An epic moment, it was.
Yesterday, President Trump became the only person in history to “pin” legendary wrestler, Dan Gable. And he accomplished the task without a struggle.
Gable, the 1972 Olympic Gold Medalist at 149.5 pounds, who won all six bouts without surrendering a single point, stood ramrod still in an emotional moment, as the President of the United States fastened The Medal of Freedom around Gable’s neck, then centered it on his chest.
It was a proud moment for Gable, for his family, and for all wrestlers who were coached by him (myself included). It was also a grand moment for anyone who has ever wrestled because Gable is the ONLY grappler to ever win the medal.
Over the years, I’ve written much about Dan Gable and the influence he had upon me. His influence began in my early teens and follows me to this day.
In high school, I read a biography, The Legend of Dan Gable – the Wrestler, by Russ L. Smith, over and over again. I followed the teachings that were spelled out in the book, as well as what intuitively came to me “through the lines.” I made up my mind that I was going to go to University of Iowa and wrestle for Gable. He was going to be my coach.
At the time I made this commitment, I was a lousy high school wrestler. Yet, each time I read the book, I improved dramatically.
Part way through my senior year in high school, after suffering a semifinal loss in a tournament I had won the year previous, I was emotionally devastated. My record was 8-4 afterward, which in most peoples’ minds, would have completely disqualified me from achieving any of my goals.
On the Monday morning after the tournament, I went to the school library and checked out the Gable biography again. Funny thing is I was the only wrestler at my school who read it, which I could clearly see on the card you signed in order to check it out.
I devoured the bio once again, eager to glean the wisdom I must have missed in previous readings. As I read, I felt something was telling me that “this reading” was going to be pivotal.
When I finished, I had my answer. Instead of three workouts per day, two of which were conditioning, I needed to be “on the mat” three times a day. I needed to practice my takedowns, throws, escapes and pinning holds until I could do them in my sleep. Yes, I still needed conditioning, but that would come AFTER practicing my techniques. They were primary.
For the last six weeks of the season, my brother, Tim, accompanied me to the local recreation center before school each morning, where I would drill and drill and drill. Immediately after school I would go to the team wrestling practice, and then around 7 PM, after having a couple steaks, I would go to the recreation center again to practice and drill the moves I wanted to master.
These moves were nothing new. They were the same moves I learned when I began in the sport at age eight. But when I committed to three workouts per day on the mat, I discovered something more within each of them. Day after day, each move became easier to execute. It became effortless. And details upon details upon details revealed themselves to me.
As a result of putting in three workouts each day “on the mat,” I won 15-straight matches, most of them by lopsided margins. As I cover in The Unbeatable Man, I qualified for the state tournament. In the quarterfinals, I got Gable’s attention when I squared off against a blue-chip recruit that he was in the audience to watch. The result of that match catapulted me from a lowly high school wrestling program to a bonafide member of the national champion University of Iowa wrestling team.
For years I swore to audiences that “three workouts per day, on the mat ,” were the exact words I read in Gable’s biography.
A few weeks before Coach Gable spoke at one of my seminars, I ordered a copy of the biography so I could find the exact quote and tell him how much it helped me. I combed the book several times and could NOT find it.
The night before Gable spoke, we got together to discuss details of the seminar. I had the book with me and asked him to sign it. He did, but not before asking how much I paid for it. When I told him the price, he cringed, but didn’t say a word. The next day, in his speech, Gable brought the price tag for the book up as evidence that his work is not yet done yet.
As Gable spoke yesterday before receiving the Medal of Freedom, you could see in his eyes and hear in his voice that his work is not done yet.
Congratulations, Coach Gable.
You’re the BEST.