Swan song? Gophers wrestler Gable Steveson could hang up college jersey after NCAA – Twin Cities

This weekend’s NCAA Wrestling Championships could be the end of heavyweight Gable Steveson’s career as a Gopher, and if so, he’s working to make sure he comes out with a bang.

Steveson is the undisputed favorite to win his first national title at the Enterprise Center in St. Louis, with the opening innings Thursday morning through championship games Saturday night.

If the Apple Valley junior wins the NCAA title and then qualifies and competes well in the Tokyo Summer Olympics, this string of success could spell the end of his amateur career.

“The questions are all in the air with that,” Steveson said last week. “I love WWE. I love the organization and what they bring to the table, and it’s going to be a tough process. There’s going to be a lot of opportunities for me, but right now I’m I want to stay here and stay active in the wrestling scene. We’ll see what happens at the Olympics.

At the Big Ten Championships in early March, top-ranked Steveson edged Michigan’s No. 2 Mason Parris to win 12-4 in the final. These two remain the top two seeds this weekend, but that’s only on paper.

“It’s not a rivalry,” Steveson told Big Ten Network after winning the conference title. “I came to do my job and I’m 2-0 against him. I’m going to see him (at the NCAA). I don’t worry about anything. I showcase my skills here. It will happen again. »

Former Gophers heavyweight Tony Nelson, who won the NCAA titles in 2012 and 2013, has been training with Steveson for the past few years. Nelson, another Olympic hopeful, has seen different gear from Steveson this season.

After finishing third in the NCAA as a rookie in 2019, Steveson’s perfect season a year ago ended when the national tournament, which was to be held at US Bank Stadium, was canceled due to the pandemic.

“I saw an ultra focus,” Nelson said of Steveson. “Last year he was winning games easily, but he wasn’t doing what I believe he was capable of. This year he’s focused on winning the Hodge Trophy. You can see how he’s doing. there to be outplayed. Every game hasn’t even been close. He really has that in mind, and he’s going after that.

The Hodge Trophy is awarded annually to the top collegiate wrestler in the nation, and only one Gopher has won it: Jayson Ness, 133 pounds, in 2010.

Hodge’s defending winner is 125-pound Spencer Lee from Iowa, and he’s the only wrestler Steveson doesn’t want to face – even in a fictional match where Lee won or Steveson lost weight to meet in a certain weight class in the middle.

“Keep (Lee) at 125, I don’t want any part of him!!” Steveson tweeted in January.

Last week, Steveson added, “I love watching Spencer Lee. The way he wrestles and takes care of his business on the mat is phenomenal. He split so deep in the 125 field that he there’s literally no one else that can compete with him overall, and everyone believes that too. I want to take what he’s done and put it in the heavyweight division.

Steveson’s 12-0 record this season hasn’t been tight, and he’s been named the Big Ten Championship’s Most Outstanding Wrestler – an accolade he earned over Lee.

BTN analyst Tim Johnson said before the Big Ten tournament that Steveson’s attacking efficiency rate was around 75%. Johnson then put that number into perspective. “If you complete 50% of your shots, you’ll be very successful,” he said.

Steveson’s outlandish success stems from a quickness and athleticism rarely seen at a heavyweight. To show that the 285-pounder could still do it, Steveson recently did a backflip in the wrestling room at the U.

“A lot of it goes back to his youth” in Apple Valley, Nelson said. “He always attacked a lot. Even when I started working with him when I was fresh out of college and he was still young in high school, being Minnesota guys, he was still pulling shots (for takedowns). I think he struggled in a way that allowed him to grow and continually increase his success rate.

Steveson’s impressive career – which now stands at 62 wins, 2 losses – could soon have that elusive national title. Will it be his swansong in a Gophers jersey?

Gophers coach Brandon Eggum, of course, hopes that’s not the case. He spoke to Steveson about how WWE can wait, when college and Olympic wrestling have only been around for so long. .

“The big part is building your resume,” Eggum said. “For these guys and what they want to sell (in WWE), the more accolades you have, the better the draw for them. He has a small window of time where he can compete and win three national titles.

With Nelson and Cole Konrad each winning two NCAA championships for the Gophers, it’s Eggum who challenges Steveson to be the best of the best at “Heavyweight U”.

GOPHERS HWT. NATIONAL CHAMPIONS

Tony Nelson—2012, 2013
Cole Konrad—2006, 2007
Brock Lesnar—2000
Verne Gagne — 1949
Leonard Levy – 1941

Robert J. King