A career of growth on the mat took Lansing High wrestler Carson Rhoads north to Storm Lake, Iowa, at Buena Vista University, an NCAA Division III institution.

So far, it’s been quite entertaining and frustrating since arriving in Iowa.

“Early in college, I definitely struggled with managing my time effectively,” Rhoads admits. “As a student, athlete and cadet in Army ROTC, I find myself very busy, so adjusting to this busy lifestyle and still trying to have time to myself and to socialize was difficult. Not managing my time well made it hard to excel in all areas.”

Rhoads still was able to get onto the starting mat for the Lions and earned his first collegiate win. He earned the Coach’s Choice Award at the team’s end of the year banquet which recognized hard work, doing things right and having a strong attitude.

But it wasn’t all peaches and cream.

“I struggled with a few classes, especially a few tests in my more difficult classes,” Rhoads said. “Additionally, fighting through the adjustments it takes to wrestle in a college practice room and not getting the results I wanted in competition. In high school, some of my highlights include qualifying for state twice and being chosen as a captain on the wrestling team.

“I expected college sports to be difficult and even wanted them to be and sure enough wrestling in college can wear you down at points. However, the highs and lows, struggles and success, create a remarkable and irreplaceable experience.”

Rhoads also realized that he would be going solo a lot more often than not.

“My rudest awakening was thinking that more would be done for you in college sports, or that you could depend on other people to almost help you do hard things,” he said. “I didn't even realize I thought like this until my freshman year was concluding. I then realized when it comes to reaching big goals, you are the one who has to put in the work in all ways, not discrediting all the support given by friends, family and teammates. Something easier than I expected was finding people I really enjoyed being close friends with.”

He also quickly learned how tough D3 wrestling can be.

“As far as Division 3 wrestling goes, I think the level of play is pretty high at Buena Vista,” he said. “My freshman class was the first year with our new coach, Jeff Breese, and we have made huge strides from where the program was just a few seasons ago. We have begun training almost all year round and are part of the IACC conference, which is considered one of the most difficult wrestling conferences in all of Division 3 wrestling by many people.”  

He also learned what it takes for high school athletes to succeed when moving up and at least how to make the transition smoother.

“It is completely essential for success in any capacity of college sports,” he said. “Some things that come to mind right away are work ethic, positivity and relentlessness. This seems cliché, but there are so many great athletes that I have seen quit college sports because things seemed too hard, or that things could only have negative outcomes.

“I think it is essential to push through those times because in the end the experience will be worth the struggles you may have gone through. ‘Know your why.’ When I say this I mean know why you are stepping on that mat, field, court or whatever and keep that in mind when things get tough because they will.”

Rhoads moves further on his collegiate career and puts Lansing more into his memory, but not before holding close the best lessons learned.

“Some points I remember specifically include winning and losing some big matches,” Rhoads said. “Including the wins it took to qualify for state my junior year especially and how wild the crowd went, and my parents and coaches waiting to congratulate me in the stands. Also, some amazing bonds of a great wrestling team. From working hard during practice and tournaments to all meeting up after competitions and just hanging out.”