Images via Gopher Sports/Michigan Athletics
Following a successful freshman campaign that ended with a Big 10 runner up finish and 3rd place showing at NCAAs Gable Steveson was considered to be the only heavyweight that would have a shot at dethroning the reigning champion Anthony Cassar this season. This all changed when an off the mat issue prevented Gable Steveson from competing with the Gophers for much of the beginning of the season.
Mason Parris also had a very successful true freshman season that concluded in the blood round at the NCAAs but included signature wins over Youssif Hemida and Amar Dhesi. Mason then made the most of his offseason gaining some much-needed weight and winning a junior world title. He came into this season ranked around 9th by most major outlets but quickly surged to #2 behind Cassar in Gable’s absence.
The heavyweight class shifted again when Cassar suffered a season-ending injury at the US open and Gable made his return to the mat for the Gophers. Gable took over the #1 spot at heavyweight and Parris maintained his #2 ranking. The clash between these two elite big men was supposed to go down at the Michigan-Minnesota dual on January 19th but Steveson didn’t wrestle the bout for unknown reasons. The match between these guys is now set to go down at Big 10s this weekend and I’m picking Parris.
First off let me say that I am aware that this is probably an unpopular opinion but I’m prepared to defend it. Both heavies are great competitors and I can’t wait to watch this matchup go down. That being said, my reasons for picking Parris this weekend are his strength of schedule this season, his physical conditioning and his willingness to capitalize on scoring opportunities.
The first reason is pretty self explanatory but Mason Parris has wrestled a lot more matches and more quality opponents than Gable this season. So far this season Mason is 26-0 which is more than double the matches Gable has had this season (currently 12-0). Of these wins, Gable has 3 top-10 wins (over Cassioppi, Hillger, and Wood). Parris, on the other hand, has 7 top-10 wins (over Cassioppi, Hillger, Thomas, Hall and 3 over Stencel). Although these wins don’t make Parris the favorite, having high-level match experience will give Parris an advantage when he faces off with Steveson next weekend.
Similar to match experience, I see conditioning as a key factor in the Gable-Parris matchup. Parris has shown off his motor all season, attacking relentlessly through all three periods of his matchups. Gable, on the other hand, has wrestled in short bursts, perfectly exemplified in his match against Cassioppi. Although both are valid wrestling styles, in a close matchup, having a great gas tank can be the difference maker and Mason Parris has been working on his since November. I believe this was the main difference-maker in Gable’s matches with Cassar last year and will once again play a factor this year in his matchup with Parris.
My final point is regarding the ability to execute moves and is probably my most controversial. But, to me, Mason Parris has shown a greater willingness to pursue scoring opportunities when they are presented. This is displayed by the numerous falls he’s secured this season and his ability to put elite heavyweights on their back (Cassioppi, Thomas, Stencel). Gable has wrestled a little more laid back this season and seems to be content with scoring enough points to win instead of scoring as many points as possible. I am not implying that Parris will put gable on his back this weekend, but Parris’ killer instinct is going to give him an edge in this matchup.
Prediction and Conclusion
For all these reasons my final prediction is Parris over Gable 3-1 with a late third period takedown. His performance this year so far has been incredible and I expect him to continue it this weekend at the Big 10s with the upset of the tournament. Best of luck to BOTH competitors!