Hence the trip to Coralville. The 18-year-old Gunderson was placed in the junior division, where he faced players 17 to 20 – many of whom have previously competed in a collegiate manner.
“John wanted to come in, even though he was on the ‘young end’ of the junior division and wrestling kids – men – who were in their first two years of college,” Gunderson said. âUsually you improve a lot after a few years in college. We knew John probably wouldn’t be favored in one game, but he wanted to try.
âI didn’t feel any pressure,â John said. âI wanted to win at least one, but I didn’t really know how I would do against tough college guys and a lot of DI wrestlers. There was a lot going on, a lot of big names … but when I’m on the wrestling mat I kind of do what I’ve always done and just have to dump some tough matches.
Gunderson more than held his ground from May 1-2. He went 5-2 and took seventh place at 92 kilograms while taking on wrestlers from North Carolina, Minnesota, Illinois, Campbell, Cal Poly and North Carolina state, and pinning the lonely high school student he faced in 23 seconds.
âIt was crazy,â John said. âThere were a ton of guys there, and a lot of them were guys that I recognized from seeing on TV. My first game, I’m sure I wasn’t favored to win against a guy from Campbell … I was just a bit of an unknown high school student, but I won that first game right at the end.