Wrestler Gable Steveson Scores Thrilling Buzzer-Beater Win To Take Gold Medal
by Bob Reinert
Gable Steveson celebrates at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 on Aug. 6, 2021 in Chiba, Japan.
Gable Steveson got to do his signature celebratory backflip after all, but it took a nearly superhuman effort to get there.
— Team USA (@TeamUSA) August 6, 2021
Trailing 8-5 to three-time defending world champion Geno Petriashvili of Georgia, Steveson scored a pair of two-point takedowns with less than seven seconds left in the match to win a gold medal Friday in the Olympic men’s freestyle 125 kg. wrestling competition at the Makuhari Messe Hall.
“You saw that?” Steveson said. “Wow. No way. Ain't no way. I'm speechless. I've never done it before, but today was the day.”
The 21-year-old reigning NCAA champion from the University of Minnesota led 4-0 after the first period. At that point, he had outscored opponents 27-0 throughout the competition. But the veteran Petriashvili battled back, becoming the first wrestler to score points against Steveson in Tokyo.
— Team USA (@TeamUSA) August 6, 2021
Petriashvili finally took the lead at 6-5 and built it to 8-5 before Steveson came roaring back to win. He scored his final two points with two-tenths of a second remaining. A failed challenge by Georgia after the match added a point to account for the 10-8 final score.
Steveson became the first American heavyweight wrestler to win an Olympic gold medal since Bruce Baumgartner did it 29 years ago in 1992. Five of this year’s six U.S. men’s freestyle wrestlers will bring home medals of some color.
The young American had beaten Mongolia’s Lkhagvagerel Munkhtur in the semifinals, 5-0. In the quarterfinals, Steveson defeated defending Olympic champion Taha Akgul of Turkey, 8-0.
“I'm so happy to be here,” Steveson said. “I'm happy to be here with (Team) USA, so many great guys in the team, coaches, and I'm so proud to represent the country and do my job for them.
“Hats off to all my competitors. It was crazy.”
Kyle Dake poses at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 on Aug. 6, 2021 in Chiba, Japan.
Also on Friday for Team USA, Kyle Dake bounced back from a shocking 11-0 technical fall loss to Mahamedkhabib Kadzimahamedau of Belarus in the quarterfinals to win a bronze medal in the men’s freestyle 74 kg. class.
In a matchup between a pair of two-time world champions, Dake outscored Frank Chamizo of Italy, 5-0, to take home a medal. Chamizo had won the bronze in 2016 in Rio.
“I was able to bounce back and wrestle more like my old self today,” Dake said. “A couple of hiccups here and there, and you just battle through them.
“I moved my feet. Frank is a beast. I competed really well, didn’t give up any points, and I’m excited for the world championships in a couple of months.”
Dake had to wrestle through the repechage to reach the bronze-medal match. He won there in convincing style, defeating Jeandry Garzon Caballero of Cuba by technical superiority, 10-0.
Jacarra Winchester celebrates at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 on Aug. 6, 2021 in Chiba, Japan.
In the women’s freestyle 53 kg. bronze-medal match, Jacarra Winchester lost by fall to fellow world champion Vanesa Kaladzinskaya of Belarus with 51 seconds left in the opening period.
Winchester had reached the bronze-medal match by defeating Laura Herin Avila of Cuba, 5-0, in the repechage.
A pair of Americans will wrestle for medals on Saturday.
Defending Olympic champion and two-time world champion Kyle Snyder will meet Abdulrashid Sadulaev of the Russian Olympic Committee for the gold medal in the men’s freestyle 97 kg. on Saturday. Sadulaev is a four-time world and one-time Olympic champion.
Snyder reached the finale with a 5-0 semifinal win over Suleyman Karadeniz of Turkey.
Sarah Hildebrandt, a 2018 world silver medalist, lost a disappointing 10-7 semifinal decision in the women’s freestyle 50 kg. to Yunan Sun of China but will battle for bronze on Saturday.
Hildebrandt led 7-0 in the first period but then began to lose momentum. Ahead 7-6 as time wound down, Hildebrandt suffered a four-point throw to lose, 10-7, just as the horn sounded.
In her previous two matches, Hildebrandt had outscored her opponents 23-2 to post a pair of wins by technical superiority.
Want to follow Team USA athletes during the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020? Visit TeamUSA.org/Tokyo2020 to view the medal table, results and competition schedule.
Bob Reinert spent 17 years writing sports for The Boston Globe. He also served as a sports information director at Saint Anselm College and Phillips Exeter Academy. He is a contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.