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  • Photo: Sam Janicki

    Photo: Sam Janicki

    2023 US Open Entrants With Wins over Gable

    Nick Gwiazdowski (left) and Gable Stevenson at Final X Rutgers in 2019 (photo courtesy of Sam Janicki; SJanickiPhoto.com)

    Gable Steveson makes his return to freestyle wrestling at this week's U.S. Open. The last time the wrestling world saw the Olympic champion in action, he was winning his second NCAA title in Detroit. The Hodge Trophy winner then left a year of collegiate eligibility on the table in order to pursue a career in the professional wrestling world.

    One does not reach the highest pinnacle of the sport without picking up some impressive victories along the way, and that is certainly the case. In fact, during his extensive career, he has mostly dominated his competition. For example, he defeated reigning NCAA heavyweight champion and Hodge Trophy winner Mason Parris five times in his college career.

    With that being said, Steveson has not been perfect in his wrestling career, and he has actually lost to a pair of wrestlers registered for the Open. In 2019 Steveson reached Final X and found himself two wins away from his first senior world team. However, he ran into world bronze medalist Nick Gwiazdowski and dropped the three-match series with two-straight losses.

    Their first match at the 2019 edition of Final X was their first-ever meeting. Steveson got on the board first when Gwiazdowski was unable to score on the activity clock. However, the former NC State wrestler went to the break up 2-1 after hitting a nifty sweep single and finishing through the quad pod.

    Steveson got off to a hot start in the second. He notched another single-point score early in the period after driving through a double leg for a step out. He then scored a takedown on a reattack to secure his first lead of the bout. However, Gwiazdowski got back into the match with a reattack of his own and held on for the final minute. The final score was a 4-4 criteria victory for Gwiazdowski as his two two-point scores trumped Steveson's two one-point scores and a takedown.

    After a brief hiatus, the two faced off for a second time on the campus of Rutgers. In the first 30 seconds, Steveson got to a low shot but had to settle for a one-point step out as Gwiazdowski hopped off of bounds. In the waning seconds of the first period, Steveson got in deep on a shot, but Gwiazdowski was somehow able to escape thanks to his heavy hips.

    After the break, Steveson seemed intent on keeping his offense up. He got to a leg, but Gwiazdowski was able to defend and spin behind for the first takedown of the match. The elder wrestler was not content to sit on his lead. He shot for a leg attack, but Steveson was able to force an exposure in the scramble. However, Giwazdowski eventually finished the shot for the one-point reversal. That score put him ahead 3-3 on criteria, and he pulled out yet another criteria victory.

    While Gwiazdowski won that day and secured a spot on the 2019 world team, Steveson took over the rivalry the following year. He scored a 4-1 victory over Gwiazdowski at the RTC Cup in 2020, and he then won back-to-back matches in the finals of the Olympic Trials by a combined 20-4 score.

    The only other wrestler who has entered in the Open and holds a victory over Steveson is veteran Dom Bradley. The veteran exhausted his collegiate eligibility at Missouri back in 2013, but he is still actively competing. His victory over Steveson came in the third-place match at the 2018 edition of the Open.

    At the time, Steveson was still a senior in high school. Even at the time, you could see his physicality coming into play as he was able to snap down the veteran hard early in the contest. Bradley ended up going on the clock first, and he was nearly able to get to a double. However, Steveson was able to avoid the attempt and drive Bradley out for the one-point lead.

    After a slow start to the second, the referee put Steveson on the activity clock. When he was unable to score, Bradley pulled into the criteria lead 1-1. It did not last long as Steveson drove Bradley off with a single to pull back ahead at 2-1. The Missouri wrestler would not be denied. He pushed hard for a step out and ended up securing it with three seconds left in that match.

    Despite that loss, Steveson won his next three matches against Bradley. Their last meeting came at the 2019 Bill Farrell where Steveson scored a 4-1 victory.

    Steveson enters the Open as the top seed, and the two wrestlers who have defeated him will join him in the top three. Gwiazdowski will be the second seed, while Bradley was awarded third. It remains to be seen how Steveson will perform after spending so much time away from the unscripted version of the sport. On paper, he remains the favorite against everyone in the field, but he has lost before and there will be plenty of opponents with a high level of familiarity.

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