2x Big Ten Champion, NCAA Champion, and now an Olympic Champion. Gable Steveson has accomplished pretty much everything there is to do in this sport except a world title. He opted out of his free world team spot for Oslo. Why he did this we do not know but all we can really assume is he wants to focus and get his degree which he should complete this year. He has already signed a 1 Million+ NIL deal with the WWE and has more on the way with other brands. He has claimed the title for the highest paid NCAA athlete which is also huge for our sport. Now, into the topic for today. What does Gable Steveson coming back to college wrestling mean for the rest of the field.
We all know that most of the top competitors at the weight class are in the Big Ten. There are a couple exceptions to this which are Cohlton Schultz, Matt Stencel, and Jordan Wood. Those are the only 3 guys outside of the Big Ten that are returning.
I think it is fair at this point in time to assume that Gable Steveson is going to be the Big Ten and NCAA Champion assuming nothing crazy happens. The biggest thing that his return to college wrestling did was take a spot on the podium away. After the 2021 NCAA Tournament it was looked at as if Gable Steveson would take his shot at the Olympics then most likely move on from folkstyle wrestling. While Gannon Gremmel 5th place finisher at nationals from Iowa St would not take the extra year and continue with his life. This would mean theoretically with 2 AA’s out and 6 remaining 2 spots would open up. Now that Gable announced his return its going to be much more of a bloodbath on the back end.
As we have seen there are a few guys that have been staples in the top tier of guys which is what I like to refer to them as. These are the guys that will not have any trouble making it onto the podium but that being said will always cover the top 5ish. Those guys include Gable Steveson (Minnesota), Cohlton Schultz (Arizona St), Greg Kerkvliet (Penn State), Tony Cassioppi (Iowa), and Mason Parris (Michigan). The main reason for the guys is pretty obvious. Gable Steveson because he is an Olympic Champion, Cohlton Schultz because he is on a world team. Mason Parris because he is a National Finalist, Greg Kerkvliet because he has a win over Mason Parris, and Tony Cassioppi because he has consistently been at the top.
That being said about the whole bloodbath at the backend of the podium. Let’s talk about what Gable returning to NCAA Wrestling does for the sport. Right off the bat he is the highest ticket NCAA athlete right now. That is including all sports in college and what is even crazier is Bryce Young the Alabama Quarterback has NIL deals totaling about 1 Million Dollars and Gable is rumored to be more than double this figure. Gable signing with the WWE has a few implications, first of them being that many WWE fans know exactly who he is now and are going to start watching college wrestling knowing this will be his final run for his 2nd NCAA Title assuming he does not use the free year.
This being said you would have to assume most people that start watching wrestling because of Gable Steveson are going to stop when he leaves to fully join the WWE. Even with this eventually going to happen and nothing to really be done about it we would still theoretically create a good bit of attention around the sport with an Olympic Champ in college. When Snyder won his Olympic Gold Medal nobody really documented this sport or the Olympics as a whole well due to many reasons. They had much bigger storylines there than to cover us and its always a numbers game in broadcasting. Michael Phelps the greatest Olympian of all time competing in his last games. Usain Bolt competing in the Olympics for the last time. In Tokyo after Gable did what he did the media was all over it. That includes NBC, The Olympic Channel, and more. Another big thing that nobody talks about is the rise of these Instagram pages. In reality they are 1000x bigger of an operation than anyone realizes but House of Highlights, Barstool, Bleacher Report. These are pages that are followed religiously by a lot of teenagers and sports fans in general. They really didn’t exist that much back in 2016 during the Rio Olympics.
Overall views: Gable will bring a bigger audience to Minnesota Wrestling. Whether this will translate to the entire NCAA I cannot say for sure at the moment. It does seem like a good opportunity to give wrestlers more NIL deal, at least higher tier wrestlers which would include NCAA Champions and higher up AA’s. That could be bigger than anything else provided being it benefits the athletes as a whole. Who knows many HoH, Barstool, and other pages could start posting wrestling more, and for pages that average 500k likes that is huge for us!