In 2021 NCAA Division 1 champion Gable Steveson made headlines. Not for his accomplishments on the mats, but for what the future might hold for the talented Golden Gophers wrestling star. A 2020 Tokyo Olympics gold medalist in freestyle wrestling, Steveson made his intentions clear. That he wanted to make a move to new athletic horizons, and it was going to be a big one.
He teased the possibility of trying his hand at college football, making a jump straight to the NFL, or even a move to MMA and the UFC, before ultimately landing on a contract with the WWE (not a surprise to longtime wrestling fans who knew Steveson’s ties to and affinity for the sports-entertainment product). And on March 19th he put the final piece into place, announcing his official retirement from the national and international wrestling worlds—fresh off the back of his second straight college championship.
Steveson defeated Arizona State Sun Devil Cohlton Schultz in the final round of the 2022 NCAA D1 tournament, after which he walked to the center of the mats and removed his wrestling shoes.
No words can describe this moment.
ESPN#NCAAWrestling x @GopherWrestling x @GableSteveson pic.twitter.com/HDXkiVtLHh
— NCAA Wrestling (@NCAAWrestling) March 20, 2022
“It’s done,” Steveson said, of his wrestling career (transcript via MMA Fighting). “I knew what I came to do. I was going to win an Olympic gold, win the national tournament again. It’s just weird. I don’t know how to describe it.”
No word yet as to when Steveson is set to make his WWE debut, although rumors are swirling that he may make an appearance at WrestleMania 38, on April 2-3 in Arlingonton TX.
In a 2021 appearance on the WWE After the Bell podcast, Steveson spoke about his decision to go with the WWE—noting that one of the key factors in the move was that the promotion was willing to allow him to go back to the University of Minnesota to compete for another NCAA title.
“[The WWE] allowed me to go back to school,” Steveson said of his decision (transcript via WrestlingInc.com). “If I would’ve signed with the UFC or tried to do the NFL, I would’ve had to leave. Leave an open book with the University of Minnesota that I couldn’t finish. I wanted to go back and win the national tournament again, I wanted to go back and wrestle in front of our fans because, last year, we couldn’t because of the COVID rules. The year before that, it got canceled too, so I wanted to go back and have that one last run with everybody seeing me. And the WWE helped me have the NIL so I could be with them, have on stage appearances but also wrestle my college season. And I’m a regular college student at the end of the day too.”
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