Well who couldn’t see this coming? Young Gable Steveson, wrestling extraordinaire, dominates yet another tournament. In what appears to be Steveson’s modus operandi, Gable sought out older competition by taking his talents to the Daktronics Open—making use of new rules that have lifted restrictions on high school wrestlers competing in collegiate opens.
But if I am being completely honest, I’ll admit that I didn’t really see this coming. At least not in 2016. When Gable Steveson bested Jordan Wood in Akron once again, I hilariously assumed that, while Steveson was really good, Jordan Wood was also overrated. I even posted this scorching take shortly after1:
“I would bet against Wood ever making All-American”
And while I’m still not as high on Wood’s prospects as others, the truth is that Gable Steveson had more to do with that result than anything that may or may not be lacking from Wood’s skillset. Gable Steveson is “that dude.” For a few years now, he has demolished competition both domestically and on the world stage. He may be the best prospect in my lifetime. So when the 17-year-old entered the Daktronics Open, I knew it would present a great opportunity to evaluate the extent of his dominance.
Gable Steveson at the Daktronics Open
While some were quick to downplay Gable’s competition at the Daktronics open, I was a little higher on the wrestlers he eventually faced. Fortunately, he managed to receive a draw that allowed him to wrestle the best possible competition. In the end, he beat the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th place wrestlers (along with another that placed top 8). David Jensen and Rylee Streifel went a combined 45-19 wrestling mostly in open tournaments last year; Nathan Rose was a well-regarded High School wrestler and 3X Minnesota state champion; and Brandon Metz was one of the top Heavyweight recruits coming into the year (ranked no. 53 on FloWrestling’s 2017 Big Board). Sure, he didn’t run across any All-Americans, or even any ranked wrestlers, but I felt his competition was just good enough to give us an indication of where he is in his development.
Listed below is each 285-pound wrestler’s Point Differential per 7 minutes of wrestling. Point differential is explained in further detail here
While sample size and quality of competition leave us a few outliers (in this case Vough and Macki), point differential is still a good indicator of wrestling ability and dominance. As the data reveals, Gable lapped the field by accumulating a point differential 2.5 times that of his nearest counterpart. Interestingly enough, every opponent Gable wrestled was near the top of the point differential standings, and that includes the burden of having to wrestle Gable in the first place. Here is how Gable directly impacted their tournament performances, respectively.
|Wrestler||PD/7 (Excluding Gable match)||Final PD/7||Decrease in PD/7|
How good is a 15.75 PD?
It’s a really good. Comparatively, dominant wrestlers such as Jason Nolf, Zain Retherford, and B0 Nickal sustained a PD/7 over 15 throughout the entire 2016-2017 season. Coming into the Big Ten tournament, Nolf had a point differential/7 minutes of 18.283. Now while numbers for the Daktronics Open may be a tad inflated due to the nature of competition (it’s no Big 10 schedule), Steveson still came in at 4th out of 10 Daktronics Open champions (listed below).
When you consider that Gable is a heavyweight, where scores tend to be lower and closer than most other weights, I find this performance to be even more impressive. Right now, as a high-schooler, he’s showing a separation from the field that compares favorably to NCAA finalist, Ethan Lizak.
True Point Differential
Now, you might see the 6.462 points allowed and notice that it’s higher than most of the other wrestlers, but every point Gable gave up was an escape, and much of them came from playing the takedown/release game. If you take out the escapes, reversals, and non-stalling penalty points in a match, you can determine a True Point Differential (TPD). His TPD results were as follows:
TPF/7 = 21.0
TPA/7 = 0
TPD/7 = 21.0
This puts him even closer to the elite trio of Mckee/Venz/Rotert. For example, Taylor Venz’s TPD/7 doesn’t vary from his PD/7—it remains 21.985 when removing escapes, reversals, or penalty points. Therefore, we can determine that Gable’s true offensive production is right near the top.
Gable Steveson had 20 takedowns in 17 minutes and 20 seconds of wrestling. This puts his Takedowns per 7 minutes at 8.077. At over a takedown per minute, Gable is establishing himself as an elite neutral wrestler. Right now he is relying mostly on volume of takedowns, but it isn’t to say he can’t be efficient with them. His Takedown efficiency score of 1.9 is well above average. This means that Gable is netting 1.9 points per takedown sequence. When he wanted to, Gable was able to demonstrate efficiency by:
- Getting a big move against Metz (6-points and a pin)
- Riding-out periods after securing takedowns in matches against Jensen and Rose
- Earning near-fall points in takedown sequences (4-point near-fall tilt against Rose, cradle leading to fall against Jensen)
Gable’s mat ability wasn’t nearly on showcase as his neutral wrestling this tournament, but he showed flashes of being able to handle D1 folkstyle mat wrestling whenever he was determined to wrestle on the mat. Four times he rode a wrestler for over a minute, and the two times he found himself on bottom, he averaged only 12.5 seconds before earning an escape. When you also take into account the near-fall he secured, he is looking like a clear, “plus” mat wrestler.
Compared to the Greats
Just for fun and perspective, I thought we could compare this tournament performance to one that Jason Nolf turned in last year with comparable competition. Taking Nolf’s four matches (from the round-of-16 on) at last year’s Keystone Classic, here’s a side-by side glance of how Gable stacks up:
|21||True Point Differential/7||27.081|
|1.90||Takedown Efficiency Score||1.731|
Right now, Gable doesn’t seem that far behind Nolf’s production. Nolf is one of the best neutral wrestlers that D1 wrestling has ever seen, and while Nolf has already demonstrated that he can repeat similar performances against elite competition, I will be betting on Gable to do the same when he gets there.
Gable basically confirmed what the majority of us believe: he’s set to become and all-time great. In addition to everything mentioned above, he also passed the “eye test” by showing the ability to finish clean on his takedowns and shutting down any offense thrown his way. He was never threatened this entire tournament and he may have taken it easy on his future teammate, Rylee Streifel. Gable Steveson is an exceptional talent. Let’s hope there’s something in the works for a run at Midlands next month.