Olympic gold medalist to wrestle one more season in Minnesota before joining full-time pro ranks
It will likely be at least seven months before Gable Steveson plays his first match with World Wrestling Entertainment.
That’s because he wants to defend his NCAA heavyweight championship first.
“Gopher’s responsibility is no. 1. This is what we talked about with WWE, ”Steveson said at a press conference Monday where he discussed his unprecedented deal to join WWE while competing for one more year as a wrestler. university in Minnesota. “Being able to compete here was my last goal. I feel like I owe all the fans who show up and want to watch me. “
It was announced on September 9 that Steveson has signed a multi-year contract with WWE that allows him to return to the University of Minnesota to wrestle in 2021-2022. The arrangement was made possible by changes to the NCAA rules that allow student-athletes to monetize their NIL (name, image and likeness) rights while retaining their eligibility to compete.
The 2018 Apple Valley High School graduate won the 2021 NCAA 285-pound Championship, going 17-0. He then swept the US Olympic Trials, edging his opponents 42-4, to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics. His 10-8 victory over three-time world champion Geno Petriashvili earned Steveson the gold medal in the 125 kilogram freestyle.
Steveson, 21, is the first wrestling Olympic gold medalist the WWE has signed since Kurt Angle, who won his Olympic championship in 1996.
The contract allows Steveson to appear on WWE lineup while competing in Minnesota, but he is not expected to fight for the organization until he finishes his 2021-22 season with the Gophers. The organization is scheduled to host its “WWE SmackDown” live show at the Xcel Energy Center on December 12. 17, and it’s hard to imagine Steveson not being involved in some way.
According to ESPN, WWE is expected to provide a training facility in Steveson near campus. He would also have access to WWE facilities in Orlando, Florida. Steveson’s brother Bobby, a former Apple Valley High School and University of Minnesota wrestler, is training in Orlando after recently signing with WWE.
Last weekend, Steveson teased his signing in WWE, announcing on Twitter that he had signed a contract without saying where.
“I didn’t understand that contracts like this take weeks at a time,” he said on Monday. “I thought it would be a one day thing because everyone knew I wanted to go to WWE. I just like the acting part, the showmanship.
“It was like my calling to go there.”
He said on Monday that he has been planning to return to Minnesota for one more season for some time, but admitted he refrained from announcing it to create suspense.
“Being able to come back is what I really wanted,” Steveson said. “I didn’t want to leave college. I wanted to spend my four years and leave my legacy. “
Once he joins WWE full-time, speculation will center on when Steveson faces former Gopher Brock Lesnar in the ring. Lesnar, who won the NCAA Heavyweight Championship in 2000, has had a long and successful career in professional wrestling. Steveson first met Lesnar after his final season in high school in Apple Valley and considers him a mentor.
“Since then he’s been a figure I could talk to, a person who guides me in the right direction because he’s been in all the tough situations,” Steveson said.
Steveson also tried to hush up talks about a possible breakup with Dana White, president of the Ultimate Fighting Championship, who was reportedly interested in signing him. Steveson was in Las Vegas last month for a WWE show but did not speak with White during his stay (UFC headquarters are in Las Vegas).
“There was no conflict between me and Dana White,” Steveson said. “I was in Vegas to see WWE. You can’t see two big companies in one day. “
He even toyed with the idea of joining the University of Minnesota football team and
He was 212-3 as a high school wrestler, including 173-0 in his last four seasons. Steveson has won four individual State Championships and helped Apple Valley win three Class 3A Tag Team Championships.
Steveson has a 34-game winning streak in college since the 2019 NCAA Semifinals. He was undefeated (15-0) in the 2019-20 season but the scheduled NCAA tournament at US Bank Stadium in Minneapolis was canceled due to pandemic. He’s 67-2 as a varsity wrestler, a .971 winning percentage that is the best in University of Minnesota history.
The NCAA gave athletes who competed in the 2020-21 school year an extra year of eligibility, meaning Steveson could technically compete two more years with the Gophers. But he confirmed on Monday that 2021-22 will be his last college season.
“After this Gopher season I’m all tuned into (WWE) 100 percent,” he said. “It’s going to be sad having to hang up my wrestling shoes, but I did all of my chores here at college, I did all of my chores on the US wrestling circuit. My time has come.
During the 2021-22 season, Steveson will look to become Minnesota’s sixth wrestler with multiple NCAA championships.
Minnesota’s 2021-22 wrestling schedule has yet to be announced. The NCAA Division I tournament will be held March 17-19, 2022 in Detroit, Michigan. Steveson said the Gophers had enough returning wrestlers to eventually compete in the NCAA Tag Team Championship, which Minnesota last won in 2007.