Seth Gross has become one of the faces of South Dakota State’s wrestling program as a returning NCAA finalist and the No. 1 wrestler in the nation at 133 pounds.
Last season, the Jackrabbit put up an incredible run to the national podium, compiling a 34-2 overall record with an astounding 30 bonus-point wins. He also became one of the first Division I All-Americans for SDSU when he and teammate Alex Kocer recorded top-eight finishes at the national tournament in 2017.
Gross advanced to the NCAA finals last March in St. Louis, where he faced Cory Clark, an Iowa senior and the tournament’s top-seeded wrestler. Clark, a four-time All-American and two-time NCAA finalist, took the crown, claiming a 4-3 win over Gross.
Gross started his collegiate career at Iowa before transferring to Chris Bono’s emerging program, which added a little more drama to the match.
“It was heartbreaking and the worst feeling ever, but it’s helped me get to where I am now and really pushed me to take things to the next level with my training and my mentality,” Gross said. “There were a lot of takeaways from that match and it taught me to make sure I’m ready every time I go out there.”
Having had a national title so close within reach, Gross has kicked his competitiveness up a level and has produced a comparable season to last year.
“This year I came into it wanting to be a national champion,” he said. “I had a lot of bonus points last year so I want to pin everybody I wrestle. That was the game plan coming into the season. I haven’t pinned everybody but I have pinned a lot of guys and teched a lot of guys, so I want to keep that going.”
The Jackrabbit junior holds a perfect 15-0 record on the season with 14 of those wins coming with bonus points attached, including eight falls, five technical falls and one major decision.
His effort is positively affecting those around him, especially his teammates.
“His winning has basically established a culture in our program, and these guys look up to him,” SDSU head coach Chris Bono said. “He does a great job of mentoring these guys. His attitude, his hustle, his effort and the way he treats people is contagious. He’s been a great leader in the room for us.”
So far this season, Bono’s squad is 7-2 in duals and is ranked No. 15 in the country, which is the Jackrabbits’ highest ranking ever as a Division I team.
“We’re fired up,” Gross said. “We think we’re going to finish this year well and win all our duals. Being in the Big 12, it’s really taken us to the next level and helped us be more competitive. In the future, it’s going to help with recruiting. We can be a top-five team eventually. We’re just building right now.”
For Gross individually, he’s maintaining his No. 1 spot in the rankings while the rest of the 133-pound weight class seems to shift regularly.
“I just keep to my game plan and keep trying to dominate guys and separate myself from the field,” Gross said. “It’s been all over the place at 133. I’m always adding new things to my toolbox like little things on my feet that I can keep getting better at. I’m feeling awesome. I’m just focused on getting a little better each day. The end goal is March and I just want to be as dominant as possible and give the glory to God.”
After a runner-up finish last year and total dedication to his craft this year, Bono sees championship quality in Gross and expects a championship finish in March.
“He’s hungrier this year, so hopefully he’s in the same position come Saturday night at NCAAs.”