Gable Steveson won his second NCAA Heavyweight National Championship on Saturday night, defeating Arizona State's Cohlton Schultz in Detroit. His celebration after the win featured him removing his wrestling shoes and leaving them on the mat, which symbolically means the end of his amateur wrestling career. Steveson was signed by the WWE last year (and drafted to Monday Night Raw) as the first member of their Next In Line (NIL) recruitment program and has also been training for a professional wrestling career on top of training for his final season at the University of Minnesota.
Steveson will now enter the WWE with an amateur wrestling resume that is similar to Kurt Angle's, as they both won two National Championships as well as an Olympic gold medal. He addressed those comparisons to the WWE Hall of Famer in an interview with After The Bell last November.
"It's fine. I don't mind the pressure," Steveson said. "People compare me to Kurt Angle and Brock Lesnar, it's actually really cool. Kurt Angle is a legend. They're both Hall of Famers at the end of the day. To be compared to those guys is something crazy. It's good and bad. Kurt won a gold medal and I won a gold medal. The difference is, he had a broken neck and I won it in the last one second. My gold medal doesn't exist because if I don't have a broken neck, it's gone.
"The chip is always going to be there because people surround that pressure that I like around me to be a WWE superstar and live up to that hype," he added. "That Kurt Angle hype is really good and it drives me to be better than he is. If I don't reach that point, I know I tried and did my best. At the end of the day, my goal is to be the best version of Gable, not Kurt Angle, not Brock Lesnar. Even with their support and their look, I want to be the person I want to be."
Steveson has also talked in the past about how Brock Lesnar, another former NCAA Heavyweight Champion, helped him with picking a career in WWE. He told Ariel Helwani last year, "Besides talking to guys like Lesnar and Triple H and such, I haven't actually talked to another collegiate wrestler in WWE....[Brock] was a good part [of the decision] because the Brock Lesnar path, like we talked about, he started with WWE and went to the NFL and made it to the final stages of being on the team, then went to UFC," Steveson said. "So, I mean the Brock Lesnar route is helpful for me, and I want to pave my own way and have my own destiny. He was a big help in this, and it was cool that he gave me some guidance."