You will hear people often debate what makes a legend, or the G.O.A.T. of a sport. Is it the record? Championships? Or is it how you respond to what life throws at you and how you turn that into the fuel to propel you? All of those incredible questions are a part of the life of the legendary wrestler and coach Dan Gable. As a wrestler, Dan compiled an unbelievable record of 181-1. He was undefeated in 64 prep matches and was 117-1 at Iowa State University. His only defeat came in the NCAA finals his senior year.
Gable won a Gold Medal at the famed 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich, Germany, without surrendering a single point. The Soviets came to the Olympics with only one goal in mind: to defeat Gable. They were unsuccessful. In Gable’s final 21 Olympic qualification and Olympic matches, he scored 12 falls and outscored his nine other opponents, 130-1. During his six matches at the Munich Olympics, he went unscored upon.
As the University of Iowa’s all-time winningest coach from 1976 to 1997, Gable won 15 NCAA National Wrestling Team Titles while compiling a career 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 had a winning percentage of .932 and captured nine consecutive (1978–86) NCAA Championships. At the time, that equaled the longest streak of national titles won by any school in any sport and is one that is also held by Yale golf (1905–13) and Southern Cal track (1935–43).
All of these statistics are not the most interesting thing about Dan, in my opinion. It’s truly the moments of loss and failure that propelled him to drive for and achieve the excellence the world uses to assess a career. Enjoy this episode with a truly great athlete, coach, and man.