Gophers’ NCAA heavyweight champs past and present could meet at U.S. Olympic wrestling trials

Tony Nelson and Gable Steveson have practiced and pounded on each other on the mat for years, making each other better. But this weekend, there’s only one heavyweight spot on the U.S. men’s freestyle team.

He wasn’t interested in an autograph or a photo, or any of the other tokens a kid might want from an idol. When Gable Steveson showed up at the wrestling room after school, looking to meet Gophers heavyweight Tony Nelson, he had something much bigger in mind.

Steveson was a seventh-grader then, an Apple Valley wrestling prodigy with grand plans. He remembers thinking Nelson — the 6-4, 250-pound reigning NCAA champion — looked “just huge.” But there was only one thing Steveson wanted that day: to get on the mat with the Gophers star and see how he measured up.

“Tony was the man,” said Steveson, who became the Gophers’ latest NCAA champion last month. “All the heavyweights looked up to him. He was one of those guys that just dominated everyone, and that’s how I wanted to be.” Continue reading at startribune.com →

Steveson Seeded Second; Six Alums Set for Olympic Trials

NCAA Champion and Hodge Trophy winner Gable Steveson will be the No. 2 seed at 125 kg for this weekend’s U.S. Olympic Team Trials. The two-day tournament will be held Friday and Saturday at Dickies Arena in Fort Worth, Texas.

Steveson will join five Gopher Wrestling alums – Sean Russell, Zach Sanders, Mitch McKee, Brett Pfarr and Tony Nelson – in vying for a spot in men’s freestyle on Team USA for the 2021 Tokyo Olympics. In addition, Pat Smith is the No. 3 seed at 77kg in Greco-Roman.

Steveson’s bracket features many familiar faces, including top seed Nick Gwiazdowski, a two-time bronze medalist at the World Championships and former two-time NCAA Champion at N.C. State. Gwiazdowski won the first two meetings at the Final X_Rutgers in June 2019, but Steveson won the last matchup by a 4-1 decision at the 2020 RTC Cup this past December. A two-time NCAA Champion and frequent training partner for Steveson, Nelson is the fifth seed at 125 kg.

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Gable Steveson Wins the 2021 Hodge Trophy

NCAA Champion Gable Steveson has earned the greatest honor in college wrestling as the winner of the 2021 WIN Magazine/Culture House Dan Hodge Trophy, presented by ASICS Wrestling. He shares the top individual award in the nation with Iowa’s Spencer Lee. It is just the second time in the 27-year history of the award that two wrestlers were recognized.

“It was a bit of a surprise when I got the news because Spencer Lee is such a great wrestler,” said Steveson. “But winning the Hodge Trophy is something I thought about all year. Winning the NCAA was first but then I wanted to win the Hodge, too. It was a childhood dream and now it’s crazy to see that it’s happened.”

Steveson completed his second straight unbeaten season with his first NCAA heavyweight title on Saturday, March 20 in St. Louis. His road to the title included a 16-6 major decision against fifth-seed Tony Cassioppi of Iowa in the semifinals and 8-4 decision in the finals against No. 2 Mason Parris of Michigan. Steveson tied Lee for the tournament lead with 24.5 team points.

Steveson compiled a 17-0 season record with 14 of the 17 wins resulting in bonus points. He had three major decisions, four pins and seven technical falls and gave up just one takedown. Steveson recorded the second-fastest pin in school history with his 13-second fall against Michigan State’s Connor Bowes in January. He added a 34-second pin against No. 6 Luke Luffman of Illinois in February.

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Gophers to Participate in Last Chance Olympic Trials Qualifier

With the U.S. Olympic Trials looming, current and former Gophers will take part in the Last Chance Olympic Trials Qualifier in Fort Worth, Texas, on Saturday. NCAA Champion Gable Steveson has already qualified for the trials, which will be held in Fort Worth, April 2-3.

Competing for the Gopher Wrestling Club Regional Training Center are current Gophers Jake Bergeland, Keaton Kluever, Kasper McIntosh, Matt Ramos and Rowan Morgan, along with alums Sean Russell, Mitch McKee and Devin Skatzka. The Gopher Wrestling Club contingent also includes Daniel DeShazer and Elroy Perkin.

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