MINNEAPOLIS - Gable Steveson doesn’t just want to win championships, he wants to dominate. He wants to put on a show, and leave no doubt when it comes to who the best wrestler on the mat is.
The University of Minnesota junior did just that earlier this month in winning his second straight Big Ten title. Steveson beat highly-touted Mason Parris of Michigan in a 12-4 major decision. Steveson is the No. 1-ranked wrestler in the country at 285 pounds, and was named the Big Ten’s Most Outstanding Wrestler after the Big Ten meet.
He’s got extra motivation on a couple fronts this year. Steveson was set to compete in last year’s NCAA Championships at U.S. Bank Stadium, before they were canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. He heads to St. Louis, Mo., this week and is determined to not let anything stand in his way of being on top of the podium this weekend.
"Last year with it being canceled at U.S. Bank Stadium, in our own city, this year we’re all grateful to go out and compete at the NCAA Tournament. We’re going to have a great time," Steveson said. "I’m going to enjoy myself, soak it all in and do what I need to do at the end of the day."
He’s also still trying to prove people wrong. In June of 2019, Steveson was suspended from wrestling after he and a teammate were arrested on suspicion of sexual assault. He denied the accusations, and by December of 2019, Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman announced there would be no charges in the case.
Steveson was reinstated to the team and proceeded to win a Big Ten title in 2020. He’s now a two-time Big Ten champion, and looking for his first national title this week.
"It’s a lot of motivation to a lot of doubters out there, a lot of people that changed their minds on who I was as a person. Me being able to win this NCAA championship would mean the world to me and my family," Steveson said.
Gophers wrestling coach Brandon Eggum says he’s seen Steveson mature through the highs and lows, on and off the mat.
"Off the mat he’s been a phenomenal leader, I love the way that he’s led things as far as talks with the team and he’s a guy that carries a lot of weight with his words because of the way he attacks on the mat and the presence he has out there," Eggum said. "There’s nothing better than having a team led by an athlete at his level."
Steveson is 12-0 on the season, and 62-2 for his career with the Gophers. He’s the first Minnesotan to win multiple Big Ten titles since Tony Nelson won three from 2012-14. He’s also the 11th Gopher heavyweight to win a title since 2009. Nelson is now his training partner.
Steveson will be one of 10 Gophers competing at the NCAA Championships, and the other nine are appearing for the first time.
Will it be Steveson’s final time in a Minnesota singlet? Only time will tell. Soon after the NCAA Championships conclude, he’ll head to Texas for the U.S. Olympic Trials. After that, an opportunity with the WWE could present itself.
"The questions are all up in the air with that. I love the WWE, I love the organization and what they bring to the table. It’s going to be a hard process, it’s going to be a lot of opportunities for me to go through, but right now I’m sticking with staying here and staying active in the wrestling scene," Steveson said. "We’ll see what happens after the Olympics and we’ll go from there."
Not only does Steveson want to dominate, he wants to put on a show. Don’t be surprised if after a win, you see a shuffle or a celebratory back flip.
"It’s what I do, I try not to be a bad guy and a villain overall, but it’s just how I’ve been my whole life. I love entertainment and I love being able to put on a show for a lot of people every time I wrestle," Steveson said.
Eggum says Steveson has the ability to intimidate an opponent to the point where when he steps on the mat, the match is over. It remains the goal this weekend: Dominate, prove you’re the best, put on a show and pave a path to the Olympics.
"It’s about going out with the mindset of dominating, that’s first and foremost. Go out and dominate, separate more than you have. Then you put yourself on a path to win Olympic gold, and that would be his ultimate goal this year," Eggum said.