Gable Steveson left his shoes on the wrestling mat, but he still has one foot lingering in the door of competitive combat sports.
This past Saturday marked another milestone in Steveson’s storied amateur wrestling career as the heavyweight captured a second NCAA Division-I wrestling championship in dominant fashion, adding to his trophy case that also includes a gold medal from the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
Afterward, Steveson removed his wrestling shoes, a traditional sign of retirement. The current plan is for the 21-year-old to enter professional wrestling after he signed an NIL deal with the WWE last September. However, he isn’t ruling out throwing on the singlet for a real match again in the future.
“For now, I’m done,” Steveson said Wednesday on The MMA Hour. “For now I’m gonna focus on WWE, go to WrestleMania, do all those things. But like I said, for now. I know that competitive itch is gonna come back, and who knows, it might be at the 2024 Olympic Trials when I show up again.
“But I do feel like I will put the shoes back on, just not for a little bit.”
Until he officially signs a pro contract with the WWE, Steveson is actually eligible to return to the University of Minnesota for a fifth year after the 2019-2020 wrestling season was cancelled due to COVID-19. There are also several tournaments that Steveson said he would be granted automatic entry to should he decide to compete again.
But with WrestleMania 38 just around the corner, and Steveson expected to make an appearance — he played coy when asked whether he would simply be in attendance or participating in an on-screen angle — his mind is fully locked in on succeeding as a pro wrestler.
Would WWE glory preclude a fighting career for Steveson, who had previously been courted by multiple major MMA promotions?
“There’s a chance,” Steveson said. “There’s a chance for a lot of things. There’s a chance I do step into the MMA ring. I like to challenge myself in all aspects and the Brock [Lesnar] route is what I plan to take right now.
“Just learning from him and learning his steps is gonna help me succeed to the maximum potential, and I think there is that chance to step in the octagon, and I think I’ll be really good with the right training and the right support system around. So I’m just gonna leave that chapter open, and maybe we’ll write it and maybe we won’t.”
Steveson added that he appreciates having the support of amateur wrestler-turned-UFC star Daniel Cormier, who told MMA Fighting on Monday that Steveson is guaranteed to be a world champion if he fought in the cage.
It will be some time before that possibility presents itself to Steveson again, and it sounds like that’s another itch he plans to scratch eventually.
“I’m that guy that’s gotta do it,” Steveson said. “Even though I didn’t want to come back to collegiate wrestling this year, I felt like I had to. And WWE, I’m doing it, I’m gonna go out there and do my best and I’m gonna put my 100 percent in that. Then when that time’s up, maybe is there a time that I fight? I would love to step in and do it, and if things go well, I just keep progressing.”