- 2015 – Earn his Bachelor's Degree from Iowa State in Child, Adult and Family Services – oh, and become the NCAA wrestling champion at 197-pounds.
- 2016 – Compete and medal at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio.
- 2017 – Graduate from Iowa State with a Master's Degree in School Education.
Gadson's 2015 goals are already a reality, and as a second-year Master's student, he's well on his way to checking the 2017 box. Now it's a matter of making real the crème in the OREO cookie. "I'm taking a leave of absence from college at the moment to pursue that dream," he said. "I want to become an Olympic champion."
For Gadson, he's always known that his dreams would launch in Ames, Iowa. "When did I know I wanted to become an Iowa State Cyclone?" he said. "July 19, 1992 – the day I was born. My father wrestled at Iowa State in 1975 and '76. He was a two-time All-American, two-time conference champion. My mother also went to school here for her Master's Degree. My uncle went here and wrestled as well. I remember, it was 2004 – so I must have been 12 – when I told my dad I wanted to wrestle for Iowa State just like him."
While his father, Willie Gadson, pushed him athletically – "we spent a lot of time together in the wrestling room " – both of his parents kept his nose firmly planted in the schoolbooks.
"There was a huge academic push from both of my parents," he said. "My mom (Augusta Gadson) has a doctorate, so she's Dr. Gadson, and then my dad has a Master's. I remember when I was a freshman in high school, it was my first wrestling season. I came home with a C-plus in biology. I was one of a few freshmen in high school in biology. Now, C-plus, you might say is not that bad, but my dad didn't like that at all. He held me out the first half of the wrestling season. He said, 'If you don't take care of the academics piece, there's not going to be a wrestling piece.'"
Gadson hit the books, and re-earned his spot on the wrestling team. Eventually, the academics and the athletic came together to mold his character and establish a personal code that he feels will pay long-term dividends.
"Sacrifice and discipline," he said. "There's actually an acronym I made for myself that relates to wrestling and life. I like to say 'Be R.A.R.E.' The 'R' stand for relentless. That's what I like to be on the wrestling mat. And then in life, I want to be Accountable, Respectful and Effective. That's what I want to be. I live by that every day. I think wrestling has helped me form that character."
Gadson has become such a leader on campus that the Iowa State athletic department, in its official biography, describes the Waterloo, Iowa, native, as "one of the most influential student-athletes in the recent history of Iowa State."
"Iowa State's been – I don't know how to say it any other way, but it's been remarkable," he said. "Student Services – it's not about whether I'm an athlete or not. It's about who I am as a young man. When I was dealing with setbacks, different injuries, the death of my father (Willie Gadson passed of cancer in 2013, the day after his son won his first Big 12 Championship) yet still trying to get my schoolwork done, Student Services was amazing.
"One thing Iowa State does I think really, really well is that all the student-athletes, no matter if you are on a full ride or a walk-on, you can go to the Hixson-Lied Student Success Center and there are computers, free printing, free tutors that you don't have to pay for. And, for me, that is a big reason why I was able to become a successful scholar athlete."
As for those Olympic dreams?
Growing up, when I wrote down my goals, I'm pretty sure I skipped right to Olympic Champion," Gadson said. "That was and still is the pinnacle of wrestling. And just like (Iowa State Head wrestling) coach (Kevin) Jackson would say, 'When has anyone ever said they regretted working hard?'"