Gable Steveson loves to put on a show, during and after his biggest games.
Moments after winning the US Olympic Trials at 125 kilograms to qualify for the Tokyo Games, he was undoing his jersey strap when he heard the crowd singing.
“Backflip! Backflip! “
Steveson had previously celebrated wins with backflips – 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 deliver.
“So I just pulled the strap and I was like, ‘Forget that, let’s go.'” He said. “I just did the flip, and now everyone is 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 will be.
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.
“You can see that when the lights get bright, Gable comes in to play,” 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.
“My 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,” Steveson said. “He’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 heavyweights,” said fellow US Olympian Kyle Dake. “Most 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 goes out there to fight and fight 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 WWE icon – “Nature Boy” Ric Flair – when describing what may be to come.
“That’s the man,” 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.
“These are the Olympics,” Steveson said. “Everyone is good. Things can happen. And I’m coming for this gold medal, obviously, just like them. So it’s gonna be it’s gonna be a battle.
Follow Cliff Brunt on Twitter: https://twitter.com/CliffBruntAP.
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