Gable Steveson wins first NCAA heavyweight title

Top-ranked Steveson defeated Mason Parris 8-4 to secure the Gophers sixth heavyweight title in program history.

Sophomore Gable Steveson celebrates after a winning a match during the meet against Nebraska at the Maturi Pavilion on Friday, Feb. 21.

Liam Armstrong

Sophomore Gable Steveson celebrates after a winning a match during the meet against Nebraska at the Maturi Pavilion on Friday, Feb. 21.

Matthew Kennedy

Undefeated, 17-0, perfection — that was Gophers heavyweight Gable Steveson’s 2021 championship campaign.

To start the tournament in St. Louis, Steveson made quick work of No. 32 Taye Ghadiaki of Campbell, pinning him in 87 seconds.

Steveson dominated No. 17 Wyatt Hendrickson of Air Force by a 17-2 technical fall in the round of 16, where he notched five takedowns and three near falls for his 14th straight win with bonus points. In the ensuing round on Friday – the NCAA Championships’ quarterfinals – Steveson defeated No. 9 Greg Kerkvliet in a 9-4 decision.

Kerkvliet was a four-time state champion in Minnesota from Simley High School and was Steveson’s toughest challenge in high school. Steveson beat Kerkvliet in a narrow 3-2 decision for Apple Valley.

In the final four, Steveson started strong, taking down No. 5 Tony Casioppi of Iowa within 11 seconds into the match. He finished with seven takedowns in a 16-6 major decision, setting the stage for a national title appearance versus a familiar foe.

Steveson never lost the lead against Michigan’s No. 2 Mason Parris. Leading 2-1 after the first period with a takedown, Parris managed to score a point from an escape. Steveson led 3-1 at the end of the second period.

Steveson finished the match with two takedowns in the final period, winning in an 8-4 decision over Parris. Steveson is now 3-0 competing against the Michigan heavyweight.

“It’s been three years since I came to college. I expected to win more my first year and got beat. My second year was lost because of COVID,” Steveson said. “In a very long time coming for me, and proving my doubters and the people who changed on me wrong, I’m so happy to be here, to be honest.”

After the NCAA’s, Steveson intends to turn his focus to the upcoming Olympic Trials. But until then, he can celebrate his first national title and a strong finish from the Gophers wrestling team.

Other standouts for the Gophers include redshirt sophomore Patrick McKee capping off his run with six straight wins to finish 7-1 and take third in the 125-pound weight class. Redshirt sophomore Brayton Lee finished in sixth place at 157 pounds. The Gophers finished tied for seventh overall.