ST. PAUL -- Gable Steveson can now enjoy the best of both worlds.
Fresh off a gold medal at this summer’s Tokyo Olympics, the Apple Valley native will return to the Gophers wrestling program to defend his NCAA championship and also fulfill a dream of competing in WWE.
The new era of student-athletes being able to profit off their name, image and likeness provides an opportunity for Steveson to do both. WWE said it is the company’s first NIL deal. A Gophers spokesman confirmed to the Pioneer Press that Steveson will compete collegiately and work toward a professional wrestling career.
“Childhood dream accomplished,” Steveson tweeted Thursday. “I have officially signed with the @WWE!!! Thank you for the opportunity!! LETS WORK.” He also tweeted, “Dear @GopherWrestling, I’m Back!”
An ESPN story said WWE will set up a remote training facility near the U campus for Steveson to work with WWE coaches. He also can use the WWE Performance Center in Orlando, Fla., where his older brother and Gopher wrestling alum, Bobby Steveson, trains. After Gable Steveson graduates next spring, his multi-year contract with WWE will begin, ESPN said.
Steveson has two years of collegiate eligibility remaining, with the NCAA not counting his sophomore season in 2019-20 due to the pandemic. But it appears he will use only one more season.
Steveson had a perfect 2020-21 campaign, winning the Big Ten Championship, NCAA title and the Olympic gold with a last-second takedown of three-time world champion Geno Petriashvili in the gold-medal match of the 125-kg division in Japan in August.
Steveson, the winningest wrestler in Gopher history at 97.1 percentage, can become the eighth wrestler in U history with three conference titles and the sixth with multiple NCAA titles.
Steveson, who has a big social-media following, has taken advantage of NIL to sign other deals, with GoPuff delivery service, Barstool Sports and Kill Cliff energy drinks.