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Legend Dan Gable receives Presidential Medal of Freedom

Hall of Fame coach Dan Gable receives the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Trump on Monday in Washington, D.C. (Photo courtesy White House)

Wrestling legend Dan Gable received the Presidential Medal of Freedom on Monday in the Oval Office from President Donald Trump.

The award is the nation’s highest civilian honor, which may be awarded by the President to individuals who have made especially meritorious contributions to the security or national interests of the United States, to world peace, or to cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.

Gable, who was a wrestling legend on the mat and in the corner as the head coach at the University of Iowa, is the first member of the wrestling community at large to receive the honor.

Gable, 72, never lost a scholastic match (64-0) and went 117-1 at Iowa State with two NCAA championships and three All-American seasons. In 1971, he won a world championship and in 1972, he won an Olympic gold medal, not giving up a single point in six Olympic bouts.

In 1976, he took over as head coach at the University of Iowa and coached the Hawkeyes for 21 years. In that time, Iowa won 21 Big 10 championships and 15 NCAA Division I championships. He coached 152 All-American wrestlers, 45 national champions and 12 Olympians that combined to win four gold, one silver and three bronze medals.

He is a three-time head coach of the U.S. Olympic team (1980, 1984, 2000) and the 1984 team, which featured four Iowa wrestlers, won seven gold medals. He was the head of the U.S. world championship team six times and led ten U.S. World Cup team that won three goal medals.

He hasn’t coached in 23 years since stepping down from Iowa in 1997 but everyone in the wrestling world still knows who Gable is today. He continues to inspire men and women on and off the mat.

“I’m a big believer in starting with high standards and raising them,” Gable says in promotional quote on his website. “We make progress only when we push ourselves to the highest level. If we don’t progress, we backslide into bad habits, laziness and poor attitude.”

Proud to be recognized with Presidential Medal of Freedom, Gable sees it as an achievement that others can reach for.

“I look at this (medal) as inspiration and others will have something (to strive for) beyond just winning on the mat,” Gable said. “Something like this enhances our sport. It opens the door for a lot of people.”

Reflecting on his years of coaching, Gable said, “The success one has with others is more important the success you have yourself.”

The president learned a little bit more about one of the greatest American wrestlers ever. As part of the ceremony, Trump was reading about Gable’s accomplishments. He paused a second and turned to Gable and asked, “Now, I’m larger than you, a little bit. Do you think I could take you in wrestling? Would I have a big advantage?”

Gable didn’t miss a beat. “No. You would have no chance,” he said with light laughter and smiles around the room.

Just after awarding Gable the Presidential Medal of Freedom, Trump thanked Gable. “We’re very proud of you as a nation. And thank you for doing such a great job. We appreciate it,” the president said.

“We aren’t done yet,” Gable with authority and a fist pump.

Watch the entire 18-minute ceremony in the video below from the White House.

Gerry deSimas, Jr., is the editor and founder of Connecticut Wrestling Online. He is an award-winning writer and has been covering sports in Connecticut and New England for more than 40 years. He was inducted into the New England High School Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2018.

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