by: Jeff Metcalfe | USA TODAY
TOKYO – Named after wrestling royalty, Gable Steveson carved his own Olympic legend Friday.
The 21-year-old U.S. men’s freestyle heavyweight scored a pair of late takedowns, the second with less than a second remaining, to magically transform an 8-5 deficit into a 10-8 gold medal victory over Georgia’s Geno Petriashvili.
The 21-year-old collegian from Minnesota became the first U.S. freestyle heavyweight gold medalist since Bruce Baumgartner in 1992. The way it happened, after leading 4-0 in the first period then falling behind to the 2016 bronze medalist, is stunning almost to the level of Rulon Gardner’s Greco-Roman heavyweight upset of Russian Aleksandr Karelin at the 2000 Olympics.
“People are going to remember the name,” Steveson said. “I’m going to live in the moment right now.”
Not that anyone ever has trouble recalling that Gable Dan Steveson was named by his mother Laticia after Dan Gable, 1972 Olympic 68kg champion and 15-time NCAA champion coach at Iowa.
But instead of the name becoming an albatross for Gable, he might elevate it to newer heights.
“There’s a lot of possibilities for me with this gold medal,” said Steveson, starting with him receiving $250,000 through USA Wrestling’s Living The Dream medal fund. “A lot of doors opened after me winning a national (NCAA) title and now the whole world is open for me to see.https://693ad202aa4a5566f880231cae8bdafd.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html
“It’s not about a thing you’re going to get after this. I got to come over here as a 21-year-old man and wrestle at the highest level. Forget whatever comes after this. I’m going to go home, go out and eat a steak or something,” with money now to pick up the tab for a family dinner and buy his mother and a Louis Vuitton purse.https://693ad202aa4a5566f880231cae8bdafd.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html
“She deserves it,” he said. “She’s back home breaking a sweat watching me wrestle.”
Petriashvili, trailing 5-2 in the second period, scored on a takedown and two gut wrenches to lead by three points, putting Steveson on the verge of his first loss the year. He went 17-0 at Minnesota en route to his first NCAA title.Get the Chasing Gold newsletter in your inbox.
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But Steveson had a spin behind takedown for 8-7 then another to regain the lead as time expired. A video review off a challenge not only went in his favor but added another point to his total then Steveson raced off the mat to celebrate as best he could remotely with his family.
“I took him down and I saw there was about 10 seconds left,” Steveson said. “I got of him, ref blew the whistle and at that point it was do or die, and I just had to go. I can’t even describe it, I’m somewhere else right now.
“I knew I had it in me. I knew I had it in me. Everybody talks about bringing him a gold medal, and I did it.”
Including a bronze medal won Friday by Kyle Dake at freestyle 79kg, the U.S. now has seven wrestling medals in Tokyo.
Kyle Snyder will try to make it eight Saturday when he wrestles Abdulrashid Sadulaev of Russian in the freestyle 86kg final. Snyder is defending gold medalist, winning at the Rio Games when he was 21.
Also Friday, Jacarra Winchester was pinned in her women’s 53kg bronze medal match by Vanesa Kaladzinskaya of Belarus and Sarah Hildebrandt, after leading 7-0, lost 10-7 to China’s Sun Yanan in a women’s 50kg semifinal..