OTTUMWA – Even off the wrestling mat, Dan Gable strives for gold.
Just ask Dan Morgan, owner of SingleSpeed Brewery in Waterloo and maker of Gable’s Gold. The Munich Helles Lager was created to honor the legendary wrestler and coach with six cans signed by Gable being auctioned off Thursday as part of the 2019 Indian Hills Celebrity Night festivities in Ottumwa.
Gable, the featured guest for the 38th annual event that serves as the main fundraiser for the IHCC Foundation, is legendary for his success in the sport of wrestling. Getting Gable’s Gold to the top of the podium, however, hasn’t quite been as easy.
“We took it out to a competition in Colorado. It wasn’t quite clear enough, so they cleared it up for the second year,” Gable explained. “It’s tough to win those beer contests. It’s not like winning a wrestling match for me.”
If Gable’s track record is any indication, don’t bet against Gable’s Gold winning gold at some point. It would be yet another accolade for one of Iowa’s greatest sports legends who earned his place as the face of wrestling around the world.
“He’s the mecca of our sport. He’s the guy everyone immediately associates with wrestling,” Cole Spree said after chatting with Gable on Thursday during his second full day as IHCC’s first head wrestling coach. “When I was growing up, he was the guy I wanted to be. To have him here and supporting what we’re moving towards here at Indian Hills is pretty neat.”
Gable has thrived personally at all levels of the sport, becoming the all-time winningest wrestling coach at the University of Iowa leading the Hawkeyes to 15 NCAA national titles and compiling a career record of 355-21-5. Gable coached 152 All-Americans, 45 national champions, 106 Big Ten champions and 12 Olympians with eight medalists including four that won gold.
Most importantly, Gable taught his wrestlers to love and nurture the sport. That continues today with former pupils of Gable including current U.S. Freestyle national coach Bill Zadick, current USA Wrestling Women’s national coach Terry Steiner, current Iowa head wrestling coach Terry Brands and current Iowa State head wrestling coach Kevin Dresser.
“I can’t forget my background and where I’m from. If you look right now, a lot of the development of the sport is being led by my kids,” Gable said. “That really makes me feel proud. A lot of the young men I’ve coached are making leaps and bounds as coaches. It’s not just that they’re doing a good job. They’re hungry for more. They want to win titles. That starts growing the belief among the kids that compete for those coaches that they can win titles.
“When you do something that’s No. 1 in the country or No. 1 in the world, it’s forever and people that were associated with it never forget it.”
Gable, one of the top prep and college wrestlers ever with a career record of 181-1 and a gold medal won in the 1972 Summer Olympics, continues to be active in helping the sport of wrestling grow. On Wednesday, the Dan Gable Donnybrook was announced as a new 32-team invitational high school wrestling tournament that will be held in Coralville starting Dec. 4-5, 2020.
Even before arriving at IHCC on Thursday, Gable stopped by practice at Central College in Pella to speak with the collegiate grapplers that will be representing the Dutch on the NCAA Division III level this upcoming season. Gable’s arrival for Celebrity Night was almost perfectly timed with Indian Hills announcing last week that the school will be starting a men’s and women’s wrestling program.
“It makes my day. It makes my week. It makes my life when I hear about a new program starting up,” Gable said. “I was in it when about 400 to 500 programs were dropped across the country. We maybe had about 250 left. Now, we’re going back up. We’re not only adding men’s wrestling, but women’s wrestling programs like they are here at Indian Hills.
“For me that has put my whole life into the sport and continues to, it makes myself and my entire family feel good.”