With the team race already decided, as Penn State clinched the team title on Saturday morning, the finals of the 2022 NCAA Championships finals became a display of the greatest individual college wrestlers in the nation, battling for the top prize in the sport.
Nine of the 20 finalists had won at least one NCAA Div. I national title coming in. After the last whistle of the finals, seven champions went home with another NCAA individual trophy. Penn State won all five of its NCAA finals matches, including four of those repeat champions. Oh, and an Olympic gold medalist did another backflip and left his shoes on the mat in retirement.
The final match of the evening featured 2020 Olympic gold medalist and 2021 NCAA champion Gable Steveson of Minnesota at 129.2 kg division, in what he has said is his last college match (his eligibility is not exhausted). He drew No. 2 seed Cohlton Schultz of Arizona, himself a 2021 U.S. Senior Greco-Roman World Team member. Steveson scored first-period takedowns, with a Schultz escape in between, to lead 4-1 after the first period. Each athlete scored an escape when in the bottom position, and no more takedowns were scored. Steveson earned riding time for a 6-2 win.
After waving to the crowd and hugging his coaches, Steveson whipped up the crowd noise then hit his patented back flip to the delight of the crowd. After blowing kisses to the crowd, Steveson took off his shoes in the traditional wrestling retirement ceremony. Afterwards, he was named Outstanding Wrestler of the tournament.
“It means a lot, going out there enjoying myself and putting time in and effort in. I took my shoes off, did a back flip. It’s just what I do. I love to do flips. I’ve been doing flips since I was young. I was doing gymnastics class on the grass, on the trampoline. I had to put my shoes back on to go on the podium. But for now I’m done, for now I’m done,” said Steveson.