Gable Steveson loves to put on a show, during and after his biggest games.
Moments after winning the United States Olympic Trials in his weight class to qualify for the Tokyo Games, he was undoing his jersey strap when he heard the crowd singing.
“Back flip! Back flip!”
Steveson had previously celebrated wins with back flips – quite a feat for a man who weighs around 275 pounds. And even though he was exhausted after qualifying for his first Olympics, he couldn’t help it. The man who aspires to be a World Wrestling Entertainment superstar like his mentor, Brock Lesnar, had to hold on.
“So I just pulled the strap and I was like, ‘Forget it, let’s go. âhttps://www.arkansasonline.com/news/2021/jul/18/wrestler-chasing-gold-pro-dreams/,â he said. “I just did the flip, and now everyone’s asking for it everywhere I go. And it’s like my trademark. Like, people are waiting for me to flip. And who knows when the next one is.”
Steveson, 21, hopes to transfer that swagger by becoming one of America’s youngest Olympic wrestling gold medalists. He wants this step to help launch a career in WWE. Eventually, he hopes to end up in films like former WWE star Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.
âYou can see when the lights get bright, Gable comes in to play,â he said. “And I think he’s number one with me. And I think that’s what people can expect with me wherever I go.”
Steveson’s fame was apparently planned. His mother named him Gable Dan – after wrestling icon Dan Gable. Gable was a two-time national wrestling champion in Iowa State and an Olympic gold medalist in 1972.
Steveson, from Apple Valley, Minnesota, said Gable’s name is known in the area.
âMy mom didn’t have a name for me yet, and she kept hearing Dan Gable’s name, and Dan Gable is like a wrestling legend to us,â Steveson said. âHe’s one of the best at doing it. And she kept hearing his name over and over again.
Steveson handled the pressure that comes with having this name in the sport. He followed in Lesnar’s footsteps by winning a national heavyweight championship for the University of Minnesota. He won the Dan Hodge Trophy as the nation’s top varsity wrestler after a 17-0 season. Then he won the Olympic trials. Now he could complete his CV in Tokyo.
But for all the showmanship, Steveson is the most special on the mat. He has the power expected of a large man, but possesses an unusual speed and agility for someone of his size, allowing him to fight differently from most of his opponents.
“Considering his athleticism and his speed, his quickness, his positioning, the way he can turn and create angles – you don’t really see that in heavyweight,” said fellow Olympian Kyle Dake. âMost of the time they’re big, strong heavy weights, pushing, pushing, pushing and, you know, they sort of win by having the strongest defense and not making mistakes. Gable is going to struggle. and fight against a bunch of positions. “
Steveson’s star is rising rapidly. He was pictured with WWE star Roman Reigns and his manager, Paul Heyman, at this year’s WrestleMania – an event Steveson calls the Super Bowl of professional wrestling. He pitched the first pitch in a Minnesota Twins game on June 11. And he said he gets used to kids wanting his autograph when he goes to the grocery store.
But he wants to keep things in perspective. Turkey’s Taha Akgul, 2016 Olympic gold medalist, is on his way to winning gold. Steveson cited another professional wrestling icon – âNature Boyâ Ric Flair – in describing what may be to come.
âThat’s the man,â Steveson said. “To be the man you have to beat the man.”
Steveson said Geno Petriashvili of Georgia is also a dangerous opponent who is “just as good” as Akgul. Petriashvili beat Akgul to win the world championship in 2019 and is the No.1 seed.
âThese are the Olympics,â Steveson said. “Everyone’s good. Things can happen. And I’m coming for this gold, obviously, like them. So it’s gonna be it’s gonna be a battle.”
FILE – Minnesota’s Gable Steveson backflips in celebration after beating Michigan’s Mason Parris in their 285-pound game in the NCAA Wrestling Championships Final in St. Louis on Saturday March 20, 2021, photo by archive. The charismatic 21-year-old hopes a successful run to the Games will launch him into a WWE career as his mentor, Brock Lesnar, and an acting career as former WWE star Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson . (AP Photo / Jeff Roberson, file)
FILE – Minnesota’s Gable Steveson prepares to face Penn State’s Greg Kerkvliet in their 285-pound NCAA Wrestling Championships quarterfinal game in St. Louis this Friday, March 19, 2021, file photo. Steveson is looking to become one of the youngest wrestling gold medalists in the United States when he competes at 125 kilograms in Tokyo. The charismatic 21-year-old hopes a successful run to the Games will launch him into a WWE career as his mentor, Brock Lesnar, and an acting career as former WWE star Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson . (AP Photo / Jeff Roberson, file)
FILE – Minnesota’s Gable Steveson, above, takes on Air Force Wyatt Hendrickson in their 285-pound second-round game of the NCAA Wrestling Championships in St. Louis on Thursday, March 18, 2021, photo by archive. Steveson is looking to become one of the youngest wrestling gold medalists in the United States when he competes at 125 kilograms in Tokyo. (AP Photo / Jeff Roberson, file)