Gable Steveson, the Tokyo Olympic super heavyweight wrestling champion, confirmed his unretirement and plans to return at the U.S. Open in two weeks.
Steveson, 22, last competed in March 2022, repeating as NCAA heavyweight champion for the University of Minnesota and then leaving his shoes on the mat in the symbolic act of retirement from the sport.
“I expect to do the things I’ve done before to the guys that I’ve wrestled before,” Steveson said in a Flowrestling video published Tuesday. “A year off doesn’t mean anything.”
Steveson spent much of the last year training to perform in WWE. He appeared at WrestleMania last April. He has yet to have a debut match on the circuit’s top level. Steveson did not address his WWE status in Tuesday’s video.
“I expect energy, a lot of energy [at the U.S. Open in Las Vegas], a lot of people waiting to see what he’s been doing,” Steveson said. “Has he been training right? Has he been doing the right things to become that person again? And my answer’s going to be yes. But a lot of people think talk is cheap.”
If Steveson wins the U.S. Open, he will qualify for June’s Final X, a best-of-three series between two finalists to fill the U.S. spot for September’s world championships. In past Olympic cycles, reigning world championships medalists earned byes into Olympic Trials finals, though the format for the 2024 trials hasn’t been announced.
In the Tokyo Olympic final, Steveson beat reigning world champion Geno Petriashvili of Georgia with a takedown in the final second to become the second-youngest U.S. wrestling gold medalist in history at age 21.
He joined Bruce Baumgartner, a star of the 1980s and ’90s, as the lone U.S. men to win an Olympic freestyle super heavyweight title. Baumgartner is one of three U.S. wrestlers to win multiple Olympic titles (George Mehnert, John Smith).
Steveson indicated a return to wrestling last month, saying he hoped to qualify for the 2024 Paris Games, according to MMAFighting.com.
“I feel I have a lot more left in the tank to showcase,” Steveson said then, according to the report. “I want to prove USA right and keep moving forward overall and become one of the best American amateur wrestlers ever, and I hope I can achieve the Bruce Baumgartner status of having a bunch of medals and having the accolades to show and be a part of WWE and be an entertainer, too.”
Last year, 30-year-old Hayden Zillmer, a longtime training partner of Steveson’s, finished seventh at worlds in Steveson’s 125kg freestyle division.
“There’s always a target on your back,” Steveson said. “That’s what I like. I like that chase. It’s like Tom and Jerry. Who’s going to find who? How is the show going to end?”
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