With a name like “Gable,” perhaps it was expected for Team USA’s Gable Steveson to win Olympic gold in wrestling at the 2021 Tokyo Olympics.
But Friday’s gold medal match in the freestyle 125 kilogram weight class (285 pounds) pushed Steveson to his limits: He faced an 8-5 deficit in the final moments of his match against defending world champion Geno Petriashvili of Georgia, necessitating two two-point takedowns in just 13 seconds — nearly impossible at that level of competition.
Steveson managed to pull off what is perhaps the comeback of these Olympic Games when he scored two stunning takedowns against the defending Rio bronze medalist: one with 11 seconds remaining on the clock and the next with just 0.4 seconds, securing a 9-8 victory and gold medal.
Petriashvili’s corner challenged the call on the mat, but video replay confirmed that Steveson secured the takedown.
Steveson — full name “Gable Dan Steveson” — is named after United States wrestling legend Dan Gable, himself a gold medalist at the 1972 Munich Games. Despite his namesake, Steveson was not a favorite to win these games. But the 21-year-old, coming off an individual NCAA wrestling championship in March for the University of Minnesota, managed to shut out each of his opponents prior to his gold medal match against Petriashvili.
That started with an opening-match tech fall against Aiaal Lazarev of Kyrgyzstan, which lasted little over 2 minutes and included five takedowns in the 10-0 victory. After that, Steveson defeated Turkey’s Taha Akgul — the defending Rio gold medalist — 8-0. Steveson then beat Mongolia’s Lkhagvagerel Munkhtur 5-0. In all, Steveson outscored opponents 23-0 before facing Petriashvili.
Steveson actually extended his shutout to 27-0 against the Georgian in the first period, jumping out to a 4-0 lead. But Petriashvili cut that deficit to 5-2 in the second, then reeled off six straight points to take the lead at 8-5. The score remained the same until the final seconds of the match.
Curiously, this is the second time in as many days that a Team USA wrestler needed a last-second takedown to score gold: David Taylor scored a double-leg takedown with 17 seconds remaining against Iran’s Hassan Yazdani to win 4-3 in the freestyle 86 kilogram (189 pounds) final.