ST. LOUIS — Gable Steveson finally got his NCAA championship.
Steveson, this week’s No. 1 seed and one of the most dominant collegiate wrestlers for most of the past three seasons, finally took home the big prize on Saturday night, winning his first title at the NCAA Wrestling Championships with an 8-4 decision over No. 2 seed Mason Parrish of Michigan.
Steveson, a four-time Minnesota high school state champion from Apple Valley, was ranked No. 1 in the nation for most of his freshman season two years ago before that came crashing down when he surprisingly suffered the only two losses of his collegiate career to Anthony Casser of Penn State, first in the Big Ten tournament final and then two weeks later in the NCAA semifinals. Steveson rebounded to finish third in the NCAA that year, starting his current 34-match win streak.
Last year as a sophomore, Steveson was 15-0, ranked No. 1 in the nation and coming off a Big Ten tournament title when the NCAA tournament was suddenly cancelled by the coronavirus pandemic. It was a tournament he fully expected to win.
This week, there was no keeping him from winning it all. He finished 5-0 this week to improve his season record to 17-0, with his closest match of the tournament coming against Parrish.
And even that wasn’t all that close.
Steveson, 67-2 at the U over his career, controlled the match throughout, finishing with three takedowns, an escape and a penalty point gained when Parrish was called for stalling in the final period. Parrish scored all his points on uncontested escapes — three after Steveson took him down and then let him up, then one when Steveson let him up to start the third period.
“It’s been a long time coming, with a lot of doubters,” Steveson said of his championship.
It was his third victory over Parrish (12-2) and second this season. In previous matches, Steveson beat Parrish 8-6 in the 2020 Big Ten tournament final and 12-4 in the 2021 Big Ten tournament final two weeks ago.
Two other Gophers earned All-American honors on Saturday with top-eight finishes.
Patrick McKee, a sophomore seeded No. 15 at 125 pounds, beat No. 4 seed Drew Hildebrandt of Central Michigan 5-3 in the third-place match. That victory capped a remarkable tournament for McKee, who finished 7-1 in the three-day competition and finished with six consecutive victories through the consolation round.
Brayton Lee, a sophomore seeded No. 6 at 157 pounds, finished sixth, dropping his final match 11-2 to No. 2 seed Hayden Hidlay of North Carolina State.