The path seemed preordained. The results already determined. But there were no guarantees. But plenty of hard work. Minnesota Gophers wrestler Gable Steveson did it all and finished off a perfect season with his second NCAA Heavyweight Championship in a 6-2 win over Colton Schultz of Arizona State.
Steveson came into the NCAA tournament as the #1 seed and ran through the field. He earned technical falls against his first two opponents defeating them 25-10 and 23-8. Hois first touch match came in the quarterfinals against Northwestern’s No. 9 Lucas Davison who was the first wrestler in a very long time to actually take down Steveson. It wouldn't be enough as Gable would battle back and bring home a 10-5 win to advance to the semifinals.
In the semifinals he faced a familiar opponent in No. 4 Greg Kerkvliet of Penn State. Kerkvliet is an Inver Grove Heights native and Simley High School graduate. Gable had already defeated him multiple time sin his career and did so one more time with a 8-3 score advancing to the championship bout against Schultz.
Gabe wasted no time in the championship round getting an early takedown to take a 2-0 lead. Schultz got one back as Gable let him back up, but Gable picked up nearly enough riding time alone in just the first period to lock in the point. Gable would add one last takedown late in the period to take a 4-1 lead after one. In the second Gable started on the bottom and got a quick escape to go up 5-1. The rest of the period was a deadlock as Gable was content to shut down any takedown attempts by Schultz and just play it conservative. The period would end with a 5-1 lead for Gable.
Schultz started down for period three and Gable let him up for the quick escape to cut the lead to 5-2. The rest of the period was a carbon copy of the first as Schultz had no answer for Gable. Gable would earn the riding time point and would go out a NCAA Champion with a 6-2 win.
After the win Gable gave one last patented backflip in his Minnesota singlet and ran to meet his dad and brother.
One last flip for the fans.. pic.twitter.com/85bbqyOAPA— Minnesota Wrestling (@GopherWrestling) March 20, 2022
He came back and as he promised took off his shoes and left them at the center of the mat as a sign of respect for the spot and to the fans in a signal to his retirement from amateur wrestling. Meanwhile the fans in Detroit gave him a standing ovation that did not stop for several minutes.
To no surprise Steveson was named the most outstanding wrestler at the championships and is the run away favorite for the 2022 Hodge trophy given to the best wrestler in college wrestling when that is announced on March 28th.
Gable ends his Gopher carreer as one of the best if not the best to ever suit up for the maroon and gold. He is just the sixth multiple-time NCAA champion for Minnesota with the victory, and finishes with a 85-2 career record, including 13 falls, 21 technical falls, and 24 major decisions. He ends his collegiate career on a 52-match win streak and holds the highest win percentage in the history of the program.
Two more Gophers also earned All-American status with a top-8 finish at the NCAA Championships. At 125 pounds Patrick McKee almost did a carbon copy of what he did at the Big Ten Championships where he lost his opening bout and then ran through the consolation bracket to finish in third place.
At the NCAA’s he again lost his first match to No. 25 Caleb Smith from Apalachian State before winning five bouts in a row to make the consolation semifinals. There he fell to #2 Vito Arujau of Cornell but would battle back and defeat #4 Brandon Courtney of Arizona State to finish in fifth place.
At 142 pounds Jake Bergeland won his first two matches before falling to No. 15 Kizhan Clarke of North Carolina in the quarterfinals. He would battle back in the consolation bracket to get one win before falling to Rutgers No. 3 Sebastian Rivera. In the 7th place match Bergeland would knock off No. 12 C.J. Composto of Penn to finish in 7th.
The Gophers would finish in 11th place with 48.5 points in the team standings.