When you’re named after wrestling legend Dan Gable, expectations are high. American super heavyweight wrestler Gable Dan Steveson has faced those expectations and at almost every opportunity has met them.
On Friday, Steveson secured the ultimate prize as a wrestler, an Olympic gold medal, stunning Georgia's three-time world champion Geno Petriashvili with a nifty two-point move as time expired in the men's freestyle super heavyweight final at the Tokyo Olympics.
"You saw that?” and emotional Steveson said after the match. “Wow! No way, ain't no way. I'm speechless, I've never done it before but today was the day. Damn!”
Steveson took an early lead in the match when he slammed Petriashvili with a takedown move that echoed around the near-empty arena. But Georgian champion fought back to take a late 8-5 lead.
But with 10 seconds left, Steveson turned things around with two spin-behind takedowns, the second coming just as the buzzer sounded to go up 9-8. Petriashvili's corner challenged the decision on the final takedown and lost another point in the process, giving the American a 10-8 victory.
"In those last few seconds, I knew I could fire it up,” Steveson said. “I tricked him and he bought it. I looked at the clock at it was 0.3 (seconds) left. It was the match of the century."
Steveson celebrated his victory with his signature post-match back flip. A visibly upset Petriashvili punched a sign and shouted in despair as he returned to the dressing room.
If expectations were high for Steveson, it’s no wonder. The Minneapolis resident was named by his mother after wrestling icon Dan Gable, who won wrestling gold at the 1972 Munich Games. Gable would go on to cement his legacy as a coach at the University of Iowa, where he mentored dozens of all-Americans, national champions and future Olympians. He also coached multiple Olympic and World Championship teams.
It didn’t take long for Steveson to show he was aptly named. At the University of Minnesota, Steveson has a 67-2 record. He is a three time all-American, and two-time Big 10 champion and won the 2021 national title.
At the U.S. Olympic Trials, Steveson outscored his opponents 42-2. Steveson had little experience on the international stage and faced a difficult path through previous world and Olympic medalists en route to gold.
Steveson beat former Asian champion Aiaal Lazarev of Kyrgyzstan 10-0 and then stunned Rio Games gold medalist Taha Akgul of Turkey 8-0 in the quarterfinals. He booked his spot in the gold-medal bout with a 5-0 win over Mongolia’s Lkhagvagerel Munkhtur.
"With little to no international senior experience,” Steveson said after winning the semis. “It's crazy that a young cat like me can come in here and shock the world so quick.”
Steveson’s not done. He grew up idolizing WWE legends Brock Lesnar, who also won a national championship at Minnesota, and Kurt Angle, who won gold at the 1996 Atlanta Games. Steveson said he eventually wants to create his own WWE persona.
“That’s my main goal, and that’s my end goal,” he told mndaily.com. “As years go on it becomes more realistic, and I can see it happening right when I’m done with college. It’s just a matter of me performing and making sure I get to that point.”
Information from Reuters was used in this report.