Dan Gable

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Dan Gable
Personal information
Born (1948-10-25) October 25, 1948 (age 68)
Waterloo, Iowa
Alma mater Iowa State University
Height 1.75 m (5 ft 9 in)
Weight 68 kg (150 lb)
Sport Freestyle wrestling trained
Club Iowa State Cyclones (Student Athlete)/The University of Iowa Hawkeyes (Coach)[citation needed]

Danny Mack "Dan" Gable (born October 25, 1948) is a retired American Olympic wrestler and head coach. He is best known for his tenure as head coach at the University of Iowa where he won 15 NCAA team titles between 1976 and 1997. He is also famous for having only lost one match in his entire Iowa State University collegiate career – his last – and winning a gold medal at the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich, Germany, while not giving up a single point.[1] October 25, 2013 was recognized as Dan Gable Day in Iowa.

Early life[edit]

Gable grew up in Waterloo, Iowa.

Along with wrestling, Gable excelled at many sports before his sophomore year making the commitment to being a one sport athlete. He was a YMCA state champion in swimming, the quarterback of his junior high football team, and also very skilled in baseball.[2]

High school career[edit]

Competing for Waterloo West High School, Gable posted a 64-0 high school record en route to winning three Iowa state scholastic championships.[3]

  • 1964 Class AA individual state champion 95 lbs.
  • 1965 Class AA individual State Champion 103 lbs. (Team State Championship)
  • 1966 Class AA individual State Champion 112 lbs. (Team State Championship)[4]

As a sophomore in high school, Gable experienced a personal tragedy. His older sister, Diane, was molested and murdered May 31, 1964, in the Gable family home, while Dan and his parents were on vacation. Diane Gable's killer, John Thomas Kyle (a classmate of Dan Gable's), pleaded guilty to charges in connection with her death and was sentenced to life in prison. Kyle died in a Kansas state penitentiary on June 17, 2011; Gable was in northeast Iowa—the same area where he was vacationing when his sister was killed—when he learned of Kyle's death.[5] Gable later recalled that the event gave him a singular passion for wrestling as a way to uplift his shattered family. In his documentary Gable, he said, "I needed to give them enough entertainment that they didn't have to look other places." In other interviews of Dan, he stated that, "It [The tragic incident with his sister] made me even more of a horse with blinders as far as wrestling went." [2]

Collegiate and freestyle career[edit]

After high school, Gable wrestled for the Iowa State University Cyclones of the Big Eight Conference. Gable wrestled for Iowa State's varsity squad for three years and won two NCAA titles. Gable's overall collegiate mark was 181–1. His only collegiate defeat was in his final match where he lost to Larry Owings of the University of Washington.[1]

Gable wrestled on the national freestyle wrestling circuit between 1967 and 1976 where he earned a record of 67–4. He wrestled internationally between 1971 and 1973 where he earned a record of 30–1. Overall, his freestyle record was 97–5. His biggest accomplishment was winning the 1972 Olympic medal even after the Soviet wrestling team had promised to "scour the eastern bloc to find a wrestler who could take down Dan Gable." They were unsuccessful.[6]


  • Gable was not permitted to wrestle on the varsity wrestling squad at Iowa State University because of NCAA rules that did not permit freshmen to wrestle.
  • 17-0 Collegiate record [7]
  • 1966–67 Midlands Tournament Champion, wrestling unattached
  • Gable's domestic freestyle record in 1967 was 3–0. He went 3-0 at the U.S. Freestyle Nationals


  • 37-0 Collegiate Record [7]
  • Big Eight Champion
  • NCAA National Champion at 130 lbs
  • Gable's domestic freestyle record in 1968 was 8–2–1, including a 3–2–1 mark at the Olympic Trials


  • 30-0 Collegiate Record, 25 consecutive pins (NCAA record) [8]
  • 1968–69 Midlands Tournament Champion
  • Big Eight Champion
  • NCAA National Champion at 137 lbs.
  • Gorrarian Award winner (Most NCAA tournament falls in least amount of time) 5 pins in 20:59 [7]
  • U.S. Freestyle National Champion


  • 33-1 Collegiate Record [7]
  • 1969–70 Midlands Tournament Champion
  • Big Eight Champion
  • NCAA Runner-up at 142 lbs
  • Gorrarian Award winner; 5 pins in 22:08[9]
  • U.S. Freestyle National Champion
  • Dual champion with wins against Kajuan Mawe and Wade Stalling


  • 1970–71 Midlands Tournament Champion, wrestling unattached
  • Gable's international freestyle record in 1971 was 17–1–0.
  • Tied Nasrulla Nasrualaev in a dual meet with Russia.
  • Pan-American Games Champion
  • World Freestyle Champion in the 68 kg category at Sofia, Bulgaria.[10]


  • 1971–72 Midlands Tournament Champion, wrestling unattached
  • Gable's international freestyle record in 1972 was 11–0.
  • Tblisi Tournament Champion.
  • Olympic Gold Medalist Men's Freestyle, 68 kg. Did not surrender a single point in Olympic Games with an injured left knee and seven stitches on his head he received in his first round match.[2]


  • Gable's international freestyle record in 1973 was 1–0, defeating Pavel Pinigan in a dual meet with Russia.

Coaching career[edit]

Gable became head wrestling coach at the University of Iowa in 1976, and went on to be the most successful coach in American collegiate history. From 1978 to 1986, the Hawkeyes won the NCAA title each year, a record nine in succession. He continued to coach the team until a sabbatical after the 1997 season due to the injuries keeping him from doing the hands-on coaching he thought his team deserves.[2]

His teams compiled a dual meet record of 355–21–5. He coached 152 all-Americans, 45 national champions, 106 Big Ten Champions and 12 Olympians, including four gold, one silver and three bronze medalists. The Hawkeyes won 25 consecutive Big Ten championships, 21 under Gable as head coach and four while he was an assistant coach and administrator. He led them to a record 15 National titles.

Despite his success, Gable was not honored as Big Ten Coach of the Year until 1993,[11] which was his 17th year as Iowa's coach and his 17th Big Ten championship. The Big Ten Coach of the Year Award did not exist until 1988.[12] J Robinson of Minnesota has been given the award seven times in his career.

In 1997, the Hawkeyes were expected to lose to the favored Oklahoma State Cowboys. But Gable, who was by this time coaching on crutches after hip replacement surgery, led his team to its 17th NCAA team title and to an NCAA-record 170 points. A documentary following him that year "Freestyle: The Victories of Dan Gable" directed by Kevin Kelley and produced by David L. Gould aired on HBO 2.

In addition to his leadership at the college level, Gable was head coach of the United States Olympic team in freestyle wrestling in 1980, 1984, and 2000.[1]

Gable's successor at Iowa, Jim Zalesky, won three NCAA titles under him. It was announced on April 14, 2006, that Gable would be rejoining the coaching staff at Iowa as top assistant coach to current coach and former Gable national champion Tom Brands.[13] He did spend time as an assistant athletic director at the University of Iowa until 2012.

Gable remains involved with the team, but stepped down from his assistant coach role in October 2011.[14]

Achievements and status in popular culture[edit]

Gable has frequently been a subject in American popular press. In an Esquire interview, actor, and high school wrestler Tom Cruise considered Gable his greatest hero.[citation needed] Gable himself was profiled in Esquire by the novelist and former University of Pittsburgh wrestler John Irving. The story was entitled "Gorgeous Dan".[15] Gable was praised extensively during the speech given by The Iron Sheik at his induction to the WWE Hall of Fame in 2005. In 1999, Sports Illustrated selected him as the greatest sports figure in the history of the state of Iowa.[16] During Gable's tenure as coach, the teen sitcom Saved by the Bell referred to the University of Iowa and a fictional coach that had appeared to scout AC Slater portrayed by Mario Lopez for their team[citation needed]. Gable appears in the documentary film Catch: The Hold Not Taken in which he speaks of the origins of amateur wrestling. He recalls that, growing up, he knew high school wrestling as 'Catch as catch can', which is the name of the traditional style from Lancashire, England. In the movie Never Back Down, Gable is mentioned in a scene as the greatest Olympic wrestler ever. An author himself, in 1999 he published Coaching Wrestling Successfully in which he shared his blueprint for developing wrestling champions.[17] He has also created a series of wrestling instructional videos.[18] Gable’s accomplishments had even caught the attention of former President George W. Bush, who in 2002 named Gable to the President’s Council on Physical Fitness.[2] On April 18, 2012, the University of Iowa erected a bronze statue of its beloved former wrestling coach in his iconic pose demanding from the referee a stalling call.[19]

On February 12, 2013, the International Olympic Committee made a decision to drop wrestling as one of the core sports of the 2020 Olympics due to internal politics. Since this decision, Gable has used his fame to lobby against the decision and formed the Committee for the Preservation of Olympic Wrestling. This decision has "raised a sleeping giant" according to Kathy Gable.[19] The IOC reinstated Olympic wrestling in September 2013.[20]

See also[edit]


  • Baughman, Wayne. 1987. Wrestling On & Off the Mat. R. Wayne Baughman. ISBN 978-0-9618446-0-8
  • Chen, Albert. 2014. "Where are they Now: Catching up with Dan Gable and Larry Owings," Sports Illustrated (July 11, 2014)[21]
  • Gable, Dan. 2015. A Wrestling Life: The Inspiring Stories of Dan Gable. University of Iowa Press. ISBN 978-1609383404
  • Hammond, Jairus K. 2005. The History of Collegiate Wrestling. National Wrestling Hall of Fame and Museum. ISBN 978-0-9765064-0-9
  • Moffat, James V. 2007. Wrestlers At The Trials. Exit Zero Publishing. ISBN 978-0-9799051-0-0
  • Smith, Russ L. 1973. The Legend of Dan Gable. Medalist Sports Education Publication.
  • Zavoral, Nolan. 1997. A Season on the Mat. Simon & Schuster. ISBN 978-1-4165-3553-9


  1. ^ a b c Dan Gable Archived 2013-02-04 at the Wayback Machine.. sports-reference.com
  2. ^ a b c d e Chapman, Mike. "Dan Gable - Obsession and Determination." In Legends of the Mat: Stories of 34 of America's Greatest Wrestlers of All Time, 92-97. Newton, Iowa: Culture House Books, 2006.
  3. ^ Albert Chen, "Where are they Now: Catching up with Dan Gable and Larry Owings," Sports Illustrated, July 11, 2014 online http://www.si.com/more-sports/2014/07/10/dan-gable-larry-owings accessed March 31, 2015)
  4. ^ Iowa High School Athletic Association, 2013 State Meet & Season Wrestliing Stat Book (Boone, Iowa: the Association, 2013), pp. 4, 35. https://www.iahsaa.org/wrestling/2013_Wrestling_Stat.pdf Accessed March 23, 2015
  5. ^ Reinitz, Jeff and Kinney, Pat (June 17, 2011) "John T. Kyle, killer of Dan Gable's sister, has died in Kansas prison," Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier. Accessed 06-19-2011.
  6. ^ "Wrestling Legend Dan Gable Is Born." History.com. January 1, 2009. Accessed March 29, 2015. http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/wrestling-legend-dan-gable-is-born.
  7. ^ a b c d Puma, MIke. "Gable Dominated as Wrestler and Coach." ESPN. Accessed March 29, 2015. http://espn.go.com/classic/biography/s/gable_dan.html
  8. ^ "Puma, MIke. "Gable Dominated as Wrestler and Coach." ESPN. Accessed March 29, 2015. http://espn.go.com/classic/biography/s/gable_dan.html
  9. ^ Puma, MIke. "Gable Dominated as Wrestler and Coach." ESPN. Accessed March 29, 2015. http://espn.go.com/classic/biography/s/gable_dan.html.
  10. ^ Men's freestyle wrestling world championship medalists in 68 kg: 1969–95 (Shown as Danny Gable). sports123.com.
  11. ^ Big Ten Championships. grfx.cstv.com (2011–12 . Retrieved on 2013-05-14.
  12. ^ "Big Ten Records" (PDF). http://grfx.cstv.com. May 4, 2017. Retrieved May 4, 2017.  External link in |website= (help)
  13. ^ The Official Website of USA Wrestling. TheMat.com. Retrieved on 2013-05-14.
  14. ^ Brands Announces Change In Gable's Title :: Gable returns to role as special assistant to the director of athletics effective Oct. Hawkeyesports.cstv.com (2007-09-14). Retrieved on 2013-05-14.
  15. ^ John Irving, "Gorgeous Dan," Esquire, April 1973, 106–109,217+.
  16. ^ The Master List: The 50 Greatest Sports Figures of the Century From Each of the 50 States. Sportsillustrated.cnn.com Retrieved on 2014-11-23.
  17. ^ Gable, Dan (1999). Coaching Wrestling Successfully. Human Kinetics. p. 216. ISBN 978-0-87322-404-8. 
  18. ^ Gable, Dan (2003). Gable's Advanced Wrestling DVD. Human Kinetics. ISBN 978-0-7360-5154-5. 
  19. ^ a b Thompson, Wright. "The Losses of Dan Gable." ESPN. August 20, 2013. Accessed March 29, 2015. http://espn.go.com/espn/feature/story/_/page/Dan-Gable/the-losses-dan-gable.
  20. ^ Gibson, Owen. "Wrestling wriggles out of Olympic headlock and gets back into Games". The Guardian. The Guardian. Retrieved 3 January 2016. 
  21. ^ http://www.si.com/more-sports/2014/07/10/dan-gable-larry-owings accessed March 23, 2015

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