Gable Steveson's summer has not gone as planned.
After winning the Big Ten heavyweight championship in March, the second-year's season was abruptly halted due to the coronavirus pandemic, leaving him without an opportunity to compete as the favorite at the NCAA national championships in Minneapolis.
Moreover, the Gopher standout was a near lock to qualify for the U.S. Olympic team in Tokyo, before the event was postponed until 2021.
Yet every day, Steveson continues to work. And it has led to a surprising result. After spending most of his heavyweight career around 245 pounds, Steveson has jumped up to 265 this offseason. It's the heaviest Steveson has been in his life.
"The weight wasn’t planned — I felt like I was the same weight. We were working out in someone’s garage every day," he said. "I would have specific things I was going to do every day and I decided to step on the scale, and it just blew up.”
The weight hasn't impacted his speed, which would be the potential downside to adding more weight. "I think I’ll always keep my quickness. I work on it every day,” he said. The added weight should help Steveson's power — he often overpowered his opponents already despite being a smaller heavyweight.
Steveson attributes the weight gain to increased lifting and better dieting. Gophers' head coach Brandon Eggum has seen Steveson's emphasis on both those areas grow since Steveson arrived at the University.
“He became infatuated with lifting. He wanted to lift extra days during the season to get stronger," Eggum said. "He didn't have to worry about what he ate when he was younger, because he was that good."
Steveson said he hasn't put much thought into whether he will try to keep the weight on when the season rolls around. For now, he is going to continue lifting and working out. He'll be ready at whatever weight he's at.
“It doesn’t really matter to me. I feel good at this spot. If the weight falls off, the weight falls off," he said.
Steveson has his eyes set on the WWE
While Steveson has two more years of eligibility at Minnesota, he's already identified what he wants to do once it's over: become a WWE wrestler.
"That’s my main goal, and that’s my end goal. As years go on it becomes more realistic, and I can set it happening right when I’m done with college," he said. "It’s just a matter of me performing and making sure I get to that point."
As a kid, Steveson grew up watching the entertainment product, idolizing stars like John Cena and Brock Lesnar, a former Gopher wrestler and national champion. Now he hopes to be that idol.
“I feel like everybody used to watch [WWE]. Everybody knows who Lesnar and Cena are, and hopefully kids can look at me like that sometime soon.”
Eggum thinks Steveson has the right mindset for the role, and his accolades at Minnesota should only help his chances.
"He loves being a showman, which is a big part of the WWE," Eggum said. "Anytime the WWE has something to build off of, like credential-wise, any of those things that are real like Gable has been able to do … they can really run with.”
If Steveson were to reach the WWE, he would be the next in a short list of University of Minnesota athletes to do so. Notables include Lesnar, former All-American heavyweight Shelton Benjamin, former linebacker Mike Rallis and Ric Flair, who played offensive guard in his one year at Minnesota.
A voice for social change
During the protests surrounding the killing of George Floyd, Steveson was very active across social media in support of the protests, calling for change in the wrestling community and across the country. He also took part in a protest.
“Wrestling fans are mainly white, and obviously there are Black fans in every sport, but I feel like with wrestling there had to be someone to speak up, and I felt I was in a position to speak up for all the good that’s out there," Steveson said. "Every person’s life is valuable in their own way, but Black lives are important right now with the situation we are in.”
In the days following Floyd's death, figures across the Gophers' athletics community released statements and took to social media in support of protests. Steveson was satisfied with the response.
“I’m happy with what they put forward, especially [Mark] Coyle and Joan [Gabel]," he said. "Everyone that’s put out their input is really respectful, and I hope people just keep voicing their opinions."