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His first season at Iowa had gone off without a hitch. He redshirted and had a successful run on the Open tournament circuit including a title at the Kauffman-Brand Open. Seth was poised to start at 141 next year for the Hawkeyes.
Then one night it all came to an end for Seth Gross at Iowa.
"It was a couple days after my birthday, the season was over, the team was at NCAA's. A few of the guys were going out I was like 'I had a good year, I can go out.' I wasn't planning on drinking but I was going to go."
The best laid plans clearly went awry.
"We were just hanging out a group of 15 people maybe 20 a handful of wrestlers, me, Logan (Ryan), Ross (Lembeck) and three other wrestlers. In high school and my year at Iowa I really stayed away from drinking. I stayed away from it all year because I had goals to reach."
Gross details the beginning of his first of a series of mistakes he made that night, starting with drinking alcohol.
"I was like 'Fine, I'll drink a little bit.' Of course that's not how it worked out. I ended up drinking and got intoxicated pretty quickly. I actually fell asleep for a little while and when I woke up they were leaving. I was still pretty intoxicated and so was everybody else and we were getting ready to leave and the driver was still pretty intoxicated too. I was like 'we shouldn't do this, you shouldn't be driving drunk.' So we got out of the car and started screwing around outside. One thing lead to another and we ended up going out and we took things from different cars. Obviously none of us were in the right state of mind. I guess, one person followed another and things started to happen."
The foresight to avoid drunk driving initially snowballed into a confluence of life-altering poor decisions that ultimately cost Gross a roster spot at Iowa.
"We took things and one of us got chased by somebody and then the cops ended up coming when we were leaving. We were still intoxicated so somebody still ended up drunk driving and that's what we got out of the car for originally. It wasn't something we planned on going out and doing. It was something kinda spur of the moment with nobody in the right mindset with trying to do something to not drunk drive but ended up doing stupider crap."
Did Gross think it was all over?
"Oh yeah. The moment we got pulled over. I knew it wasn't going to be good. I got to the jail and they started interviewing us. We all kinda said we had nothing to do with it. We were hoping nothing was going to come of it. I was super scared, when I got out of the car and tried to run, I had never been in a situation like that before and it was my instincts taking over. So I got charged with something else for trying to run."
After the night of drinking, stealing and evading the police, Seth gross was tasked with making two of the toughest phone calls of his life. One to his parents, the other to Iowa Head Coach Tom Brands.
"They were two of the hardest phone calls of my life. Calling my parents was the hardest thing of all. They have raised me way better. Growing up I was trying to do the right things all the time. I tried to stay away from alcohol. Just knowing how disappointed they'd be in me. Honestly at that point I was like "I wouldn't be surprised if they disowned me at this point.'
"Calling coach sucked too but Logan had already told the coach because he didn't have to stay in jail that night. Still sucked having to tell him. We had to meet with him the day it came out in the news. With all the charges coming out, the press makes things sound a little worse than they are. Saying like we could have 30 years in jail and stuff like that. At that point I didn't know what i was going to do. I was pretty close to just leaving and not finishing up the school year."
All told, the trio of Gross, Lembeck and Ryan were initially charged with two counts of felony-level third-degree burglary, seven counts of misdemeanor-level third-degree burglary, two counts of conspiracy to commit a felony and one count of conspiracy to commit an aggravated misdemeanor. Additionally, Gross faced charges of having an open container, possession of alcohol under the legal age and interference with official acts. Gross leaned on family to get back on the right path in the wake of the legal troubles he was facing. Tom Brands dismissed all three wrestlers from the team. This put Seth at a major crossroads in regards to both school and wrestling.
"If it weren't for my parents and my aunt I probably wouldn't have gone back to finish school. I was going to try to get back on the team but my parents thought I needed a fresh start."
So where to next for Seth Gross? The Apple Valley, Minnesota product considered staying closer to home at the University of Minnesota. However, due to his impending legal situation, Minnesota nor UNI were able to give him that opportunity.
Despite not being able to compete at UNI, the Panther Head Coach Doug Schwab lent some valuable advice to Gross:
"Coach Schwab at UNI gave me great advice, he said: 'You've got two choices, you can let this situation ruin you and never come back from it or you can use it as motivation and it will be the best thing that ever happened to you.'"
Seth has been very public about his Christian faith, especially over Social Media. He has the handle @GodsWrestler141. Gross was open to discuss his faith and its evolution since his legal troubles up until now.
Gross caught grief for his actions. It was low-hanging fruit to view him as a hypocrite unable to live up to the standard many believe he set for himself and represented. Gross' current Twitter header photo seems to speak volumes about where he's at with his Faith and forgiveness:
I can't brag about my love for God because I fail Him daily. But I can brag about His love for me because it never fails.
-- Seth Gross (@GodsWrestler141) August 18, 2015
Gross addressed the criticism.
"People were like 'So much for being a Christian.' I tried my whole life to make the right decisions. The one thing I told myself is that i wasn't going to drink. I asked God, 'Why would you let this happen to me?' A few weeks later one of my good buddies passed away. At that point i was like 'really?' I didn't pray, I wasn't reading the Bible, I wasn't going to church. My mom and dad kept talking to me about it. They told me: 'He's got a plan for everything, You're gonna get through this.' It was hard to believe that with everything going on. My parents and aunt kept being there for me, and God never gave up on me."
The encouragement of his family lead Seth to a realization.
"God was trying to say to me, 'you can't be mad at me, you have to believe in my plan.' Eventually I was like you know, you're right. There are a lot of people who are dealing with a lot worse things than I am. I made a stupid mistake and it's something I'm going to have to use as motivation. This wasn't God's fault, I was the one that made a dumb decision. I started going to church, I started to pray more and that's when I started talking to other schools and that's when things started to open up. As soon as I found out I could wrestle here I knew God had a plan for me."
Things began to fall into place for Seth. Starting with a series of emails sent to many D1 programs. The Coach and program that showed interest right away was an up and coming program at South Dakota State, lead by Head Coach Chris Bono.
"The next few days I just reached out to as many schools as possible to see if I could get in anywhere. Within 20 minutes he had scheduled me to come down there a few days later."
Once on campus, Gross knew South Dakota State was the best place for him.
"Everybody here really wants to do well. Everybody's got a fire here. As soon as I got down here I just knew I could see myself succeeding. One of the biggest things about coming here was their schedule, they get to wrestle Iowa, go to Midlands, they have a tough schedule. The next day I told Bono I wanted to wrestle for him."
Recently, Gross also received a resolution with his legal case. All the charges had were misdemeanors and had been deferred. Essentially, if Gross is able to keep his nose clean, the charges will go away in two years.
Despite the legal troubles and a transfer, there is nothing that will prohibit from donning the SDSU singlet November 1st at the Daktronics Open in his home arena.
With a new fire having been lit, Seth clearly will be bringing tons of motivation into this new chapter of his career.
"Ive got a statement to make. I've gotta do it for all the people who believed in me, my parents, my aunt, God who stuck with me. I'm feeling really good and ready to go now. I'm excited. Especially for that Iowa meet."