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Steveson makes switch from wrestling to football by signing with Bills Friday

AP File Photo Olympic gold medal wrestler Gable Steveson is trading the mat for the gridiron by signing contract with the Buffalo Bills on Friday.

ORCHARD PARK — Olympic gold medal wrestler Gable Steveson is seeking to trade the mat for the gridiron by signing a standard undrafted rookie free agent contract with the Buffalo Bills on Friday.

The Bills list the 24-year-old Steveson as a defensive lineman in hopes his leverage techniques and agility can translate to football.

Listed at 5-foot-11 and 266 pounds, Steveson, at 21, became the youngest freestyle wrestler to win gold as a super heavyweight at the Tokyo Olympics in 2021. He then went on to win two college national titles at Minnesota in 2021 and ’22, and twice was named the Dan Hodge Trophy winner as the nation’s best college wrestler.

After his second college championship, Steveson left his shoes in the center of the mat, symbolizing his retirement from amateur wrestling.

In Buffalo, Steveson joins a team with a head coach in Sean McDermott who was a two-time high school national wrestling champion growing up in Pennsylvania. And while McDermott went on to pursue football after high school, he credits wrestling for helping shape his life.

“I have been fortunate to compete at the highest level of competition in my sport but am looking forward to the challenge of seeing how my wrestling skills may translate to football,” Steveson said, in a statement released by his agent, Carter Chow. “I am grateful to Coach McDermott, (GM) Brandon Beane and the Buffalo Bills organization for giving me this opportunity.

Although Steveson’s contract with Buffalo spans three years, it is not guaranteed unless he makes the team.

The Bills opened a spot to add Steveson by releasing Matt Haack, one of three punters on the roster. Buffalo re-signed Haack this offseason after adding him to their practice squad in the playoffs as insurance when Sam Martin was bothered by a hamstring injury.

Steveson becomes the second player without past football experience Buffalo has added to its roster this offseason. Last month, the Bills used their final pick to select former English rugby player Travis Clayton in the seventh round of the draft. The 23-year-old Clayton, listed at 6-foot-7 and 303 pounds, is projected to play offensive line after spending this past winter learning about American football in the NFL’s International Pathway Program.

Steveson won gold at the Tokyo Games by scoring a dramatic last-second win against Geno Petriashvili. He had numerous options after the victory, and chose to return to college for a year and cash in on the new name, image and likeness rules that allowed college athletes to make money.

He signed an NIL deal with World Wrestling Entertainment before his final college season and later joined the company.

After joining WWE, Steveson briefly returned to amateur wrestling last year. He competed at the U.S. Open and Final X and won both in dominant fashion. That qualified him for the world championships, but he chose not to compete.

Steveson initially joined the WWE with much fanfare. He was mostly part of its developmental brand, NXT, before being released in May.

Steveson is from Minnesota, and his mother named him Gable in honor of wrestler Don Gable, who won gold at the 1972 Munich Olympics.

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