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Which college wrestlers are already taking advantage of NIL

by Mike Willis, USA Wrestling

Beginning yesterday, July 1, NCAA athletes became eligible to earn money through endorsements, capitalizing on their name, image and likeness (NIL). Coming on the heels of a unanimous Supreme Court ruling, the NIL will probably be the biggest shakeup to the college sports model ever witnessed.

While athletic departments and athletes all over the country are grappling with the opportunities and realities of this new era, we’ve already seen several wrestlers capitalize on sponsorship opportunities and sign some deals.

Minnesota’s Gable Steveson, a 2021 NCAA champion and Olympian, signed with GoPuff, a grocery delivery service.

Steveson’s deal should come as no surprise, as he has the largest Instagram following of any current Big Ten athlete. Penn State’s Roman Bravo-Young and Iowa’s Spencer Lee have also cultivated six-figure followings on the app and are the third and seventh most-followed Big Ten athletes respectively.

Bravo-Young and Lee have both inked deals with Barstool Athletics, an offshoot of the wildly successful sports media conglomerate Barstool Sports.

Another big-name wrestler with a deal already secured is Oklahoma State’s AJ Ferrari. A true-freshman NCAA champion at 197 pounds last season, Ferrari signed with Near Fall clothing, a wrestling-specific clothing and merchandise brand.

Another Big 12 wrestler who most likely has piqued the interest of numerous sponsors is Iowa State’s David Carr. The 2021 NCAA champion at 157 pounds, Carr is the most followed athlete in any sport for Iowa State, clocking in at just shy of 70,000 followers on Instagram.

Right now, we are only one day into the NIL era, and it’s hard to picture the new future of college athletics and individual sponsorships. One thing that we should expect to see more of is college-level wrestlers utilizing their social media and signing deals.