didn’t even surrender a point all weekend. The Waterloo native and Ames resident outscored his four opponents by a combined 35-0. He won his first three matches by technical fall, wherein he wrestled a grand total of 5 minutes, 22 seconds — or, less than an entire freestyle match.
In the finals, Gadson took on Honis, a 2019 NCAA All-American. He scored a quick takedown in the first period, then added another point after Honis failed to score while on the shot clock for a 3-0 lead. Gadson added another takedown in the second to secure a 5-0 win.
The victory pushes Gadson one step closer to making the U.S. men's freestyle world team. Up next for him will be the World Team Trials next month. His first-place finish this weekend automatically qualifies him for the best-of-three finals.
Win there, and he’ll advance to Final X again, where three-time world and Olympic champion Kyle Snyder awaits. A year ago, Gadson reached Final X and lost twice to Snyder. The former Ohio State superstar remains the hurdle Gadson hasn’t cleared during his freestyle career.
But if Gadson wrestles Snyder the way he did this weekend, he’ll give himself a chance.
► MORE WRESTLING COVERAGE FROM THE DES MOINES REGISTER
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Thomas Gilman falls to Daton Fix in U.S. Open finals
Thomas Gilman will have to work a little harder to get back on the world team.
Gilman, a former Iowa wrestler, fell in the U.S. Open finals at 57 kilograms (125 pounds) on Saturday afternoon. He lost to Oklahoma State redshirt freshman Daton Fix, 8-4, to finish second.
Prior to Saturday evening’s final, Gilman looked every bit like the version of himself that stormed to a world silver medal two years ago. He won four matches on Friday by a combined 44-4. None of them went the full six minutes.
Gilman did not find the same offensive success against Fix. The Cowboy led 2-0 after the first period on a pair of step-out points. He increased his advantage to 4-1 after an exposure early in the second. Gilman tied it, 4-4, but led on criteria after scoring a takedown plus another point on a failed challenge. Fix then scored two takedowns in the final minute to win.
Kudos belongs to Fix, who fell short of making the world team last summer because he couldn’t break through against Gilman’s defense. Gilman defeated Fix, two matches to none, at Final X last summer, then reached the bronze-medal bout at the 2018 world championships.
Saturday’s result ensures Gilman will not only have to beat Fix to get back on the world team, but he’ll have to go through the World Team Trials challenge tournament next month, too. He took that route two years ago and ultimately turned it into a world finals appearance.
We’ll see if he can conjure that same kind of magic next month.
Carr-Brands highlights Junior freestyle competition
The highlight of the Junior freestyle competition, at least from an Iowa perspective, came in the quarterfinal round, when Iowa State’s David Carr and Iowa’s Nelson Brands shook hands and wrestled.
The match itself was a treat, with Carr winning, 4-2. Brands led 1-0 early after he muscled his way out of a Carr shot near the edge, forcing Carr to step out. Carr then led 2-1 at the end of the first period thanks to a low-single shot and finish right at the buzzer.
In the second, Carr increased his lead to 3-1 on a step-out. Brands closed within 3-2 on a finger-locking call, but allowed another point after failing to score while on the shot clock. Carr took most of the shots, but Brands countered with some slick defense and took plenty of ground throughout.
For Carr, the result was one of six for him throughout the weekend, as he ultimately took first at 74 kilograms (163 pounds). The Cyclones’ blue-chip recruit outscored his opponents 56-18 this weekend, and set himself up to make the Junior men’s freestyle world team later next month. Doing so would add another line to Iowa State’s already successful 2018-19 calendar year.
For Brands, it was another example of his growth as a wrestler. After losing to Carr, he beat Harvard’s Phil Conigilaro, Oklahoma State’s Travis Wittlake, and Cornell signee Julian Ramirez on his way to third. Conigilaro and Wittlake were both ranked ahead of Brands in the final 2018 recruiting rankings. Ramirez is the No. 7 overall 2019 recruit, according to Flowrestling.
It’s conceivable that Brands and Carr could not only meet again at the Junior world team trials next month, but also multiple times over the next few years. If Saturday afternoon’s inaugural matchup told us anything, it’s that it’ll shape up to be a fun little rivalry.
Iowa’s Tony Cassioppi rolls to Junior heavyweight title
Iowa’s Tony Cassioppi made a habit of pinning his opponents during his redshirt season. He kept up his domination by winning the 125-kilogram (275 pounds) Junior national championship this weekend.
Cassioppi went 5-0 with two pins, two technical falls and one victory by forfeit. He outscored the opposition by a combined 36-0. He was on the mat for a grand total of three minutes and 34 seconds over the weekend.
This is the guy that, starting next season, will fill the void left by Sam Stoll. If Cassioppi also makes the Junior world team this summer, his expectations will only grow bigger.
Other Iowa, ISU, UNI results
- Cory Clark, fifth at 61 kilos
- Tony Ramos, sixth at 61 kilos
- Earl Hall, seventh at 61 kilos
- Brandon Sorensen, fifth at 70 kilos
- Pat Downey, champion at 86 kilos
- Sam Brooks, third at 86 kilos
- Iowa signee Abe Assad, third at 86 kilos
- Iowa redshirt freshman Connor Corbin, seventh at 92 kilos
- Iowa State redshirt freshman Joel Shapiro, fourth at 92 kilos
- Northern Iowa signee Parker Keckeisen, fourth at 79 kilos
- Northern Iowa freshman Tyrell Gordon, eighth at 92 kilos
- Alburnett grad and South Dakota State freshman Tanner Sloan, second at 97 kilos
- Northern Iowa signee Dayton Porsch, fifth at 67 kilos
- Gordon, fifth at 87 kilos
- Clarion-Goldfield-Dows senior Spencer Trenary, third at 130 kilos
Cody Goodwin covers wrestling and high school sports for the Des Moines Register. Follow him on Twitter at @codygoodwin.