Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Top Ten Reasons Gable Was So Damn Good.

When I was 10-years old, a 5th grader at Channahon Jr. High School, I served the only detention assignment I ever received by Ms. Perkins, the teacher who thought I was goofing around with a Bunson burner. Because of that hour and 15 minutes I was forced to spend with the creepy librarian after school that day, I missed the first day of basketball practice. Not wanting to be the kid who was a day behind in drills, I opted for the only other sport going on at the time, wrestling. But I knew nothing about the sport except Hulk Hogan was the man and Jimmy "Super Fly" Snuka could jump off the top rope and come damn close to the other side of the ring before crashing his head into the poor sap lying on the mat beneath him. I was so angry at that woman for punishing me for igniting the burner and I promised myself that I would, some day, get her back for making me miss the first day of practice, making me take part in a sport I knew nothing about. The next week, wrestling started, and on the first day, our coach asked us all what we wanted from the sport. Some said they wanted to be in the WWF someday. Others said they wanted to beat people up. But one of us sitting on the mat said he wanted to be like Gable. Besides him and the coaches, nobody else knew who Gable was. But for the next eight years, the day I sat with the librarian never crossed my mind again as I found that crushing noses with devilish cross faces and popping shoulders out of sockets with an arm bar or a double chicken wing was much more enjoyable than sinking a free throw or draining a three ever could have been, so thanks Ms. Perkins and I'm going to let you decide which answer is correct for the following question: What is wrestling?

A: Wrestling is a sport in which two unarmed opponents grapple with one another and try to secure a fall, i.e., cause the opponent to lose balance and fall to the mat, and ultimately pin the supine opponent's shoulders to it, through the use of body grips, strength, and adroitness.

B: A fake sport on television, loaded with monstrous men and scantly clad women, who are more often than not, complete knock-outs. The women not the men.

C: When two guys wear tight outfits and touch each other as they roll around on the floor for all to observe.

If you chose C, you don't know shit. If you're answer was B, well, you're kinda right but not totally. And if you chose A, congrats, you just won a button.

Dan Gable is the man who, still to this day, is the best wrestler and/or wrestling coach ever to step onto a mat. And these just may be the ten reasons why he was so damn good.

In 1963, Dan Gable began his wrestling career. Though he wasn't allowed to wrestle on the varsity level his freshman year, for the next three three years he went undefeated, 64-0, and won three state championships, which gained him a scholarship to the University of Iowa, the toughest wrestling program in the country.
"Right out of high school I never had the fear of getting beat, which is how most people lose."-Gable

During the summer months between his high school graduation and his first day of college, Gable trained with Bob Buzzard. Buzzard had won a pair of Big Eight (the old school Big Ten) wrestling titles and wanted to help Gable become better. There were days that Buzzard would crush Gable on the mat, and days that he'd fool around and let the young boy make some moves on him. But on their last day of training together, Buzzard decided to show Gable, beside his three state titles in high school, he had a ways to go to make it on the college level. After that day of training, Gable fell with tears of disappointment in himself.
"I vowed I wouldn't ever let anyone destroy me again. I was going to work at it every day, so hard that I would be the toughest guy in the world. By the end of practice, I wanted to be physically tired, to know that I'd been through a workout. If I wasn't tired, I must have cheated somehow, so I stayed a little longer."-Gable

He pushed his body to its limit. He pushed his body passed its limit. He wouldn't let himself enjoy all the nice things others enjoyed. He had a dedication, a love even, for being the best. And even though he was the best, he never let himself feel that he was the best. He was an offensive wrestler at all times. He would always attack and didn't wait for his opponent to do such. And never, did he give an opponenet a second to relax or counter any of his attacks.
"I shoot, I score. He shoots, I score."-Gable

After graduation, he attended the greatest wrestling college in the country, University of Iowa, and continued his dominance on the mat by going 118-1, improving his career wrestling record to 182-1, with two national championships. His only defeat came in the NCAA finals his senior year, losing to Larry Owings, a sophomore from the University of Washington. Owings cut weight to wrestle Gable at the tournament. At the end of the first period, Gable trailed 7-2. He rallied to tie the match at 8 apiece by the end of the second. But he ended up losing 13-11 for the only loss of his wrestling career.
"All I worried about was what (Owings) was doing to me, instead of what I was doing to him. When you start worrying about that stuff, you're going down the wrong path.”-Gable

After graduating from U of I, he trained heavily for the Olympics. For three years, he trained seven hours a day, rain, shine or snow, everyday of the week. He climbed ropes to build his strength and endurance, ran up and down stairs with teammates on his back, ran non stop for cardio and, obviously, still practiced his wrestling techniques.
"When I lifted weights, I didn't lift just to maintain my muscle tone. I lifted to increase what I already had, to push to a new limit. Every time I worked, I was getting a little better. I kept moving that limit back and back. Every time I walked out of the gym, I was a little better than when I walked in."-Gable

Even though his college wrestling days were over, he still trained. He trained for the titles he won at the '71 Pan American Games, the '72 Tbilisi Tournament, the '71 World Championships and the six Midlands Open Championships he was victorious in. It was a beautiful dominance by maybe the most dedicated athlete ever.
"Gold medals aren't really made of gold. They're made of sweat, determination and a hard-to-find alloy called guts."-Gable

In 1972, Gable tore cartilage in his left knee and refused a doctors recommendation of surgery. He kept practicing and changed his style of wrestling from offensive to defensive-offensive. Then the '72 Olympics began. These games were the games the Russian's vowed to find a man to beat Gable. They failed. And so did every other country who had a man facing Gable on the mat. Gable won the gold medal, without allowing a single point to any of the opponents he faced. Bobby Douglas, the Hall of Fame Iowa State coach, compared Gable's dominance to "that of a major league pitcher throwing 3 no-hitters in a single World just never happens."
"The 1st period is won by the best technician. The 2nd period is won by the kid in the best shape. The 3rd period is won by the kid with the biggest heart."-Gable.

After he had finished his years of dominance on the mat, Gable dominated from the edge of it. Over his 21-year coaching career, his teams won 15 National Championships, nine of which were consecutive. His overall career dual meet record as a coach is 284-16, perhaps making him the coach with the greatest win percentage of all time.
"More enduring than any other sport, wrestling teaches self-control and pride. Some have wrestled without great skill - none have wrestled without pride.”-Gable

He was a true coach. He didn't let his wrestlers slack. He pushed them all just as hard as he pushed himself all those years. If a wrestler wasn't up for it, they weren't expected to return. Gable wanted purity for the sport. With a coaching record like the one he holds, I'm pretty sure his wrestlers followed him. He wouldn't let anything hold his men back.
"But we've got to work. We can't just live on reputations at all-by any means.”-Gable.

Perhaps the reasoning behind Gable's determination to be the best wrestler in the World as we know it, to be so driven to be the best, and to destroy every opponent, but one, over his entire career, is this: In 1964, Gable, then a 16-year old sophomore, went with his family on a fishing trip over the Memorial Day weekend. His sister Diane, 19, didn't want to go and stayed home for. Upon the return of the family to their home in Waterloo, Iowa, the family discovered that Diane had been sexually assaulted and murdered. Gable remembered a one time friend of Diane's who once had said he was interested in her named Tom Kyle. Kyle confessed to Diane's murder and assault and was sentenced to life in prison. But the loss of his big sister turned Gable into a machine who was obsessed with wrestling.
"Once you've wrestled, everything else in life is easy."-Gable.

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