Seth Gross made South Dakota State history last year when he became the first athlete to earn an individual Division I national title for the school at the 2018 NCAA Wrestling Championships. This year, the 133-pounder returns, and he's aiming to add another title to his name in his final year as a Jackrabbit. Gross has become a leader in the South Dakota State wrestling room over the course of his three years with the program, and we caught up with the returning national champ to talk about drive, his goal-setting process and what he hopes to see from his team this year.
Here's everything you need to know about Seth Gross's wrestling mentality, in his own words.
What his mindset was like before wrestling in the national finals:
I think one thing that helped me is that I had been there the year before, and it’s definitely a little bit scary and different. I’ve been at state tournaments, but nothing really compares to that NCAA atmosphere, and nothing really has that many eyes on the wrestling mat, so it’s definitely a little bit nerve-wrecking. But what I started doing is going out there and blocking everything else out, and it’s just me and that other person out there, and just focusing on the wrestling match out there. You can’t let outside factors affect you, and I really focused on that going out there this year. I think that’s something that is kind of hard to do when it’s that many people, that many people yelling and cheering and everything, every time someone scores you have 'oohs' and 'ahhs,' different things like that, and it’s hard to block it out, but you’ve got to otherwise it’s going to impact your wrestling.
How he defines his wrestling style:
I’m pretty relentless when I wrestle, just going after guys; I’m hard to score on. I’m going to wrestle through every position, maybe somebody gets two, maybe not, but I’m just going to keep wrestling. You can take me down, and I’ll be up and out, trying to score again. I’ve really focused in college wrestling on my top wrestling, and I think that definitely helps me out in a lot of matches. If you can get on top, you can get a turner and get some back points, that kind of thing. That’s one thing I’ve really worked on over the summer, just adding things to my top game. People are going to start adapting and learning, so I just need to keep adding things to what I do, just keep adapting and wrestling through positions.
Which opponent he’s most excited to compete against this year:
It’s always the next one. It’s not someone in particular. I love wrestling and getting out there, and every time you go out there, you learn something new. I’d say there are some younger guys that I haven’t wrestled yet, or they’re coming up to 133, that I’m excited to wrestle, but nobody in particular. I want to go make World teams and Olympics teams, and so I think that I’m just focusing on getting better right now and focused on pushing myself and that will help me reach those goals later on.
Why he writes down his goals:
I love writing my goals down. I’ll be sitting in class and writing my goals down every day, just little things everywhere I go. I have them put up on my locker, put up on my wall next to me in my bedroom. I like having my goals in front of me, it makes it easier to keep yourself accountable to things. It also helps other people keep me accountable, so the coaches know what I’m trying to do. If they see me slacking, they can call me out on it and say, 'That doesn’t match up with what your goals are.' So I write it down as much as I can and tell them to myself every day. You know, one big thing for me is telling myself I’m a 2019 national champ, I’m a 2019 world champ, and just training that every day because you have to talk it into reality, and just make things happen like that.
How the team has developed at South Dakota State over his three years:
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Just guys are buying in, just a lot of improvement from these young guys because they come in, and you might not have expected much out of them. Maybe they weren’t the most talented, maybe they weren’t the strongest guys, but now we see these guys shaping into something, and that’s really cool. It’s those guys that just bought in and decided, ‘I’m going to do what the coach says, I’m going to do extra, I’m going to do everything right.' My freshman year, my sophomore year at South Dakota, a lot of guys quit, and it’s those guys that stuck around and kept doing things right that are now starting to see a little bit of success, and I think that’s going to show this season. I think our team is definitely the underdogs in a lot of our duals compared to where we were at last year. We are a young team now, but the way we’ve been working and moving forward, it’s going to be awesome.