The following is a conversation with Dan Gabal from two years ago, I did not previously published this conversation as part of this podcast, but as a separate thing. And as a result, it did not receive many listeners. Let me be honest and say that while I usually don't care about how many listens or views something gets in this one case, I feel like I failed one of my heroes. I feel I didn't properly introduce truly special human being to an audience that might find him as inspiring as I did.
Dan Gable is one of the greatest Olympic athletes of all time, bigger than records and medals to many. Like myself, he's a symbol of guts, spirit, mental toughness and relentless hard work. As a wrestler, he was undefeated in a high school, undefeated in college until his very last match. And having lost that match, he found another level and became a world champion and an Olympic champion. And most importantly, he did so perfectly dominating his opponents.
He did not surrender a single point at the 1972 Olympic Games. As a coach, he led the Iowa Hawkeyes to 15 national titles and twenty five consecutive Big Ten championships. He coached one hundred and fifty to all Americans. Forty five national champions, one hundred and six Big Ten champions and twelve Olympians, including eight medalists. He's the author of several books, including A Wrestling Life One and Two and coaching wrestling successfully. Quick mention of our sponsors Trial Labs, a machine learning company, Express VPN, gremolata writing helper tool and simply save home security.
So the choice is a privacy, grammar or safety. Choose wisely, my friends, and if you wish, click the sponsored links below to get a discount to support this podcast. As a side note, let me say that I spent a few days in Iowa and got to attend a wrestling duel meet in the historic Calver hockey arena. Part of me wanted to stay in Iowa forever to drill, take downs, to start a family, to live life.
Simply wrestling is one of the pure sports. Both beautiful and brutal were both mental toughness and technical mastery of the highest form are rewarded with victory and everything else is punished with defeat. And every such loss was heavy in the minds of anyone who has ever stepped on the wrestling mat, including myself. The same is true for one of the greatest wrestlers in history of the sport, the man who graciously welcomed me into his home for this conversation, the legend Dan Gable.
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That's simply save dot com slash flex. And now here's my conversation with Dan Gable. You're persistent and I love that because you've been trying to get me on this podcast for a long time, and until I saw you on another podcast and you said you were Russian. Did I call you back then it was over because Russia, to me, you know, is leading the world in wrestling. Almost every year. What's the difference between American wrestling and Russian wrestling?
You showed me this painting. Well, it's Mitt, it's science.
It's science, you know, and they they really study the sport. They're really good. Technically, they're really, really good in strategy. They don't really push like the real toughness. They don't push like conditioning. Right. And so Americans, we need what they have. Russians need what we have.
And when you get to two together and for me, why I could beat the Russians is because.
I went there way a little bit, but I kept my toughness, but you're known you're you're known for your toughness.
But I wasn't known for my art. I wasn't known for my science.
So when did you become a bit of an artist? It took a loss.
The Larry, I thought I was already an artist just because I want 181 straight dominance in seven years and not just winning, but, you know, kind of punishing people. Yes.
And from that point of view, yeah, I might have been pretty good, but I had a long ways to go yet and I didn't really realize that. Or I should have I should say I didn't really know how to get it out of me until I had a loss. And then I realized I got to buckle down, learn some of that science, become more of an artist. How do you become an artist?
So that's the Russian way. Has this drilling technique thousands of reps? How how do you think you work on the science, the art part?
You got to study the best in the world. I think Dave Schultz was our guy in America that probably showed us that being artistic, you needed that. And he studied it. He went over there as a high schooler and Russell in some major tournaments over there, and he saw their ways. He used that Russian science and then he was already an American. And he saw what how I trained athletes. He saw what I did in the Olympics, saw what other people, how we held up.
And he applied that as well. But I'd have to say he's more the artistic type.
He was more of a Russian than an American when it came to wrestling.
You've coached 45 national champions, one hundred and six Big Ten champions and eight Olympic medalist, which is incredible.
What is a common thread between them and what are maybe some of the fundamental differences?
I think the common thread is that. They all had one of those two avenues that we talked already. And because we intertwined them, so in a Russian wrestling room, they got the same people most of the time in American wrestling room, we had the same people. But when I was out recruiting, at first I recruited just attitude.
Mm hmm. But I needed more than that. I needed some genetics in that wrestling room to actually. That hard work people, you know, they could look and see, wow, that execution, that's unbelievable, but yet I can beat that guy after the first minute.
So you think you think the ah, the the technique is genetics. You're born with it. You think it's not.
I think you're pop and you're you know, your ability to move timing and timing and your quickness and your strength.
You know, the Russians, they usually picked out.
The people that can go into that sport, that was the old fashioned sport school, but it's it's mostly like when you see you walk into a Russian wrestling room, you see him hitting skills, techniques.
You know, you don't see him banging against each other that much. But then when practice is over, you might not see a bunch of sprints. You might see him walk over to the. The ropes and they dropped down from the ceiling and they'll jump up and climb a rope. Boom, boom, boom, and then they come down and then they don't jump right back on. They have three or four other guys go and then they jump back on.
Whereas I probably made my guys climb them, get right back down, climb on right back again. But I also realized that I had to have a mix of that what was the role? What was your role?
I mean, those guys looked up and Dan Gable and what was the role in helping these athletes become their best, these national team?
We had to, first of all, prove that you were. Knew what you were doing in terms of technique or in terms of everything, everything, they just you had to be the first guy there in the last guy to leave and you had to be the most dedicated guy, even though they were the ones that trying to win the championships, you had to prove that you were going to work just as hard as they were as a coach. And what does that look like?
What so you can see it when you you know, when you see it while you're there ahead of them and you're there after they leave. You know, it's that it's that simple and picking up after them and you're analyzing them. You are working. You are working and you all think them. And so, you know, use that type of strategy. And over time when you prove it works because some of my kids that were the best kids in the world.
Really? Shouldn't have been a wrestler. I mean, there weren't very coordinated, but they worked so hard to develop themselves.
What was your role in that process? I mean, that means pushing kids to their limit.
If if you're not, you can't push kids to their limit. And even when you push them to their limit, that's not their limit because there are limits above and beyond that. Right? I mean, yeah, coaches sometimes accidentally. Don't they lose kids. Yeah.
Because of the heat, because of hard work and all that. And you got to you got to know when to back off. You got to read your athletes. And by that I mean you got to know him pretty well. You know, every once in a while you make a little bit of a mistake. But if you don't react right on that mistake before it gets too far, then it's going to be a casualty. And I don't mean somebody dying necessarily, but maybe something that could turn them off or maybe something that can run them away or maybe something that, wow, that was close, maybe shouldn't have pushed him that far.
So you really have to be very educated.
And it's not just what you know, it's what you know about them. And I'm not talking about the team. I'm talking about each guy. Individuals.
Yeah, yeah. Each person on the team.
And you you know it how you see how because you're the first one there and you're the last one to leave and and you set in the environment with them. You're there four in the morning for practice. Sometimes you're there in the afternoon for two or three hours after practice. You might have a a hot room or you might have a sauna or steam or whirlpool. And you get in there with them and you listen, you know, you're not just feeding out information.
You do that, but you're taking in a lot of that, too.
And I'm telling you, when you get in an atmosphere that they're relaxed and then feel comfortable, it's like a massage. And that's after practice in one of those areas that people are around you, you learn a lot. I mean, you got a lot to learn as a coach. And when you get in that atmosphere, when all of a sudden you feel like very comfortable.
Hmm. Words start flowing and when those words flow. You take them in as a coach and there's something probably going to be said that you can do and act upon that's going to help certain situations, I've saved a couple of kids lives for sure that we're on the brink.
You know, sometimes performance is at such a high level in a high level atmosphere. That life and death is actually involved, and I don't mean pushing a kid to where he just dies, but I mean, he might feel himself as a failure and he may go home and take his own life.
Yeah, I mean, but that's part of it. You're putting so much heart, so much blood and heart and sweat and every your whole meaning of life becomes winning. So and sometimes it's so hard to lose within that context.
So if you're, I think the first wrestling life you wrote about Chad Zapato, who lost I mean, incredible wrestler, but lost in three finals in the Nationals and has this tattoo of a horse clawing out a human heart.
Yeah. So what lessons is there any lessons from the incredible wrestling he's done, but also the incredible suffering that he went through? On himself, you know, again, he like that we're suffering, which is OK, OK. No, no, no, no, no, no. Keep it. Keep it. Because it fits right in where I want. Yeah. I have to turn that suffering around. To where he makes and feels good about himself are better, does not feel perfect.
Yeah, because he did lose. Yeah. You know, and so but you have to actually get him to realize that, yeah, he's still unique compared to the walk of the Earth. He was unbelievably unique right at the top. Just a little bit short of. But because it was. You know, he felt the suffering. You now have to go about and change that and put it into good some way, and because he's you really have a lot of goodwill, you can do a lot of good goodwill.
And so. And it's not easy. It took him probably years, years of tattooing. Yeah, years of covering the tattoos. And, you know, he told me moved to Iowa. He moved to California because he was here for a couple of years after his rostom was done because he had a good job around here. And he was I thought he was doing a good job, but he just he said I had to escape. You know, it's the same as the wrestling.
That's who had a wrestling terminology.
I have to and I hate to say this. I have I hate to say this.
I go, where are you going? He's I'm going to go to California and I go, is there a reason why you're going to California? He says that's where. Everybody goes to hide. But I said, I think you're wrong there, but, you know, I think you what will determine your life will be what you do for no one, you know, and if you can actually turn it around, I mean, he's turn it around.
You have to discover that yourself. Exactly. And he went someplace that he thought he could fit into.
And I think he did, and I think he's got a good job and he's helping people and he covered that tattoo with feathers and other tattoo, well, in the end, it's a beautiful story.
Yeah, it is. It really suffering and overcoming. Yeah. And he's not done yet. He's not done. You know, he's not done. He's got a lot more to do.
So you mentioned Roger Bannister again, I think in your first book and somebody you looked up to. That's the man who broke the four minute mile, right. When everybody said it was impossible.
Everyone thought it was impossible. Otherwise you would die. He would die. It's not him. It's not human. Yeah. So what?
Well, you've done your homework for the book. Well, I don't know. For me, you've done your homework.
Yeah, I know. But yeah, I've was sitting here by Putin to do research. Yeah. So what lesson do you take from that story for yourself.
The impossible trying to accomplish the impossible. Well, the impossible is possible.
It's just that simple time changes things. I mean I mean, if you looked at what where the mile time is right now compared to that four minute mile, which when it was brought by a couple tenths or three or four tenths. It's now brought by. Another 20 seconds. Yeah, I mean by 700 people, yeah, yeah, I mean by tons of people and it's pretty much common knowledge that you've got to run a four minute mile if you're going to go somewhere now or below, if you're going to win when events at major level, that you got to be able to do that.
And so you can take that and you can look at what? In time, history has as its record performance. And you can realize that that record performance is going to change. Yeah, and they don't take into all the factors of knowledge.
They don't take on all the factors of better shoes, they don't take in all the factors of better understanding of nutrition. I mean, it's like me as an athlete. I went to practice every day in high school for at least my sophomore and my junior and part of my senior year and all of a sudden a new rule came up, said the rule, said before that, said I.
These are the most the coaches we don't drink in water at practice. Yeah, and and OK.
Why? Because you are toughen you up. That's a weakness. Water. And so we would go through practice, I mean, and you're sweating and then you're sweating so much that you're almost out of sweat. Yeah, and so you're mostly at the end of practice.
You're not even wrestling.
Excuse me. You're you're sitting against a wall because you're tired. So then all of a sudden they say, OK, go drink water during practice, bring greater during practice, and all of a sudden at the end of practice, we're still out there competing. And so I look at my career for two and a half years where I and junior high, too. So I got another three years. Or I didn't really wasn't able to push as good as I could because I just was probably under under budget.
So so but at the individual level, in terms of the impossible, when did you first believe the thing that maybe, probably people would laugh at you about, that you would be an Olympic champion?
Well, I always visualized me being the best. You believed it in the very forever. Forever? Yeah, I was. Because I was I don't know if you could call it a dream or somebody that I was just involved with. Competitive sports at the YMCA from from age five.
Did you tell people that dream that you're going to be Olympic champion one day? You can be the best in the world? I think they knew. And the only reason why they knew because it was something a little different about this guy.
He was he's not going to stop.
Well, he was out in the yard. Yeah. And he was swinging baseball bats. Yeah. You know, at six, seven and eight and nine and ten. And he was swinging baseball bats. So much right handed and so much left hand with nobody even there throwing the ball. That all of a sudden when they walked by, they all of a sudden the grass was down to dirt on both sides. So it's like.
They saw me out in the yard playing by myself, sports or, you know, or you get the neighborhood kids, you play a lot. But if they weren't there, you know, if you walked in my front room, I was like in a ball.
Like I was the quarterback and I was running not and running through the through the furniture, you know, that type stuff. So, you know, who saw this guy mostly was probably the parents.
Yeah. And the coaches at the YMCA level, the junior high level, they saw this guy come first and and end up last.
But I wasn't that great. I wasn't the fastest guy at that time and I wasn't the strongest guy, you know, actually, before I went to the Olympics, when they tested me, they tested everybody. And I probably came back with one of the highest scores. But it was it was not like the highest. Person on this and this and that, I was all high across the board, straight across the board, high on every one of them, but there was always people that were higher than genetics.
But then they would go down. Yeah.
Then they would test on something else, then go back up mindstate high all across the board. And so I you know, I really didn't have too many flaws, but I didn't have any things that also said that you were going to be. Underscore the point of the Olympic Games, right? So take me through that day, if you could, 1972, when you were gone for the 68 kilogram freestyle wrestling gold, you scored 57 points. If I'm correct and had zero points scored on you, 57 zero.
So maybe I'd take me through almost the details. What was your routine? What was your process? What was going through your mind, your thoughts of that day?
Yeah, first of all, it was quite a day because we weighed in every day at that time and that and that. Yeah, we weighed in two hours before the start of the competition.
And so that would mean that you weighed in two hours for your race because you didn't know whether you're going to wrestle right away or later on. In fact, in that day, I don't think I wrestled until later on in the evening. So I had all day to recover, but I didn't really need it anyway because, you know, I wasn't really pulling a whole lot of weight. But just it's just interesting. But what's in your mind?
What were you thinking? Were you nervous? Were you. I was confident. I was confident. You knew you were going to win the gold? Yeah, I knew I was going to win.
But in reality, I'm not I didn't know it from a cocky point of view. I only knew it because for the last. Three and a half years I've been going to practice. And I win in every practice, you and I, I hardly ever lose a takedown, and if I lost if somebody scored on me. When I went to bed, I couldn't sleep until I figured it out. Or if I didn't figure it out, I would fall asleep.
And I would be what I would wake up with the answer of what I needed, why I got scored upon, so maybe now that you've won the gold, can you tell me in the practice room somebody took you down? How do you take Daniel down in the in the practice room? Timing?
Very difficult, but yes, somebody could. Because they were going for one move. All I wanted was one move, whereas, you know, if you can arrest somebody, arrest the whole practice or have a practice for at least 10, 15 minutes, and they were maybe going to score.
If they could work it in their mind. But they knew that was going to be their victory, so in the practice room, maybe you can educate me at that when you go in for the Olympic gold.
You didn't want to allow any takedowns, so there's no such thing as working on some kind of weird position, a weak point or something, it's important to not let the takedown.
It's kind of like what we were saying before if something happened and somebody scored on me in a certain way. I would go over that situation, over that situation over again, and I would come up with an answer and then I would actually test it, maybe I wouldn't go back the next day because I didn't want the guy to, you know, did not have some I didn't want him to think that I was thinking about it all night.
I didn't tell him.
But maybe three days later when he wrestled again, I actually had to figure it out because it it he wasn't able to or even if I was in on it, take it offensive move and I got stopped and didn't score.
You know, I had to go back and filter that. But it wasn't something that usually I couldn't solve. I could usually solve it. Let's go back to the Olympic Games. So I get up in the Olympic in the morning and I'm not sure when the winds were, but I think I was probably a pound over, you know, that's about a half a kilo and one point one pounds is a kilo because we were in kilograms. So what do you do with that pound you write off or.
No, I just I just went over to the had a sauna there and I got in the sauna and and the funny thing was the morning of the of the of the finals, there was there was another athlete in Lasana. And American or no, it was a European, I don't remember where she was from, I'm not a Russian.
Well, you know what?
I kind of think it was a plot because it was a girl. Interesting. And she didn't have her top on now.
And that was pretty common. And so, you know, it's kind of interesting. You think back about it because. There's some funny things that that go on behind the scenes in Olympic Games, in world games, any time when you have country against country. And so there's some crazy stuff going on. Yeah.
Did any of it affect you? Was there any.
Well, I almost stayed too long in the sun. You lost. You lost a little bit.
I lost a little more in a. Yeah, but but it didn't really bother me because I wasn't like I wasn't, like, cutting a lot of weight. So.
So your match against the Russian the as your life as your life went on to be a two time world champion, silver medalist as well. I mean, this is an incredible wrestler.
So what was going through your mind before stepping on the mat with that guy you've beaten? A bunch of wrestlers, haven't had a point scored on you and you're stepping on the mat against the Russian who you said was really they picked the Soviets picked to beat you.
Right. And I know why they picked him because he had a great attitude.
So he was just the typical artist. He was a good artist. He hooked elbows like Sergej alive. And he's from that area of the world where they have some of those types of moves. But he and he was a Gore, but.
I cut him down a weight, he lost some of that go. And I don't know if you've got to that's the process you got to go about scientifically. Yeah. You know, and so, you know, if you don't do it and as an American, it can really hurt your performance. If you don't do it as a Russian, it could hurt your performance. And they already didn't really do that.
A lot were usually wrestled the way where it was more like your weight. And so by cutting him down, you know, maybe slowed his belief down a little bit.
You saw in him the spirit was a little bit gone when your face.
Yeah, but then he came back and he won, you know, rest of the matches and he was in the round robin and he was able to go to the finals, but he had lost another match actually against in the round robin against the Japanese.
So I think. I had already gained enough of artistic being able to finish a match once I lost my match in college for the last two years, I took on some of that artistic work.
And I think that he was already hoping to win, but he was hoping to win by a long ways because he had to pin me or beat me by eight points to be able to win the gold. And, you know, that wasn't going to happen. I mean, the chances a pin is pretty good.
Is it hard to pin down Gable versus take down? Like, have you taken risks where you could pay for them?
I can't remember too many that I took that would actually put me in a danger position. I've taken risk, but the risks were so scientifically, technically correct that I wouldn't land in that danger zone. It's like if I were to lock up and throw you, I'm not going to throw you to my own back and roll you through. I'm going to turn in the air. So you were scientific about it?
Yeah, exactly. I you know, he just. I learned the hard way early on, there was moves from collegiate wrestling that you did that exposed your shoulders, which it cost me in some early freestyle matches against great wrestlers.
But I would go back to my collegiate escaping type moves to where I hit a Granby roll, where you expose your shoulders and you lose two points every time, but you learn that that's not the system. But if you hadn't wrestled much, you would get exposed under maybe a desperate situation. You would hit it.
So you won the gold. How did it feel? I think it would have. I think the question would be, how would you feel if you lost the gold? For me, because I already went through that once. Not at that highest level, but the national collegiate championship level, my senior year, the Larry Anglong Larry King show, and that didn't sit well.
Were you afraid of that happening again at the Olympic level? Was that.
No, I really wasn't. But it was why I changed my philosophy of training and added to.
The scientific artist type, and I if I won that match, even though I wouldn't have felt good about it, even though I squeaked it out, I wasn't feeling good about that match. It would have affected me a little bit, but if I had won it, I would have got over it. I mean, I'm not over it now. Yeah, I mean, I don't know why I was doing this kind of stuff right before my match.
Yes. By that I mean this kind of stuff. Oh yeah. Journalists. Yeah.
And I really wasn't a good talker that I mean me and you were talking pretty good right now except for I got a little cold. But but. I don't think I could say two words hardly then, and they took takes wide world of sports that, hey, just we want you to be the introduction for our next week's show. So I'll just say, hey, I'm Dan Gable. Come watch me as I finish my career undefeated 182 in all.
That's what they want me to say.
Everybody assumed you'd be undefeated. And I said it. I had to take it 22 times in the last two or three times. They wrote it out and I read it and it still wasn't like I just said it. I was reading it like, hi, I'm Dan Gable.
Come come on.
You know, that type of stuff. So and he finally just close the book on has good. No, but I turned and it was my time to wrestle.
Yeah. And so, you know, you just you learn that. And for me it was great coaching experience because that's what I turned in to be. You know, I coached for longer than I wrestled. Yes. And I put a lot of champions. But you learn through mistakes that even in your own career that you had made, you know, it's it's an never learning process. It's an ever learning process.
Have you ever been afraid on the mat, does fear have any role, do you think, for a wrestler or it must be?
Oh, I'm sure fear is out there and I'm sure that was to my advantage almost every time. I'm sure in my Olympic finals.
I was really if he had these doubts, he probably had these doubts.
And that gives gives me the edge. And I don't know if I really ever. Had fear. But obviously, there are points and times where I didn't perform as well, not many, but a few. And if I look back of it, look back at it, I don't think it was that American, you know, rah rah rah rah stuff.
I think it was. Probably the fear of not being an artist as much, you know, maybe this guy might be better than me scientifically and you know, you're a scientist. I think that got to me more than anything else.
I said early on that I want to eliminate ever having to worry about getting tired in a match. So I kind of eliminated that. So I got rid of that point. And I do think in wrestling, that is one of the fears that a lot of wrestlers have. Actually, how they feel during the match and and do they get are they going to get tired and and is it going to affect my performance? And as a coach, that really was one of the things I tried to eliminate on all my athletes.
So there wasn't that fear factor, but that fear factor would be put upon my opponent, which would give me an edge. But that's not what I needed as much. I need to just focus, make sure that I was doing the right things and I needed my team to be focused. So I made sure that from my mistakes as an athlete or even as a coach sometimes that I didn't repeat them, didn't repeat them.
And if you make a mistake once and you repeat it, it's like. He didn't learn anything, your goal throughout your career, as you beautifully put it, was to work so hard that you pass out on the mat, right, that you would be carried off the mat so you never did successfully.
And that's one of the ways you failed in your career. You've never worked so hard that you've passed out. Have you ever come close? Do you remember a time you've come close to you've been pushed to the limits of exhaustion?
You know, the question's really a good question about that. Pushing till you collapse.
Yeah, because I don't as a coach today, I think I could if I said that to my athletes, I don't know, I could get in trouble because, you know, it's understood, isn't it, by the athletes?
Yeah, they understand it, but the outside might not understand it because it's almost like. What do you mean? You push them to the point where they go collapse.
I mean, they may die or something might happen to them. And, you know, that's dangerous. That's dangerous.
We can't have our kid in that type of atmosphere, but it's something that's highly unlikely that's going to happen.
But I'm going to tell you, there's many times in a practice where I had pushed myself to, all of a sudden the whistle blew or it was time to stop. And when I got up off the mat or wherever I was at and I needed water, I needed I needed fresh air, because you're usually in a fairly small room with a lot of guys that the heat rises and, you know, it's hard to breathe and that I can remember.
And I stayed a lot of times, not by the door. The far end of the room. I can remember walking from the far end of the room to that door. And I can remember, am I going to make it the next step? Am I going to make it the next step? I need air. I need water. I need oxygen. I need to get out of here.
It didn't happen often, but I can recount four or five times in my career that I pushed myself to that level where I thought I was going to maybe go out.
But every step I was dizzy. But once I got to that door, I was able to open it and go out and grab the water and get the cold water on my face. And so, no, I never really was able to do that. And I think the story is in a book where my my daughter pushed to collapse.
Molly made you proud. Oh, my gosh. You know, she didn't win. Yeah, but she pushed collapse. Yeah. Now, did she suffer because of that? Well, she did get to go to the next event because she didn't she had to qualify.
But I think it probably helped her to realize it because she was winning the race and she was beating people she normally never pushed. But she was at a new level that she had never been before, and she only needed about five feet to finish. And it was just one of those things that I bet there was a lot of learning that she did there. And it probably made her realize that she could be better. But she had to hold up, though.
So you mentioned in wrestling life that the brands brothers looked up to Roy Soldier who was known for pushing the limits of physical wrestling but not getting too rough. So how do you find the line between extreme physical wrestling, but at the same time not rough wrestling or angry wrestling? So that line between aggression, tough wrestling and anger?
Well, I think anger would cause less successful wrestling.
I think anger would cause you to make mistakes and actually get out of position, because I think anger is kind of a loss of control.
And there can be a furious type of. Attack. But I think if it crosses the line to anger. Then you're going to be vulnerable. And so. Royce and the brands wrestled to the edge through the edge, but when the whistle blows, they stopped and there's people that when the whistle blows, they keep going. It's like in a football game. A fight breaks out and after the whistles blow. Well, when the whistle blew, they they backed off, so that whistle was.
Something that in a match. That kind of gave them the boundaries, but perhaps it could be a little bit of fuel. So interesting stuff.
The book that you just got from Mike Chapman, the new edition talks about Bill Cole on the field in northern Iowa wrestler and how he talked about how my strength, speed and ability to think were increased tremendously by just sitting apart from the action prior to the match and getting into a state of controlled anger.
So can anger korolenko controlled? Yeah. So anger could be fuel as long as it's controlled. Right, exactly. You had that line one side of the line. You can have an anger for performance. And the other side of the line, you if you go beyond that, it's not going to be for performance. It's going to be for not performance because you're going to lose points. It's a fine line. There's definitely a fine line.
You're talking about Roy Selja. You're talking about Tom Brandes. You're talking about Terry Brandes. I mean, you've got world championship titles there. You've got an Olympic championship title there.
You've got a world silver medalist in in in and Roy Selja.
And, you know, and that's when I talk to him about the world silver medalist. He's haunted by that. Because he was actually 20 seconds away from winning when he got beat in the end there, but that's part of the game and. It's I don't know whether he's OK with it or not, because he says after talking about things, he goes, I'm OK with it now. But then he keeps talking about it, so I don't really think he's OK with it.
And it's hard for him to actually make amends to himself. When you really don't do it, I mean, it's no matter what the situation, even with the Owings loss. Yeah, it's still I mean, yeah, I'm a world champion. He's not. And he wanted to be I'm Olympic champion. He's not.
He wanted to be one of the greatest coaches of all time. Yeah. Yeah. And so, you know, so he.
You know, it's like, why do I keep going back to it because. Because you're not you don't get over those things. So Royce really keeps going back to it, even though he says he's fine and and but then he realizes he's really not fine because that's just the nature of the game. And that's why he was able to win national titles and and make world teams and and stuff like that.
You know, even if what's interesting about him, he's analyzed all the people that he's rustled and a lot of them have won world and Olympic championships and he's beaten every one of them at one time or another. And he didn't get to that world championship gold or Olympic gold.
And that I. He says it because they did it, so he is showing people that. That I've beaten those guys. Yeah. But apparently he didn't beat him at the right time, and so it still haunts him, you don't get away from that stuff. I mean, it's just like anything in life that's really high. I mean, it doesn't have to be athletics.
I mean, do you think I'm ever going to get over the murder of my sister? And you might not even know that.
Let me pause for a second, please. You've talked about it. You've written about it. So I hope it's OK for me to say that your sister, your older sister on May 31st, 1964, was raped and murdered by a local boy. So the echoes of pain and anger from that tragic day today, they ripple through your life still to your rustling, through your coaching, through your the way you when you wake up in the morning. What is that like?
It can be very emotional to me under certain circumstances and. And it can be the mood I'm in, right? You know, it can be maybe if I've had a Mountain Dew or or maybe if I've had a Gabal beer. Yeah. Yeah. Or or. Or.
Or maybe if you turn the country music up a little bit loud, you know, emotions come out and everybody has them in their life, it's just so happens, you know, what brings it out. And hopefully it's nothing that you do to the extreme point of to where it brings it out. For me, it's not extreme. I don't have to have any of that, really. I can get emotional. How did that change you as a man?
What it did was realize that I was already. Pretty well developed because I was only a sophomore, 15 years old in high school and. I had parents that weren't making it, and my parents are a lot older than me, and now that we're down just to me and my parents and I'm going to be around the house for another two years and they had just lost a daughter that was the only other sibling. They weren't handling it, they they were the ones that were suffering much more than me.
Even though. I always look back upon one area that I wasn't good at was communication at that time except inside the room because I had been tipped off.
And tipped off, what do you mean? Well, then Roy said that something to me about my sister just three weeks before that. That's right. That really wasn't normal or practical. And I said nothing to nobody.
You you don't. Is there a part of you that blames yourself? Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. But I'm 15 years old and you make mistakes and you don't really act on everything that happens in your life. But I can tell you how it affected me and I acted a lot on. Anything that maybe wasn't even of that consequence, I mean, because I had four daughters and I'm telling them when they left every time to go somewhere in a car or go out with someplace, I always said something to them.
And they would always say, Dad, you said that last night. I don't care what like I love you or I say, therefore, I stay like don't be driving and drinking or ah, don't be in a car with somebody that's, you know, of of the of the same nature or, you know, stay out of trouble.
You know, don't go somewhere where, you know, you have I said, you know how to get out of a car if you Chicago's into the river. You know, I just you know, I'm always thinking ahead a little bit just in case of something did happen.
And it goes back to that goes back to that walk to school with that with that young man that when he was talking to me and I just I took it and I kept it inside me. And once I found out she had been murdered, it it took me maybe twenty five to thirty minutes. And I told my dad, I think I know who killed her. He looked at me and he just like he slapped me, actually, he pushed me against a car, he didn't slam, he pushed me his car.
My mom slapped me. She was the one to slap me around a little bit.
But my dad, he he he pushed me. What do you mean? You might know something about this?
I said, Dad, I don't know for sure, but and I would probably all cry and but and I don't I doubt if I was crying yet. Probably quite a lot of tears since, but but, you know, I just said, hey, I was walking to school with this neighbor and I never had walk to school with him before. And he was kind of a troubled kid. And he said something about Diane and it wasn't good. But I.
I didn't he goes, why didn't you say something? I said, Daddy, I just boy talk, you know, so, you know.
And so he hugged, he hugged me, hugged me, hugged me. And, you know, it was one of these things that it's definitely made me.
A lot of who I am, because there's been a lot of choices and I don't I took the word choice out of my life and I just like to say, OK, do the right thing, do the thing that you should do. And so I don't it's like you're going to do this or this. Well, what do you mean? Which one is better? You know? Well, then I so I don't have that choice. Yeah. Just give me the right way to go.
And so that I've been perfect by any means. But it's made a big difference in my life on how I handle my life. It's probably given me the opportunity to be married for forty four years. It's just given me opportunities to be better in my life. And and I you know, I want to thank my sister for that. You know, it's. And I think my family was ready to make a split because of that incident, they're blaming each other and I think that.
I was able to help, but more than that, they really liked each other, but they didn't really know it at the time until I got out of the house of two years later, he probably was going on for a couple of years until I moved on and went to college. Then they found out they really liked each other when they were alone and it worked out pretty good.
But I think them being able to follow me, not just through college and Olympics and worlds, but my coaching.
So it's the same, the same success and factor. You know, the excitement and all those things gave them a real purpose. And it gave my four daughters he gave my wife, you know, a real purpose to be able to be close to all these champions and championships.
And and and now it's now it's like there's a family of twenty two and they're all interested in what what we're interested in. And it's going good knock on wood. But, you know, it's something that when all of a sudden you got too much time in your hands and you're not doing it, accomplishing much that things probably. You know, get off, get off track. What do you think is the role of family in wrestling? Can a man do it alone?
And if not, where's family most important?
You know, you could do it alone. But why would you want to. Yeah, I think the chances to do it alone are much less than the chances of doing it together.
Yeah, I know.
They say don't bring your profession home.
Sometimes they say that I never I never got away from my profession. And, you know, sometimes I.
It's like my house right here. So when I'm moving home, I'm not going to have an office because I'm not going to coach anymore or I'm not going to be an assistant athletic director for a while. You got to do something that. Gives you a little bit of a break, not you necessarily maybe the person you're living with. And so I don't know if you looked outside there.
I got a cabin right out in my backyard. You probably can't see it right there. But what's in the cabin? That's my house away from my house. It's only 30 feet from my house. And it's my office and it's my workout room. It's my I got a sauna there. It's it's a bed upstairs if I need it. If I ever get too close.
And she says, hey, why don't you go sleep in the other house but, you know, kicked me out of the bed. But get the heck, that's never happened. Yeah, but I do spend a lot of time out there and it's you know, you got a little distance sometimes, you know, and you got to know you're going to know your role. And so all of a sudden, you're a guy that's been gone your whole life from eight o'clock in the morning till close to seven thirty or eight o'clock at night or 11 and 12 hours a day.
Then all of a sudden you're not gone as much even though you still work. She's trying to slow me down now. I'm doing not so much like here what we're doing right now, but when I get in the car and drive somewhere or fly somewhere, you know, like just last night I went to bed and I hadn't told her that this guy called me and he wants me to speak for a want to build a wrestling, wants to start another wrestlers and business networking out in.
Delaware, because we don't have any colleges and wrestling in Delaware, and so I said, well, you know, I'm glad because that's my life, you know, so but then all of a sudden I didn't say to my wife until all of a sudden this morning, and I told her that I might go on the Friday, the 21st of December. I don't know. Well well, I said, that's not Christmas.
She goes, we're celebrating Christmas that weekend early because a lot of the family can't be be here except for that weekend. Yeah. And I said, oh, well, that's not going to work. But I kind of didn't say anything to her first and then. Well, tell you, she started getting a little emotional.
And if I want to stay married for another year, 45 years, then I better tell those people that I got family obligations because. Got depends what's most important. Yeah, I love wrestling, I love wrestling, and I want to start another one, start another wrestlers and business network. But there's more than one Dan Gable out there. Well, maybe not, but but but there's there's a lot of people that are.
Maybe even closer. Yeah, and they got big names, I mean, we're we're doing pretty well right now. I mean, we got first two years ago and we got second this year.
And then we got the women's freestyle is doing good in wrestling. We got to work a little bit on our Agrico yet.
But but they are working on it. But our men's freestyle team right now are. Ah, excellent. And, you know, and the key for them is to get them all on the same page instead of just have new highlights. And by that I'm saying who you look and see who won this year?
Well, the three guys that have never won before won this year. We had three world champions are two past world champions.
Didn't win this year, I mean, they did OK. You know, they got medals, the devils win. No, he did not. He got third on the three. He got bronze and Sergel.
I've got I mean, Snyder got second. So those two our main guys, you know, so the three new guys that came through were guys that hadn't won world gold. In fact, two of them have never made a world team before. And so we have three world champions this year, but we needed all five of them to come through to win the the championships. And so the key really is. Getting them all to do the same at the same time, year in and year out, and not just based on, OK, Berle's got beat this year, so he'll win next year.
It's got to be every year if you're capable of doing that. And that's what the coaching staff has to do. It's kind of funny that I do have a lot of influence, actually, on the coaching staff right now at the USA level, because the the women's freestyle guy is is Terry Steiner and he runs for me, was a national champion.
He's got a twin brother that's at Fresno State. And then Billy Zadik is the freestyle coach and he runs over the Hawkeyes back in the early days. And he was the national champion.
So we got a lot of former Gabal influence on there, but it got deep roots in.
Then in 2013, the International Olympic Committee IOC voted wrestling out of the Olympics.
So a lot of folks know about this, the absurdity of it and so on. But in a big picture, you can step back. Now, it's five years later. What did you learn from that experience?
Or first of all, did it surprise me? Yeah, but did it really surprise me?
No. You got to run, you've got to have people running the organization. That are top notch. If you take anything for granted. And you're not the person of authority, someone who can. Kick you out? And even though we had a lot of authority because we're wrestling, we're one of the first sports in the Olympics ever, and that we think that, you know, we're in one hundred and eighty some countries and some of the number one.
Countries in the world that are politically strong have the sport. You know, we thought we were OK, but then you got to look and see who's running the IOC. The IOC, the International Olympic Committee, yeah. And then you got to see that. In wrestling, we don't have anybody in there. I mean, that shocked me. We've never had anybody on the IOC from wrestling. You know why? Because we didn't have to. But yes, that's wrong, you have to and if you don't have somebody looking out for you right within the structure.
That is pretty easy. People turn their head, but all it took. Was. The statement you guys are kicked out of the Olympics, you guys are done. Everybody came together and then. Well, yeah, I mean, it's the first time in ever in history that probably all this competitive people that were working for their own agenda. Turn that agenda to the sport, and so that made a big difference and we got a lot done, in fact.
In America, there was several people that were really out there that we didn't know about until this point in time and when they came aboard. Now they're still aboard. That doesn't mean we're doing everything perfect because just because we got voted back in before we even got kicked out, really that doesn't mean we're by any means safe. We have to do some of the things that I'm talking about or the some of the things that we didn't do before. We can't fall right back into the same mess.
Yes. And so our leadership got changed and it's better, but it's got to stay better. But there are things that we could still be doing to make sure that we don't have situations like this happen. When I first learned about it, I was like.
I broke down and wept. Yeah, again, it's like every once in a while I'll break down and and and cry about.
My sister or I'll break down, I don't know if I cry about losing things, but I probably get more determined, but that's kind of you have to go back and think about those moments when you heard when I heard that moment and I.
I said I it just overcame me, it was like four o'clock for four thirty in the morning when I heard about it and my wife had been up and up looking at the Internet. And she woke me up and I thought she was joking. But I jumped out of bed really quick when she said that I knew she was serious. And I started making phone calls right then to find out if it was true. And when I found out was true, you know, it was just like devastating, you know, and it was one of these things that it's a nightmare and.
But you don't let it happen again. It's that simple. Yeah, and you keep getting stronger. Yeah. And if people haven't read, they should read. The loss of Dan Gable by Ray Thompson, the ESPN article that kind of in this very beautiful, poetic way.
Ties together. All the losses of Dan Gable, losing your sister, losing to Larry, always losing wrestling from the Olympics, all of these tragedies of various forms.
And so so that's what the IOC there's politics and you're sort of being very pragmatic. But stepping back, wrestling is one of the oldest forms of combat period, dating back. There's cave drawings 15000 years ago.
And if you look at the ancient Olympics, the Greek Olympics.
Twenty seven hundred years ago, did you ever when you wrestled or coach, do you now see wrestling in this way of freestyle and foxtail wrestling the purity of sort of two human beings locked in combat, the the roots of that as just human beings, the fair struggle between two men or two women?
I don't think I ever. Looked at it. As anything but just to combat and. I think there's times that have made me figure out how to make that combat better. There's little markers or little points in time in your life that make you. Wonder hour, I should say, determined. To be able to get more out of yourself and to be able to take it to a new level, and I don't think people can actually feel that way unless you've actually had a lot of accomplishments in anything.
I think there's anything out there. I mean, no matter what sport or breaking the four minute mile, I mean, when you broke that when they broke that Roger Bannister broke that four minute mile, I can't imagine him breaking it from his best time being four, 30.
You know, it's one of these things that along the line there that he did had some close calls or he had some coaching that was given him the opportunity to become a little better.
But I think because he was doing well and being very successful.
That the opportunity came and so for me, it's like the same thing, I had so much success. And so many practices that went well and so much goodness out of this sport that it gave me the opportunity. To really look more finite and look more how I can even make it better, and so it's like if you look at my library upstairs, I got a library upstairs and there's a lot of books up there.
From the family and but if you look at the Gabal books up there. I got a lot of Russian technique books, I can't read the book, but I can see the diagrams. And I can see the figures, they don't really show it in pictures, they do it in drawings. And and so it was like when I was trying to be the best that is labeled the best because they won the world championships every year since they've been just about involved.
And I don't think they got started involved like the 50s. But but, you know, it's something, you know, you study the best who's out there, but then you don't focus so much on the best that you can't beat the best you learn from them. But there's something that they don't have.
That you can have toughness to technique to the art, to the science. All that stuff. And that's why I even talking to you when you're sitting over there, you love Amity and you're bragging about it over Harvard.
You know. You know, it's because it's true, right in your eyes. And that's and that's great.
And it might be, but but it's the same type of thing that, you know, there's something that you're probably stealing from Harvard, but you don't give them credit.
Well, then, in the interest of time, I've read that you're pretty serious. You're pretty serious into fishing. So what's the biggest fish you ever caught? What are we talking about here? You're talking about not I don't think I've ever cut a big ocean fish. I'm not I'm a river lake fisherman. I have a trial now, probably probably northern.
OK, I probably caught a northern that weighed 20 some pounds. You know, I fish. I like to catch his walleyes. And that's the reason why I like to catch them, because they're really good eating fish and the best eating fish are not the real big ones. You know, it's going to be kind of interesting. They got people hunting deer right on my land and they're looking for the big bucks, but they're not the best eaters if you want if you want to eat.
But they're the best trophy. So, you know, I do have a couple of trophy walleyes on the wall, but but most time I throw the big ones back and put them back in there.
So I don't know if, you know, there's a book by Hemingway called Old Man in the Sea and heard of it. And Ernest Hemingway. Ernest Hemingway. Yeah. And he there's a there's an old man that basically catches an eighteen footer, but it can't pull it in, doesn't have the strength. So they together spend it while the sharks eat away at it. I mean this is very powerful story, I think one of the Nobel Prize.
But he says it's better to be lucky. The old man says better to be lucky. But I would rather be exact that that that way when luck comes, you're ready. So let me ask, what do you think about luck? Do you believe in free will that we have actions that control the direction that's the nature of our life?
Or does luck and some other outside forces really land you where you end up?
For me, I'm not about luck, but I do think there is luck is involved, but I think it's mostly created just how lucky you are through preparations and things. Have things have happened in my life forever.
A lot of good things and a lot of people could say, hey, you've been pretty lucky to win all these awards. I don't know if you analyze my life. I don't think it was involved with luck, you know, I think it was more involved with preparation and, you know, and again, science, had you been smarter, had you understood that you could do some things and be just as lucky? That'd be great. But I'm only as smart as today.
So when I was training in my life and me even training people in my life. As of that moment, that's how lucky I am to be able to have whatever is available to me, and that's what you call that a lot of science.
So for me, I, I think that, you know, like right now, if I look back, I'll do a lot of things different just because things are proven differently. Like I give people water during practice and I did.
And I would let them change their running wrestling shoes into running shoes to run sprints on the concrete.
Or I would actually maybe maybe I've had a guy climb 12 ropes after practice, one after another, and then maybe the next day I do it again. You know, I might not make him do it the next day. I might let him recover a little bit more.
And you got to learn keep adding to your philosophy.
And your philosophy may have been great at that time, but it's at that time. And what is really important is where you at with this time today. And so there's better ways to do things now if you ever take attitude out of it and just depend on total science. Then, you know, you're not going to be as as you know, I think as I listen to a couple people that are really pretty famous people.
One of them is John Irving. He was a writer. Yeah.
And he told me, he says, You think I really learned how to be a great writer in. Riding school. I eat it, yeah, I learned a lot there, but really what gave me the ability to stay focused, to work extra hours to be more disciplined was rustling practices.
That's right. He was a wrestler. Yeah. Yeah. He goes I go back to that. That's what gave me that chance, you know, and and there's a guy in Iowa that a guy named Norman Borlaug, he he he learned he he invented a process to feed the underprivileged countries of the world and. He was a wrestler and he said the same thing, and he and he worked extremely hard and he said, I give a lot of credit to the sport of wrestling.
And even though I was I'm known for this and I got a statue and in Washington, D.C., because I saved a billion lives. Plus I'm going to give wrestling a lot of credit.
So, you know, I think some of these May stars and some of these guys that maybe weren't wrestlers, that had to wrestle wrestling, had to fight wrestling guys and stuff, missed a little bit there.
But I think the ones that did have wrestling probably have a really good chance and can adapt to the other ones.
But, you know, I think every martial art or every activity. Good. And you probably can't skip any, but I don't think they're ever going to overlook and say that wrestling is pretty not are not valuable because it is. However, that doesn't mean you're going to make it. You still got to take the values and apply it whatever area you're going to be in. And and some people forget that some people can't get over.
The highness of getting your arm raised in a wrestling match. And you know what? What's even greater than me getting my arm raised is that I if I'm a coach or if I belong with you, that you get your arm raised. Yeah. And even if you don't get your arm raised, what you walk away with and how and how you learn to handle that as well, because there's going to be some losses. But you don't want many because you want to get used to losing.
I can tell you that that's the hunger for the win. It's the brotherhood, the sisterhood of the wrestling room. And it's hard work and science that's going to be luck at the end of the day.
Absolutely. That luck, you know. I'm you know, I like a lot, but I think it's created by the opportunity that you make your luck, you make your luck. Yeah. Then it was a huge honor. And thank you for welcoming to your home and for having this conversation.
Yeah, no problem. Good man. Thanks for listening to this conversation with Dan Gable and thank you to our sponsors, Trial Labs, a machine learning company, Express FPM, grumbly writing helper tool and simply save home security. So the choice is artificial intelligence, privacy, grammar or safety. Choose wisely, my friends, and if you wish, click the sponsor links below to get a discount to support this podcast. And now let me leave you some words from Dan Gable.
The first period is won by the best technician. The second period is won by the kid in the best shape, and the third period is won by the kid with the biggest heart. Thank you for listening and hope to see you next time.