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Gable Steveson’s Next Stop After Winning Back-to-Back NCAA Championships? Going to ‘WrestleMania’

The Olympic gold medalist signed an NIL deal with WWE in September and is ready to make a splash on the company’s biggest stage.

Gable Steveson’s dominance was on full display on Saturday as he won his second consecutive NCAA Division I national title in wrestling.

In front of a packed house at Little Caesars Arena in Detroit and only months after winning an Olympic gold medal, Steveson defeated Arizona State’s Cohlton Schultz in the final match of the night to crown himself champion. He celebrated with his trademark backflip, then, as promised, left his shoes on the mat, signifying the end of his amateur wrestling career.

And now, a career in pro wrestling awaits.

“I plan on going to WrestleMania,” says Steveson, who should add another layer of excitement to WWE’s signature show. “That’s the first time WWE fans will see me and what I’m about. I’m going to put my heart out there.”

Steveson got a confidence boost before competing on Saturday, receiving good luck messages from WWE illuminati, including Paul Heyman, Paul “Triple H” Levesque and Brock Lesnar.

“Paul Heyman is always like the first one to text, and that means a lot,” says Steveson, who signed an NIL deal with WWE in September. “He always reaches out and makes sure I’m good. Paul ‘Triple H’ Levesque checks up on me, and so does Brock Lesnar. They’ve shown me a lot of love and respect.”

Steveson lost only two matches during his four-year career at Minnesota. With an overall collegiate record of 86–2, the victory on Saturday increased his winning streak to 47 matches in a row.

“After my last loss [in 2019], it reminded me of when I was in eighth grade and lost to a senior in high school at the state tournament,” Steveson says. “When that happened, I told myself, ‘I’m never going to lose again.’ My first year in college, I lost, and that’s when I told myself I wasn’t O.K. with losing. So I put my best foot forward every day, and I was also lucky to have a great foundation around me pushing me to be my best.”

A driving force for Steveson was his Olympic gold medal. He won gold this summer in dramatic fashion in Tokyo, securing a final takedown with only a half of a second remaining in the match. After proving he was the best in the world at the Olympics, Steveson could not falter during his senior season with the Gophers.

“How could I go from winning the Olympic gold medal and then not even win in my own country?” Steveson says. “So that definitely crossed my mind as extra motivation.”

Endless opportunities exist for Steveson, who’s only 21 years old. He has a golden chance in WWE to establish himself as a global star, and he has not ruled out a future in either the UFC or NFL.

“My focus has been on the moment,” says Steveson, who will finish his degree this spring in business and communications. “There have been times I’ve thought about the UFC and NFL, but I’m not even 22 years old. There is still time to branch out into other places, and I’m also aware of what’s in front of me. This is my chance to work for Vince McMahon in WWE and create something you’ve never seen before.”

A true showman, Steveson fired up the crowd after winning the national title, then celebrated with his acrobatic backflip. Leaving his shoes on the mat was a moment filled with symbolism, and he is forever grateful for wrestling’s impact on his life.

“It was real special for me to go out there, have that last match, and leave my shoes on the mat,” says Steveson, who shared that his mother grabbed the shoes before anyone could snatch them up. “Leaving my shoes on the mat, that’s the way I want my career to be remembered. I gave my heart to wrestling. But even now, with those shoes off, I’ll keep wrestling. It’s what I grew up doing. Even if I step away from the competition, I’ll never step away from the practice.

“With wrestling comes so much sacrifice and dedication, and I’ve met so many people along the way that have impacted my life. It’s amazing to see how this journey has played out, and it’s cool to think about how this next chapter will unfold.”

Steveson brought an immense amount of popularity to amateur wrestling over the past year. While noting that the past few days have been a whirlwind, he thanked his family, supporters, teammates, coaches and opponents for bringing out his absolute best.

“I’m grateful for everyone’s support, and I have so much respect for the other athletes competing,” said Steveson. “It’s cool to see the wide variety of people that have shown love to amateur wrestling this past year, and I’m forever grateful I could step on the mat and show them the best version of me.”

Justin Barrasso can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @JustinBarrasso.