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From NCAA Champ to WWE Star: What’s Next for Gable Steveson?

Stephanie McMahon (Left) celebrates with Gable Steveson (Right) at the WWE’s NXT TakeOver in April 2021. Photo courtesy of the WWE NXT’s official Twitter page.  

Gable Steveson has had quite an impressive year. Winning the 285-pound NCAA championship in St. Louis in March (and a Hodge Trophy two weeks later) was just the beginning. He marked off his junior year of college, finishing 17-0, with an 88.2% bonus-point rate, and was arguably the most dominant wrestler in Division I alongside Iowa’s three-time 125-pound NCAA champ, Spencer Lee. 

Quickly after the NCAA championships, Gable turned gears towards a bigger goal, making the USA Olympic Team. Steveson won the Olympic Team Trials in utterly dominant fashion, outscoring opponents 42-4 in four appearances. In doing so, Stevenson became a 2021 Olympian for Team USA and will represent his country in Tokyo this July. 

This past weekend at the Pan American Championships in Guatemala City, Guatemala, Stevenson picked up right where he left at The Trials. The Golden Gopher big man earned the Pan-Am gold in his final tune-up before The Games. Gable bested the opponents by a combined 50-0 in five bouts to achieve his latest title, winning each match by technical superiority.

 

Since Gable’s run to the top of the NCAA podium, though, rumors have begun to rage about what is next for Stevenson after Tokyo 2021. Some have postulated rumors of NFL tryouts, while others have wondered about World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE). 

With this in mind, despite being at the top of his folkstyle and freestyle wrestling game, he may not be on the wrestling mats much longer. Instead, Gable might be stepping in the studio wrestling ring like so many other NCAA and Olympic stars before him have done. 

If so, Steveson would not be the only Minnesota alum to join the WWE, as he would join former Gophers Shelton Benjamin and Brock Lesnar, both of whom have become WWE sensations since leaving Minneapolis.

For now, Steveson is focused on the Olympic gold, but he has appeared with WWE on multiple occasions over the last two months as well. The Gopher was a part of their biggest WWE event of the year, WrestleMania.

Following WrestleMania, he appeared at NXT, the WWE’s second brand for training. NXT is designed to help athletes hopefully make it to the main roster. The commentators quickly pointed him out as NXT chief branding officer, Stephanie McMahon, raised his hand as the crowd erupted in applause.

In a conference call after that NXT event, Paul Levesque, executive vice president of global talent, strategy, and development at NXT, said he was very interested in working with Steveson.

“The Gable came here tonight and enjoyed the show as a guest, had his dad with him,” Levesque said to James Holder of Inside The Ropes. “You know, just won the NCAA Championships and the National Championships and just, you know, obviously qualified for the Olympics, and that is a big task at hand. So, you know, I’m a huge fan of what we do. We’ve been talking for a long time, and we want to come out here, you know, reach out, want to come out, see TakeOver, see WrestleMania, and we’ll see where it goes.” 

With the history of NCAA wrestlers coming to WWE, plus Gable’s recent tweet from earlier this week (June 3) asking if the WWE was “ready” for him, it seems that it is only a matter of time before we see another NCAA champion join the WWE fray. Only time will tell if we will see the Apple Valley, Minnesota, native wrestle a completive freestyle or folkstyle again in his career after Tokyo.

Whether or not Gable decides to lace ’em up for the Gophers or Team USA again after his showing at Tokyo 2021 later this summer, few can argue with what the man known simply as Gable has accomplished on the mat over the last five to seven years:

+ 2021 Olympian

+  2021 Pan American Champion

+  2021 NCAA Champion

+  Three-time NCAA All-American, 2019, 2020 (NWCA), and 2021

+  2021 Hodge Trophy recipient (Hodge Trophy finalist in 2020)

+  Two-time Big Ten Champion, 2020, 2021 (Big Ten finalist in 2019)

+  Highest-winning percentage in University of Minnesota wrestling history (.971)

+  2017 Junior World Champion (Tampere)

+  Two-Time Cadet World Champion (2015 in Sarajevo and 2016 in Tbilisi)

+  Four Time Minnesota State High School (MSHSL) State Champion (five-time MSHSL finalist)

The remarkable part being that Gable has accomplished all of this prior to his 21st birthday, which was on May 31, 2021. 

 

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