Dan Gable is the most dominant figure in collegiate and U.S. Olympic wrestling history. He is to wrestling what Michael Jordan is to Basketball, the only notable difference being that Gable has secured just as much of a legacy as a coach as he has as an athlete.

Early Childhood and High School
Dan Gable was born on October 25, 1948 in Waterloo, Iowa. His father Mack, who worked in real estate, wrestled in high school and sometimes took his son to watch meets. His mother Katie was a homemaker, and he had an older sister named Diane.

His parents were very strict with their children and did not hesitate to discipline them (or, apparently, each other). Mack liked to drink, and there was at least one incident where the police were called because he was hitting his kids. This does not appear to be representative of their parenting however, as Dan speaks fondly of them and their support. He says: "My family structure gave me opportunity to develop strong relationships in a lot of areas that I think are really crucial in life, and I have to give my family support that credit."

When Dan was 16 years old, his sister Diane (then 19 years old) was sexually assaulted and murdered in her home. It was Memorial Day weekend in 1964 and Dan and his parents were away on a fishing trip. Upon discovering the body, Dan told his father about Tom Kyle, a 16 year old friend of Diane who had expressed certain... desires (to put it kindly) to Dan. Kyle, who had recently dropped out of high school, confessed to the murder and was sentenced to life in prison.

The tragedy hit Dan hard. Having previously tried baseball, football, track and swimming, Dan had already found wrestling to be his favorite sport, but the death of his sister turned the sport into an obsession. "It made me even more of a horse with blinders as far as wrestling went," Gable said.

At Waterloo West High School, Gable wrestled in the lighter weight divisions (mostly the 95-pound and 112-pound divisions). He went undefeated and compiled a 64-0 record, with 25 pins.

In 1966, he left home for Iowa State University. Due to NCAA rules, he did not get much of an opportunity to compete as a freshman. Nevertheless, he was named Most Valuable Wrestler of the Midlands Tournament and compiled a 17-0 record.

As a sophomore and a junior, Gable went undefeated as he wracked up an impressive list of records, awards, and other honors including two individual NCAA championships, an NCAA record for most consecutive pins (25), and the Most Outstanding Wrestler of the NCAA Tournament (during the first of two consecutive championships for Iowa State). He also won the Gorrarian Award for the most pins in the least time in the NCAA Tournament (he pinned five opponents in a total of 20 minutes, 59 seconds). Having set these records, Gable was described by the Amateur Wrestling News as "the greatest pinner in college history."1

During Gable's senior year, Washington sophomore Larry Owings set out to do one thing: Beat Dan Gable. Owings had very publicly stated his intentions, and had dropped weight so he could wrestle in Gable's weight class. The two grapplers met in what would be Gable's final collegiate match, the 1970 NCAA title bout. The match did not start well for Gable as Owings established an early 7-2 lead. Gable rallied back from that deficit to tie the match at 8-8 in the third period, but Owings pulled off a stunning 4 point move in overtime and won the match 13-11. The upset was shocking, but Gable got right back on the horse two weeks later when he won an AAU (Amateur Athletic Union) tournament and was voted Outstanding Wrestler. Even today, he wonders about that loss:
"One of the mind-boggling things for me in my profession and in my life so far has been why, how, did I ever end up losing that last match in college?  I say that because I feel like there's no way I should've lost that match, and it shouldn't have happened.  But then I look at what that match did to me, and I'm not so sure that I would change that either, because that match, that loss, probably drove me - even though it shouldn't have, a win should have done it - but I don't think it would have done it, to be honest with you."
Amateur & Olympic Competition
After college, Gable won several Midlands Open championships and added titles from the 1971 Pan American Games and the 1971 World Championship. In February 1972, he won the Tbilisi Tournament in Georgia (the republic of the Soviet Union which is now an independent country). At that particular time, this tournament was probably the toughest wrestling event in the world (tougher than the Worlds or the Olympics). After he won, the Soviets honored him as the Outstanding Wrestler:
"They gave me an honor after the championships, they put a big horsehide - a big cape, some kind of an animal cape - they put it over me, as the outstanding wrestler of the tournament.  It was made out of some animal - I don't know if it was horse, I don't know if it was oxen, I don't know what it was."
The Soviets, in the midst of the Cold War, scoured the nation to find someone capable of beating the talented American in the 1972 Summer Olympics. Much to their dismay, Gable won the 1972 Munich Games freestyle gold medal in the 149-pount weight class. But he didn't just win. He dominated. He didn't surrender a single point to any of his opponents and he pinned three out of six. Overall, in his final 21 Olympic qualification and Olympic matches, he pinned 12 and outscored his nine other opponents, 130-1 (the lone point having been scored by his old nemesis Larry Owings). Gable partly attributes his performance in the Olympics to his loss to Owings:
"I needed to get beat because it not just helped me win the Olympics, but it helped me dominate the Olympics. But more than that, it helped me be a better coach. I would have a hundred times rather not have that happened, but I used it."
He also credits his performance to the Soviets themselves. It seems that in their very public attempt to defeat him, they only succeeded in motivating Gable.
"[The Soviets] were one of my extra motivations for the last four or five months of training. To me, it wasn't a matter of me trying to make the Olympic Team... I didn't take any people for granted, but my overall objective was knowing that a country was specifically pointing me out. They gave me a lot of ammunition."
After Munich, Gable returned to the U.S. and became an assistant coach at the University of Iowa. Four years later, he took over the program as head coach. If anything, his career as a coach dwarfs his performance as a wrestler.

From 1977 to 1997, Gable's Iowa Hawkeyes compiled a record of 355-21-5. They won 25 consecutive Big Ten championships, 21 under Gable as head coach and four while he was an assistant coach. He captured 9 straight NCAA championships (1978-1986), which, at the time, was the longest streak of national titles won by any school in any sport (also held by Yale Golf and Southern Cal track).

He was named coach of the 1980 Olympic freestyle team, but they did not get the chance to compete because the U.S. boycotted the Games. He got the call again for 1984 Games, and this time he lead the team to seven gold medals. He has also served as head coach to many other United States teams in international freestyle competition, including World Teams, Goodwill Games teams, World Cup teams, and numerous all-star teams.

The 1996-97 season with Iowa would be Gable's last. By the end of 1997, Gable had undergone more than a dozen knee and back surgeries and in January of 1997, he underwent hip replacement surgery, missing several meets while recuperating. He retired from coaching due to his physical ailments, but only after leading his Hawkeyes to their 17th NCAA title in twenty years.

Family & Other Interests
Sometime during all of this wrestling, Gable managed to get married and build a family. He is happily married to his wife Kathy, and has four daughters, Jenni Mitchell, Annie, Molly and Mackenzie. You might think that getting married and having four girls would have slowed down his career, but as the accomplishments laid out above show, that isn't the case.
"Well, here's the thing.  In my life, there's my family and there's my profession.  But I consider wrestling my profession.  Question is, what comes first?  Absolutely, family comes first.  But you know what?  My family got hooked so much on wrestling that it seems like I spend way more time on wrestling than I do on family, but because the family's there, it's both.  Again, it's like in the beginning I had that support, and then when I got married and had kids, it was the same way - nothing's changed!  I have all these girls, but they're all wrestling fanatics.  It seems like everything still revolved around wrestling even though family's got to come first.  But it was like family was wrestling."
He has written wrestling books, directed instructional videos and he even has a popular pair of Asics wrestling shoes named after him.

When asked what interests he has other than wrestling, his first response is "Recovery." Seriously. In addition, he tends to enjoy outdoors activities like fishing, hunting, and boating. He also likes to get completely exhausted, and then just relax and watch a movie or read a book. "I can only do that, though, when I feel like I'm completely worn out, and it's kind of like a reward."

He currently lives in Iowa City and serves as Assistant to the Director of Athletics in charge of performance enhancement at the University of Iowa. He also works for Iowa Public Television as a wrestling analyst. He will no doubt be involved in some capacity with the 2004 Olympic wrestling team as well.

This is by no means a comprehensive list, but here are some statistics. Also note that wrestling statistics from this era are notoriously tricky2.

As a Wrestler:
High School Record: 64-0
College Record2: 118-1
  Freshman : 17-0
  Sophomore: 37-0
  Junior   : 30-0
  Senior   : 33-1
  Total    : 118-1
High School/College Total: 182-1
1972 Summer Olympics: 21-0 (including qualification rounds)

As a Coach:
Iowa Coaching Record: 355-21-5
U.S. Olympic Assistant Coach: 1976 and 1988
U.S. Olympic Head Coach: 1980, 1984, and 2000
U.S. World Team Head Coach: 1977, 1978, 1979, 1983, 1994 and 1999
U.S. Goodwill Games Head Coach: 1986

Various Awards and Honors:
Amateur Wrestling News Man of the Year in 1970
Selected as the nation's outstanding wrestler by the AAU in 1970
Selected as the nation's outstanding wrestler by the U.S. Wrestling Federation in 1971
Named to the U.S.A. Wrestling Hall of Fame in 1980
Named to the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame in 1985
Named the top wrestler of the 20th Century by Gannett News Service
He is a member of the "100 Golden Olympians" (100 top U.S. Olympians)
1 - A few words about pinning. In high school, pins are common, but the level of competition and the talent present in college wrestling is vastly superior to that of high school wrestling. Pins are much less common in college matches, and so Gable's pinning exploits should be viewed in that light.

2 - Vigilant readers will notice that the records for each individual college year do not add up to 118. This is because wrestling records are notoriously inaccurate. What I have listed are the records I have found in the sources below, but according to an ESPN article (http://espn.go.com/ncaa/s/drehs/sanderson/record.html): "Nobody, including Gable himself, is exactly sure what the record is. That's because when Gable wrestled for Iowa State from 1967-70, few paid attention to such marks in the little-publicized sport." This is apparently a rather "gray area in wrestling, where there are exhibition matches, All-Star matches and open tournaments against non-attached competition (someone who isn't wrestling for their school)." As such, the statistics listed might be slightly off. This became controversial recently because Iowa State wrestler Cael Sanderson was looking to beat Gable's 100 match winning streak - but Gable's streak was only 98 matches according to the NCAA because they didn't count two matches he won against unattached opponents (read the article for more on that subject).

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