Final X Preview: Teen sensation Steveson challenges World medalist “The Gwiz”

Updated: June 6, 2019
Even before Gable Steveson ended his Minnesota prep career, which led to four state titles at Apple Valley, and began his college career at the University of Minnesota in 2018-19, the three-time Cadet/Junior World champion had bigger international goals on the Senior level.

Now at the age of 19, the heavyweight — whose middle name is Dan and named after the legendary Iowa coach — has a shot at making his first Senior World Championships team at this Saturday’s Final X event at Rutgers University. But Steveson faces a big task as he must first defeat Nick Gwiazdowski, the two-time World bronze medalist. The series is among 13 match-ups that will take place in Piscataway. There will also be 15 bouts a week later at Final X in Lincoln, Neb., that will eventually send 30 wrestlers in three styles at the 2019 UWW World Championships, Sept. 14-22, in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan.

Here is a preview of a Best-of-3 men’s freestyle meeting between Gwiazdowski and Steveson as well as a preview of a women’s freestyle bout between World bronze medalist Tamyra Mensah-Stock and Alex Glaude and a Greco-Roman meeting between Jon Kendrick Sanders and Jon Stefanowicz, which will take place starting at either 12 noon or 6 p.m. EDT at the Rutgers Athletic Center this Saturday.

MFS-125k/275lb            Nick Gwiazdowski vs. Gable Steveson

Gwiazdowski, the 26-year-old native of Niskayuna, N.Y., earned the automatic invite to Final X Rutgers after he won three of four bouts and a bronze medal at the 2018 Worlds in Paris; one year after the former two-time NCAA (2014 & ’15) champ from NC State also claimed a bronze at the 2017 Worlds. “Gwiz” warmed up for Final X by going undefeated at the Pan-American Championships and at the Beat the Streets Gala the past two months.

Steveson qualified for Final X when the 2019 NCAA All-American — the Gopher finished third in Pittsburgh — defeated four foes at the World Team Trials Challenge tournament at Raleigh, N.C. That included a pair of stunning and dominating wins, 13-3 and 8-1, over Adam Coon, the 2018 World Greco-Roman silver medalist who also reached Final X freestyle in 2018.

Before qualifying for the 2017 Worlds, Gwiazdowski (who also earned NCAA All-American honors at Binghamton before transferring to NC State in 2012), finished fourth at the 2016 Olympic Trials.

Steveson’s three age-group World championships came in 2015 and ’16, when won the 100-kilogram Cadet titles, then in 2017 as a 120-kilogram Junior gold medalist.

GR-82k/180lb            Kendrick Sanders vs. Jon Stefanowicz  

Neither of these two wrestlers have appeared in a World championship, but Sanders — a 28-year-old native of Homestead, Fla. —  was the first to earn a trip to Final X Rutgers when he won five matches — as the No. 6 seed — and won the championship at the U.S. Open in Las Vegas. One of his victories there was a 7-2 decision in the semifinals over Stefanowicz, who was seeded No. 2.

Injuries played a big factor in Sanders missing plenty of action before 2019.

“I’ve been through so much these past couple years on and off the mat,” Sanders told after winning the Open. “To finally be healthy, and to do the things I’m doing right now, all thanks to God, man. A year ago I would have been a different person out there, frustrated, not getting the calls I want to get. I had to keep my composure. Guys want to frustrate me. They feel like that’s the way to get me off my game, and in the past it’s worked. But I’m a completely different person now. I put all the work in, and it’s finally showing up.”

Stefanowicz, a 26-year-old native of Kennard, Pa., who now wrestles for the U.S. Marines, came back to win four bouts — as the No. 6 seed — at the World Team Trials Challenge tournament. That included a pair of wins over former World Team member Cheyney Haight, 5-1 and 5-1, in the finals.

The closest either wrestler came to qualifying for the Worlds was in 2017 when Stefanowicz finished second to Haight at 80 kilos. Sanders, who attended the USOEC at Northern Michigan and did not compete a year ago, finished third in the 2012 Olympic Trials and third at the 2013 World Team Trials.

WFS-68k/149.5lb            Tamyra Mensah-Stock  vs. Alexandria Glaude

Mensah-Stock has been the top USA woman at this weight the past three years, and earned her first medal at last year’s World Championships, where she earned a bronze medal. This also garnered her an automatic berth in Final X Rutgers. The 26-year-old native of Katy, Texas, actually won the 2016 Olympic Trials spot at 69 kilos but was unable to qualify the weight class for the United States and did not compete in Rio. In 2017, she finished ninth at the World Championships.

Glaude, a 22-year-old native of West Sacramento, Calif., earned a trip to Final X when she defeated Randi Beltz in three bouts at the World Team Trials Challenge tournament in Raleigh. After getting pinned in the first match, Glaude came back to beat Beltz, 6-2 and 6-1.

Mensah-Stock, who became the first American woman to win three straight Yarygin Grand Prix championships in Russia this past winter, won two WCWA championships for Wayland Baptist in 2014 and ’17. Glaude, who will be a senior this next winter at McKendree University, has wrestled in two age-group World tournaments; finishing ninth in the 2017 Junior Worlds and claiming a bronze medal in last year’s U23 World Championships

WIN Magazine will provide comprehensive coverage of both Final X events. To get a Subscription to WIN’s Monthly Print or Digital Magazine so you get the Final X coverage, click here.

Previous and Upcoming Final X Rutgers Daily Previews

(Click on dates to read other previews)

Date Style/Wt Matchup
Monday, June 3 MFS-65k/143.5lb Yianni Diakomihalis vs. Zain Retherford
GR-55k/121lb Max Nowry vs. Brady Koontz
WFS-50k/110lb Whitney Conder vs. Victoria Anthony
Tuesday, June 4 MFS-79k/174lb Kyle Dake vs. Alex Dieringer
GR-67k/147.5lb Ellis Coleman vs. Jamel Johnson
WFS-57k/125.5lb Becka Leathers vs. Jenna Burkert
Wednesday, June 5 MFS-92k/202lb J’den Cox vs. Bo Nickal
GR-77k/169lb Kamal Bey vs. Pat Smith
WFS-65k/143.5lb Forrest Molinari vs. Maya Nelson
Friday, June 7 GR-87k/191.5lb Ben Provisor vs. Joe Rau
WFS-72k/158.5lb Victoria Francis vs. Alyvia Fiske

Next week, WIN will examine the 15 Final X matches in Lincoln, Neb., which will take place on Saturday, June 15

Men’s Freestyle

57k/125.5lb Thomas Gilman vs. Daton Fix
61k/134lb Tyler Graff vs. Joe Colon
70k/154lb James Green vs. Ryan Deakin
74k/163lb Isaiah Martinez vs. Jordan Burroughs
97k/213lb Kyven Gadson vs. Kyle Snyder


60k/132lb Ildar Hafizov vs. Leslie Fuenffinger
63k/138.5lb Xavier Johnson vs. Ryan Mango
72k/158.5lb Alex Mossing vs. Raymond Bunker
97k/213.5lb Lucas Sheridan vs. G’Angelo Hancock
130k/286.5lb Cohlton Schultz vs. Adam Coon

Women’s Freestyle

53k/116.5lb Katherine Shai vs. Sarah Hildebrandt
55k/121lb Dominique Parrish vs. Jacarra Winchester
59k/130lb Lauren Louive vs. Alli Ragan
62k/136.5lb Kayla Miracle vs. Mallory Velte
76k/167.6lb Precious Bell vs. Adeline Gray