Ep 101: Dan Gable on preparation, toughness, and the importance of his parents
In wrestling, we’re always battling for something.
Winning is great. Winning a lot is impressive. Winning championships makes it so people know your name. But very few people reach a level of success such that their name becomes synonymous with dominance in a sport. Dan Gable is wrestling in Iowa. Literally, Gable’s name is so closely intertwined with wrestling that we often see grapplers named Gable; notably, #2 heavyweight Gable Stevenson of Minnesota looks to cap his dominant freshman season with a national title this week. In episode 101, Tim has a conversation with a living legend of the sport.
My preparation was all week long, every week.
Dan Gable grew up in Waterloo, IA and toughness was just a part of the way he grew up. He grew up as a wrestler and credits the coaches he had in a youth program. Wrestling was the sport where he didn’t have to sit still or take breaks. Even in the conversation, Gable’s intensity and pace clearly show. Gable was undefeated as a wrestler through high school and into the final match of his college career. Tim asks Gable about that historic match against Larry Owings of Washington.
I am not a good loser.
Gable believes that loss to Owings helped drive him into throughout his career after college, including a 7-1 victory in the rematch with Owings in the 1972 Olympic trials. Gable’s dominance of Iowa high school wrestling and college wrestling carried into the world stage with gold at the 1971 Pan-American Games, the 1971 Worlds, and the ‘72 Olympics. Gable famously didn’t give up a single point in the ‘72 games. The one point Owings scored against Gable in the trials was the only point he gave up in that run to gold.
Throughout the interview, Gable’s respect for his parents and coaches is a common theme. His transition from the center of the mat to the corner was guided by those examples in his own life. As the Hawkeye coach, he looked for the right attitude on top of wrestling success and athletic ability in the wrestlers he recruited. In 21 seasons at the helm of the Iowa program, he won 21 conference titles and 15 national titles. Hawkeye wrestling has taken on Gable’s identity for toughness and absolutely grinding on opponents. Tom Brands, a Gable product, has brought that identity back to the #3 Hawkeyes who are looking to knock off Penn State at this week’s National Championships.