Steveson won't wrestle for Gophers this season

The on-again, off-again chance of Gable Steveson using his final season of eligibility with the Gophers wrestling team is off for the 2024 season.

Gophers coach Brandon Eggum said during a video posted Thursday on the X platform that Steveson, the two-time NCAA heavyweight champion and 2020 Olympic 125-kilogram freestyle gold medalist, won't wrestle for the Gophers this season.

"Unfortunately, he will not be able to compete for us this season," Eggum said. "He's a great competitor, he's always wanted to compete for the University of Minnesota. But ultimately, the WWE would prefer that he solely focus on his professional wrestling career at this time."

Steveson joined the WWE in 2022, after he won his second consecutive NCAA championship. He had a year of eligibility remaining because of the COVID-19 waiver granted by the NCAA, and he flirted with using it in both 2022-23 and this season, but his WWE duties kept him from doing that. Steveson recently has appeared at "WWE SmackDown" events and is slated for more in the future, several professional wrestling websites reported.

Eggum added that whenever Steveson is not at the WWE Performance Center in Orlando, he returns to Minnesota and wrestles with the Gophers heavyweights during practice. "We just can't thank him enough for the impact he's had on our program," Eggum said. "We love following him and watching him compete on the mat. He's amazing, and now we're excited to watch him in his WWE career."

Steveson, who starred at Apple Valley High School, won three Big Ten championships to go along with his two NCAA titles. He returned to amateur wrestling at the U.S. Open in Las Vegas in April, winning the 125-kg freestyle crown with a sweep of Michigan's Mason Parris in the final, earning a spot on the U.S. world championship team. But he withdrew from the world championships in September and has focused on pro wrestling.