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Original Issue

The Ultimate Winner

Dan Gable willed himself to become the best U.S. wrestler ever. Now he's applying his singular dedication to coaching the American team in L.A.


There he stands, one February day, in a baggy, gray sweat suit, holding up a wall in the University of Iowa wrestling room. He's 5'10", 160 pounds, balding and wearing dark-rimmed glasses to correct his 20/200 vision. In a room otherwise full of guys with immense necks, massive shoulders and columnar thighs, this bespectacled fellow is obviously the one to seek out later this summer on the beaches of L.A. if you want to kick sand in somebody's face.

He's also the coach of America's 1984 Olympic freestyle wrestling team, whose chances of whipping the Soviets or, frankly, even the Bulgarians in L.A. were also pitiful looking. But with those two teams boycotting the Games, the U.S. suddenly has a fine chance to do some serious medaling. That's almost entirely because this baggy gray eminence is Dan Gable, America's Ultimate Winner. Never has there been an individual in any sport more dedicated to total excellence. His absolute devotion stems from his absolutely one-dimensional life. There's nothing that interests Gable except wrestling. Nothing.

His wife's name is, ahhh, it'll come to him in a minute. The kids are, ahhh, well, two girls and one boy. Or is it one boy and two girls? Stay tuned. Gable was recently trying to repair a leaky kitchen faucet, and all the while he was mumbling, "What does fixing this have to do with wrestling?"

Back in Gable's hometown of Waterloo, Iowa, his father, Mack, says, "Dan's Number One thing always was wrestling."

And what was his No. 2 thing?

"There never was a Number Two."

But because Gable's sport is wrestling, not a media favorite such as football or basketball or baseball, it's still necessary to run through Gable's resume. At West High in Waterloo, his record was 64-0, and he was a state Class AA champion in 1964, '65 and '66. At Iowa State, he was undefeated in 117 matches, including 83 pins, and twice an NCAA champ before losing his final college bout in 1970 (see box, page 509). As a junior he was 30-0, winning 26 bouts by falls; two of his other victories were by 25-6 and 12-1, and the remaining two were won by forfeit. At various times and by various groups he has been named man of the year, coach of the year, athlete of the year, human of the year and man of the ages. He won five U.S. championships, one Soviet national title, a world title and the Pan American Games gold medal. He amassed all those distinctions by destroying opponents mentally, then physically.

And in the highlight of his career, at the 1972 Games in Munich, wrestling with a ravaged left knee and a deep cut over his left eye, Gable blitzed the best 149.5-pound wrestlers in the world. But it was assumed he'd do that; what was truly stunning was that he went unscored upon in the Olympics. In fact, in 21 matches wrestled under international freestyle rules leading up to and through Munich, Gable gave up exactly two points. Incredible. "Sure it hurt," says Gable. "The point of wrestling is that it hurts and you overcome that. It never occurred to me that it wasn't supposed to hurt."

And since Gable took over as the head wrestling coach at Iowa in 1976—he was an assistant from "71 to '76—the Hawkeyes haven't lost in 53 Big Ten dual meets and have won an unprecedented seven straight NCAA championships.

But, for Gable, now 35, those accomplishments aren't nearly enough. What he desperately wants is to dominate his sport internationally. Twice, however, he has been foiled—in 1980 when he was the Olympic coach and the U.S. boycotted the Moscow Games, and now in 1984 with the Soviets staying home. It makes him furious that he won't be sending his charges out to meet the Soviets; once, months ago, when he was asked what he would do if the U.S.S.R. failed to show up in L.A., he said rather flippantly, "I Wouldn't even coach. I'd turn the team over to my wife." Everyone laughed. Now nobody is laughing; Gable's wife isn't coaching; and he's very much in command, directing the U.S. team with his old white-hot fury. But he still feels thwarted.

The point is that world-class athletes—Gable being Exhibit A—want to prove themselves against the best. And while the U.S. seemingly was going to get thrashed and trashed by the Soviets, Gable wouldn't even consider such a possibility. Before the U.S.S.R. pullout, he was pounding his fist on his desk, on his car's dashboard, on his own thigh, on everything and saying, "Our goal is to beat the Russians in all 10 weights and win the Olympics." Incredibly, he believed his own fairy tale. That figures, because throughout his wrestling career, Gable willed himself to victory; now he wills others. When he's around, it's as if losing isn't an option.

Whenever the subject of Dan Gable comes up in conversation, the word intensity is never far behind. And while the word has been cheapened by overuse and misuse, Gable is its epitome. By God, he deserves "intense" as a descriptive. It's his. He earned it the old-fashioned way, he worked for it. Everything about Gable harks back to his intensity. Indeed, there's so much talk of intensity when Gable is being discussed it seems there's no other dimension to his character.

"I don't want to be an expert in all fields," says Gable, as he stands in the wrestling room. "I don't even want to be an expert in two fields. I want to be an expert in one field. Wrestling. Just wrestling. When I walk onto the mat, I tingle." The intense Gable is watching 25 Iowa and/or Olympic prospects drill in pools of sweat. "The way to win is to dominate. If you don't, you're more vulnerable and you're not realizing your potential. If you can beat somebody 30-0 or pin them, why coast to victory? My philosophy is to score, score, score. If that means humiliating a guy, that's tough. That's also wrestling, and if you let up, you'll get pinned."

You'll get pinned. The words snarl and snap as they come from Gable's mouth. How could anybody allow himself to get pinned? Suddenly, he's focusing on the efforts of 126-pound Iowa senior Tim Riley, who's clearly at the brink of mental and physical exhaustion. "Riley," barks Gable, "you have to move your feet more in order to create openings." With that, Riley quits and walks off the mat.

"Sorry you couldn't make the end of practice," Gable calls after him.

"I could have made it," says Riley, "I just didn't want to."

"Naw," says Gable. "You just weren't tough enough to make it." Gable shakes his head sadly, as if unable to grasp how an athlete—especially one of the best collegiate wrestlers in the country—couldn't finish practice. The next day, of course, Riley is back with an apology and excuse, and of course Gable takes him back. And Riley redoubles his efforts. But Gable muses softly, "In wrestling, you don't break down, you don't quit. See, that's the problem in life. It's too easy to turn on the TV and pull up the covers." Gable has never pulled up the covers. He'd have to be tutored to learn how to quit.

Gable has spent a lifetime possessed by demon wrestling. Even Mack Gable says that after Dan won in Munich, "they gave him all sorts of special dope tests, and I don't blame them. He looked like he was on dope. His eyes were glassy, and he was so psyched up. Getting psyched that high isn't good for you." Perhaps not. But it sure is good if you're America's Ultimate Winner.

Back over in a corner of the Iowa wrestling room, Pete Bush, a former NCAA champ at 190 pounds, is struggling. "Don't quit!" screams Gable. "You can't quit. Come on. Think that you have 30 seconds left and your career in wrestling is over." Bush struggles, tries, strains—and gives up. He lies, spent, on a slick of sweat. Gable looks down at him and asks incredulously, "You mean you couldn't hang on for three more seconds? Three more seconds." He again shakes his head sadly and Bush yells, "This is——!"

Indeed, Bush has hit on the essence of wrestling. It's not only the most thankless sport, but it's also the most intense. Chris Campbell, a 1980 Olympic team member at 180.5 pounds, says, "If you don't want to work, Gable is too intense. But it's so simple. It comes down to whether you want to win or lose. I think people hate him behind his back because he wins. What Gable teaches you is that whatever you do in life, pick something and go at it 100 percent."

"Nobody ever had to zap Gable with intensity," says former Iowa basketball coach Sharm Scheuerman. "He's just always had it." And Gable's mom, Katie, hesitates when she's asked how he came by this attribute. "Do you have to get it someplace?" she asks. "I don't think so. Intensity is what you do yourself."

Practice is also something you do yourself. But having Gable at every workout is more than a little nerve-racking. It's 6:46 a.m., and in the Iowa wrestling room Gable, in his baggy sweat suit, is pacing around and clapping his hands, already unhappy that practice is starting late. Never mind that it isn't supposed to begin for 14 minutes. In Gable's mind, it's late. If you're not doing something toward winning right now, you're late. A wrestler strolls by and says with a laugh, "Ready, Coach?" Snaps Gable, "I'm ready. This is my second workout today." It is, too. He has already run six miles; before this day is done he'll work out three more times by 11 p.m.

Practice proceeds. A wrestler may think he's having a tough workout, but it isn't really rigorous until Gable ambles over and without a bit of "molly putzing"—a favorite Gableism that means wrestling like a sissy—grabs hold of the youngster and starts showing him a few things. Gasps Lou Banach, the 1983 NCAA heavyweight champ, "I love wrestling. I mean I love it. But I don't love it like Gable loves it." Fatigue makes cowards of everyone—except Gable. He won't succumb. Once, while training for the Munich Olympics, he told Bill Wieck, one of the nation's best high school coaches and a veteran international coach, he was through practicing for the day. "O.K., Dan," said Wieck, "but the Russians are still working out. Think about that when you go home to bed." Gable was incensed. "Let's wrestle!" he screamed.

When Gable was in college, he once was confronted by a reporter who said, "You must never think of anything but winning."

Responded Gable, "No, sir. I never think of anything but losing."

And miraculously, Gable is able to take this intensity and transfer it to others. There's just something about Gable: When he greets you and says, "Good morning," you have a sudden urge to run through the nearest wall or at the very least pin somebody.

And if Gable gets the utmost out of this Olympic team, the U.S. could win seven of the 10 weight classes. Before the Eastern bloc walkout, American wrestlers thought they might win only three medals, and that was probably wishful thinking. At last September's world championships in Kiev, the U.S.S.R. won seven golds and the U.S. one, by 163-pounder Dave Schultz. In the '76 Olympics, Americans won one gold, and in '72 the total was three, including Gable's.

The biggest challenge now facing the U.S. in the Olympics is one of style. Americans grow up doing folkstyle (also known as collegiate style) wrestling, but in the Olympics they must compete under international freestyle rules, which are considerably different. In international wrestling one must dominate one's opponent, rather than simply control him, as the U.S. rules encourage a wrestler to do.

But Gable isn't worried. Closely connected to his intensity are his devotion and determination. Joe Wells, an assistant coach at Michigan and Gable's roommate while both were Iowa assistants, says, "He's able to give so much of himself without reservation." Gable is mystified that devotion is worth praising and says, "When something means something, sacrifices are nothing." To Gable, wrestling doesn't mean something, it means everything. Wrestling isn't part of life, it is life itself. Therefore, he reasons, why is it special that he owns a four-wheel-drive vehicle, in part so he can drive around predawn Iowa City, long before the snowplows are out, and pick up his wrestlers and take them to early practice? Devotion. This spring, Gable rushed from Iowa City to Chicago's O'Hare airport to greet a group of potential Olympic team members who were changing planes en route to a tournament. He was a one-man pep rally, cheering, clapping, encouraging, building confidence. See, he didn't have to be at O'Hare. But he was. He didn't even notice, and certainly didn't care, that other travelers were slack-jawed at his performance. Devotion.

And determination. When Gable is in pursuit of a dream, which is what he has been most of his life—"People who have a hard time finding goals are the ones who aren't looking," he says—his focus is unswerving and his vision tunnel-wide. Why, there goes his wife, ahhh, whatshername, right over there. Once during his undergraduate days at Iowa State, he was thrown in jail for possession of beer on the street, a charge of dubious legal merit. Forced to spend four hours behind bars, Gable put the bars to use: He did pull-ups on them. And the cold jail floor was just right for one-armed push-ups. This is Gable. You can confine his body, but you can't confine his spirit.

Too, there's a certain magic surrounding Gable. "I'm entranced by the sport," he says. "I'm in awe of it." And the sport is in awe of him. Gary Kurdelmeier, assistant athletic director at Iowa and a former Hawkeye wrestling coach, says, "There's nothing as dead as last year's hero. But with Gable, it isn't respect for what he's done but for what he's doing." Says Bob Dellinger, director of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame in Stillwater, Okla., "He's a messiah."

Only a few coaches come along who spark utter devotion the way Gable does. Bear Bryant was one. Joe Paterno is one. The list is very short because far too many other coaches mistake fear for respect. Woody Hayes made that mistake. There's a big difference between fear and respect, and athletes detect it immediately.

As the guru of U.S. wrestling, Gable has an undeniable recruiting advantage in that most of the best high school wrestlers would love to have the opportunity to learn at his knee. Yet Gable's forte is his ability to take average wrestlers, like Chuck Yagla and Bruce Kinseth, and turn them into champs. Yagla, who was a pet project of then assistant coach Gable, won national championships at 150 pounds in '75 and '76, and Kinseth also took the 150-pound title, in '79. Each won outstanding wrestler honors at the NCAA tournament, as did Gable, who was a high school wrestler of average ability, very average, but with a heart as big as the Iowa outdoors.

Few coaches have the presence that Gable does. When he walks into a wrestling room, business picks right up, right now. All eyes follow him. And his eyes follow the wrestlers' every move. Now Gable is helping over on the weight machines where someone is having trouble getting the equipment set for the proper poundage. "I'll do it," says Gable. And he does, silently adding some 20 pounds to what the wrestler intended. "Too heavy?" asks Gable, innocently. The wrestler says nothing. "Let me know if it's too heavy," says Gable, helpfully. The point, of course, is this: Do you want to be the wrestler who tells Dan Gable—Dan Gable!—that something is too heavy? Do you want to be the wrestler to tell him that the days are too long and the nights are too short? Says Gable, who used to work out day and night, "One thing is that if one of my wrestlers loses, he has to face me." God, what could be worse?

Oklahoma coach Stan Abel says of Gable, "It's like he's a brand name." Mike Chapman, a longtime Iowa journalist and author of articles and books on Gable, says, "I'm not sure if he knows he's one in a billion. He simply transcends the sport. He'll become folklore and legend." Gable already is folklore and legend. This is the second time he has been named Olympic freestyle coach, and while the committee went through the charade of waiting for all the applications to come in and then following all the selection procedures, the fact is, Gable was the only possible choice. Second choice was Gable, third choice was Gable, fourth choice was Gable.... Jim Zalesky, undefeated last year at Iowa and a three-time NCAA champ at 158 pounds, says, "He makes us believe that the most important thing we do isn't the winning but the preparation we put into winning. It's magic."

Gable is able to work this magic because he doesn't dwell on himself. "I" is a very small word in the Gable vocabulary, and it's never writ large. He doesn't call up his glories past, even when he's trying to inspire his team; Munich isn't a conversational centerpiece for him. That was yesterday, and yesterdays don't count anymore.

Indeed, even faint hints of reliving old times irritate Gable. To this day, at age 35, Gable is still the roughest, toughest, orneriest, meanest, best wrestler in the room. You can still whip 'em all, ain't that right, Dan?

"Well, I think wrestlers can tell a lot from the determined, excited expression on my face," he says. "They know I'm excited about their wrestling."

And you can still whip them all?

"I can't believe I won as much as I did knowing as little as I did. I should have been much more accomplished."

And you can still whip them all?

"I don't care if they ever wrestle like I did. All I do is tell them how to do it, without putting me in the picture. I expect them to win. And I want them to expect to win."

And you can still whip them all?

"Look, I don't have to prove anything. Whether I can whip them or can't is beside the point:"

Gable just has no ego to be fed, which makes him different, too, in an ego-overloaded sport. He even likes coaching better than competing. "The thrill of victory is greater," he says. "I never jumped for joy when I won. It was an inner satisfaction that I didn't show outwardly. Now I go into hysterics and make a fool of myself. It's like my inner feelings now are out of my control."

Totally within his control, however, is how he conveys everything he's about—intensity, dedication, devotion, focus, magic, lack of ego—to his wrestlers. "The only reason we win at Iowa," says Randy Lewis, a former Hawkeye wrestler, "is because of Gable. And the only reason we have hope at the Olympics is Gable. You just always know he'll pull you through."

Wells says, "People say they work hard but they don't know what Dan means by working hard. What he demands is unreasonable, bizarre—and it works." Bizarre? Is it bizarre when Gable and several wrestlers are discovered in a hotel hallway in Chicago working out, bouncing off the walls? Is it bizarre when Gable has his Iowa wrestlers out in front of a Ramada Inn in Stillwater, Okla. working out on a February morning following this past season's only dual meet defeat, to Oklahoma State? In truth, it's bizarre only if total effort isn't your game. A former Iowa State teammate, Jim Duschen, explains, "Wrestling is a job for these other coaches. For Gable it's life."

But Gable, in teaching wrestling, a.k.a. life, never asks his wrestlers for a single ounce of effort that he didn't—and doesn't—expend. So a wrestler wants to talk injury? Gable has had sprained ankles, a broken bone in his left foot, broken fingers and a broken nose. Both his knees have been operated on (the left one four times, the right one twice), as has his left elbow. He has undergone surgery on his upper lip six times for benign tumors. He has cauliflower ears, eyelids that have been stitched four times, torn cartilage in his ribs and a severely pinched nerve in his neck.

Yet, when a former Iowa wrestler, Harlan Kistler, wanted to work out at 11:30 one night during last March's NCAA tournament, Gable was ready. Of course. Never mind that Kistler was there only as a spectator, to watch his brothers, Lindley and Marty, compete for the Hawkeyes. Never mind that team trainer Dan Foster first told Gable his neck wouldn't allow him to, then pleaded, "At least wear your neck brace." Said Gable stoically, "I'm going to wrestle, and I'm not wearing no neck brace, because I'm not giving anyone the satisfaction of seeing me with it on." Later, Gable said, "I don't have a muscle, a joint or a bone that hasn't been injured. But, really, I'm lucky I haven't been injured much." O.K., you want to talk injury?

Being rough, tough and talented as an athlete, however, is no guarantee of coaching success. The history of sports is littered with stars unable to cut it as coaches or managers: Otto Graham, Bart Starr, Wilt Chamberlain, Norm Van Brocklin, Maury Wills, Ted Williams, to name a few.

Iowa State obviously felt Gable wasn't going to be anything special as a coach. After his glorious collegiate wrestling career, the school made little effort to keep him on the staff as other than just another lowly graduate assistant. He finally was asked if he'd like to travel around the state soliciting beef and pork donations to be used at the athletic training table. What was the job title? Says Gable, "Beef-and-pork man, I think." Fortunately, Kurdelmeier wasn't nearly so shortsighted, and he snapped up Gable for his staff for the 1972-73 season. Since that day, the Hawkeyes have become the longest-lived dynasty since John Wooden's UCLA basketball teams of the late 1960s and early '70s.

Nobody understands wrestlers like Gable, and he says, "In no way will I demand of a kid 100 percent dedication because I leave it up to the individual how much he really wants to win." In truth, anything less than full dedication simply doesn't cut it with Gable. "When I talk, my athletes listen to me," he says. "But the more they lose, the harder it is to make them believe. You've got to get them success. They've got to be able to look at their parents and feel good. But the day my athletes quit listening is the day they quit believing in me, which is the day I get out of coaching."

Lewis was recently pondering what makes Gable so effective as a coach. "He knows how to make adjustments, when to work, when to ease off," Lewis said. "And he has the ability to keep things new. Workouts are different every day. You never know what's next. He'll tell you to start running laps, and you don't know if it will be one lap or 10. But when he sees you're really tired, I'll tell you what, that's when he pushes you some more."

Gable's hands-on coaching style is also central to his success. Minutes before Iowa's loss to Oklahoma State, Riley came up to a weigh-in still needing to shed another half pound. So Gable took him by the arm, walked into the sauna with him and stayed there until Riley lost another few ounces. What struck some as unusual was that Gable had on a coat and tie and it never occurred to him to take them off until he'd been in the sauna for five minutes. Tunnel vision. Last March, Gable was at Northwestern to coach a U.S. team against a Soviet team. Again in sport coat and tie, he walked into a workout room—a casual observer. But almost predictably he couldn't bear just watching. And after exactly 32 seconds, he was down on the mat, wrestling.

Everything bad that happens to Gable he takes as a positive. In junior high, he pleaded for new wrestling shoes, and when his parents got them for him, he promptly lost. "Let's see about gettin' him some ballet shoes," sniffed Katie. That really motivated Dan. When Diane, his sister, was murdered in the family home in Waterloo in 1964 by a neighborhood boy, Dan insisted the family remain in the house. "They took my sister from me," he said. "They're not going to take my home from me." That tragedy motivated him to excel—for Diane; it also taught him a practical lesson: "I never sleep far from my shotgun." Reflecting on the loss of his last college bout to Larry Owings, Gable says, "I feel like that made me stronger, a better person. I really started working harder." Often, in talking of his past, Gable will describe a setback and then say, "So I redoubled my effort." The thought of Gable redoubling his already prodigious efforts time and again makes one's eyes glaze.

It does seem that Gable was to the wrestling mat born. Mack says that two days after he brought his firstborn home from the hospital, the baby was trying to bridge on his head. "Hey," Mack had said, "you're going to be a wrestler."

Gable's childhood in middle America was decent, ordinary—sort of like Waterloo itself. Little Dan would get out on the front lawn and pretend he was Mickey Mantle, pretend he was Jim Brown, pretend he was an Olympic swimmer—complete with flip turns through the air. He was, you won't be surprised to learn, intense about all this. "It was all so real to me," he says.

One day when Dan was in fourth grade, Diane had some friends over. He got to wrestling with the older boys and beat them. The flame was lit. Says Gable, "Athletes can see the end only when it's close to the end. That's how I was different. When I was in junior high, I could look ahead and see the Olympics. Most people can't stay motivated that long." Mack helped in the process; he installed a wrestling mat in the basement.

At West Junior High, Gable quarterbacked his football team to an undefeated year; he won a YMCA state swimming championship in the backstroke; he was a decent basketball player. But he quit all those sports when somebody told him that wrestling didn't mix with anything else. Says Gable, "The reason I was successful is I was naive. I believed older people. I believed them when they said I couldn't swim and wrestle. Now I know adults don't know everything, but I'm still glad I listened."

Gable's high school wrestling coach, Bob Siddens, says, "Dan never got stale because he always said, 'I can do better.' Nobody had to tell him to keep going." In a copy of a book about his wrestling career, Gable wrote the following inscription to Siddens: "I sincerely believe that in all the people I've been associated with, you have been the biggest factor in building my desire & attitude in wrestling."

Not that young Dan was always a model of perfection. Once, when he was four, he got on a department store elevator with his mother and instructed the operator, "Fifth floor, you bastard." Since that didn't happen to be the operator's name, some confusion ensued. Katie resolved the issue by stepping off on the third floor and leaving her son alone with his new friend. Boys will be boys.

The summer before Gable entered Iowa State, a top Cyclone wrestler, Bob Buzzard, decided to show Gable the difference between high school and college wrestling. "Little did I know," says Gable, "that he was going to be unmerciful." Mostly Gable kept bouncing off his head. He became furious, not to mention bloody, and stormed off the mat. "I contemplated quitting the sport," Gable says. "But then I told myself, 'No, this is never going to happen again. I will increase my intensity at every level.' " Which, of course, he did.

In 1974, he met and married a Waterloo girl. Ahhh, yes, yes, her name is Kathy. "Sometimes Dan doesn't hear everything I say," she says patiently. "Perhaps he's got his mind on wrestling." Perhaps. The Gables have three children, all girls as it turns out, and Kathy says they are Jennifer, 6, Annie, 5, and Molly, 18 months. Dan agrees those are the names of his kids.

Worldly possessions don't motivate Gable. Moments after he was awarded the gold medal in Munich, it disappeared. Gable's parents were frantic, but he shrugged it off: "It doesn't matter. I don't need no medal. I know I won it." Subsequently, the medal was located, in the rubble at the bottom of his gym bag. Until recently, Katie had put the medal in a safe place in the basement whenever there was a tornado warning, and now Kathy does the same.

Nor does money qualify as a Gable god. He's making about $80,000 a year in wrestling—in salary, money from his camps, endorsements and so on. In March Oklahoma State athletic director Myron Roderick offered him $2.5 to $3 million over 10 years to coach there, a wildly exorbitant offer in a sport in which $5 is still considered a lot of money; the offer sort of died on the table. That's because Oklahoma State kept leaving messages but Gable didn't call back. "I just didn't have time to think about it," says Gable. "I'm thinking about the Olympics." Question: Would you have time to think about $3 million?

Gable's wife wanted him to at least consider it, which prompted some hot words one night in a car en route to a high school sports banquet in nearby Manchester. Finally, Gable said, "Do you have enough money now to pay the bills?"

Kathy, pouting: "Well, yes."

Gable: "O.K."

Case dismissed.

Oklahoma State, to save face, tried to deny such an offer had been made. But the wrestling world knew that if Gable said the deal had been proposed, and he did, then it had been proposed. Period. "If they didn't want me to talk about it," says the disgustingly honest Gable, "then they shouldn't have talked to me about it." In wrestling circles, the feeling is that if Gable ever should decide to leave the University of Iowa, no doubt, he would be able to develop a national championship team at any other school very quickly, within three to five years.

Late one night this spring, Gable was relaxing over a beer at his home 2½ miles north of Iowa City. Outside, the moon lit up his 26 acres. When Gable does relax he has a beer. During the summer, he'll spend a few hours fishing for walleyes up on the Mississippi. The rest of the time he recruits wrestlers, coaches wrestling, plans for wrestling, analyzes wrestling, dreams about wrestling. When he's not thinking about wrestling, he is wrestling.

"The Olympics," he's saying, "could be very exciting for wrestling and for America. I do have a knack for this sport, and I do know total effort. The way to go is the hardest way. But maybe the athletes aren't as excited about the Olympics as I am. Maybe they're not like me."





Iowa's seven NCAA titles won under Gable attest to the veracity of the slogan in the Hawkeye wrestling room.



Gable beat Ruslan Ashuraliev (right) for the gold in '72.



Dad says Dan was unusually psyched for his medal win.



Dan proudly showed off his swimming letter to his sister.



The able Gable's approach to coaching is definitely hands on, whether on the mat or with an encouraging pat.



Iowa wrestlers are frequent, welcome guests at the Gables.



Gable works on one of his 26 acres with a whatshername.



Dan, their names are, from left, Jennifer, Annie Kathy and (front) Molly.



Gable just can't resist the urge to go to the mat, even with a dummy.