Gable Steveson, the 17-year-old Apple Valley High School wrestling phenom, made a strong first impression in his debut in the senior men’s freestyle division.
Steveson took fourth place at 125 kilograms (275.5 pounds) at the Marine Corps U.S. Open on Saturday in Las Vegas, finishing the tournament with a 5-2 record. In the third-place match, the fifth-seeded Steveson lost to top-seeded Dom Bradley on a tiebreaker. The match finished in a 2-2 tie, but Bradley won because he was the last wrestler to score, which came with three seconds left in the second period when he pushed Steveson out of bounds.
“I wrestled pretty good. I’m proud of myself this weekend,’’ Steveson said. “I came in as a 17-year-old wrestling these 27-, 29-, 30-year-olds, and I feel pretty good about myself. … It’s going to give me some real good confidence that I can hang with these guys.’’
After a 3-1 showing Friday, Steveson, who will begin his collegiate career with the Gophers this fall, won his first two matches Saturday. He topped Mike Kosoy 9-0 to move into the consolation semifinals, where he beat Tanner Hall 11-0 in 2 minutes, 24 seconds.
By finishing in the top seven at the U.S. Open, Steveson advanced to the World Team Trials Challenge Tournament on May 18-20 in Rochester. He said he wasn’t sure if he’ll wrestle in the senior or junior division there.
“I’m just going to keep working hard and keep pushing myself,’’ Steveson said. “I feel pretty good about this weekend. It was a learning experience, and I’m just going to take everything in.’’
Tony Nelson, a two-time NCAA champion for the Gophers and Steveson’s teammate with the Minnesota Storm wrestling club, finished fifth at 125 kg with a 6-4 win over Hall after he overcame a 4-0 deficit. In the consolation semifinals, Nelson lost 2-1 to Bradley.
The Storm had one wrestler in the finals. Hayden Zillmer, a former North Dakota State All-America from Crosby, Minn., lost 2-0 to Olympic bronze medalist J’den Cox in the 92-kg title match.
Six other Minnesotans placed Saturday:
At 57 kg, Gophers assistant coach Zach Sanders beat Frank Perrelli 4-3 for third place.
At 65 kg, Nick Dardanes edged Jayson Ness 8-7 in a battle of former Gophers in the consolation semifinals. Dardanes then lost 13-2 in 4:07 to Logan Stieber in the third-place match. Ness finished fifth with a 10-0 win in 1:44 over Evan Henderson.
Dylan Ness, Jayson’s brother and another former Gopher, took fourth at 70 kg, falling 8-2 to Alec Pantaleo.
Gophers sophomore Carson Brolsma lost 10-0 in 1:59 to Evan Wick in the fifth-place match, and Gophers junior Skyler Petry took eighth at 57 kg.
Former Apple Valley standout Seth Gross, an NCAA champion at South Dakota State, finished sixth at 61 kg after sitting out his final two matches because of injury.