Gable cruised to gold medal in Munich

Updated: April 13, 2001, 5:04 PM ET
By Mike Puma | Special to

Signature Event
August 31, 1972 - Competing in the 149-pound class at the Olympics, Dan Gable was bothered by an injury. "The knee hurt, but once you get past the pain barrier, the only thing to worry about is the knee locking up," Gable said. "If that happens, you can't wrestle. Luckily, it never happened."

The tenacious Gable impressively won the gold medal by defeating six opponents (pinning three) without allowing a point. Gable was so far ahead going into today's final match, against the Soviet Union's Ruslan Ashuraliyev, he could have lost 7-0 and still won the gold under Olympic rules. After defeating Ashuraliyev 3-0, Gable said that his main focus was just staying off his back.

His victory was crushing to the Soviets, who had promised to find a wrestler who could defeat him. But Gable was certain he wouldn't be leaving Munich without the gold.

"I knew because in '71 I beat the top-flight competition in the world," he says. "I honestly never thought about the pressure of this being the Olympics."

Odds 'n' Ends

  • Although Gable was an outstanding age-group swimmer at the local YMCA, he had to work harder in the pool than on the mat. "When I grabbed a hold of somebody, it was with an ease that I could control him," he said. "It just came so much easier [than swimming]."

  • As a teenager he trained so hard that he would mow the lawn by running while wearing a rubber suit and arm and leg weights.

  • In high school and college combined, Gable pinned 108 opponents. "It's an art to pin somebody," he said. "You've got to have all your weight exactly on them. Hardly anybody works at it enough in practice."

  • There is a discrepancy over Gable's college winning streak. Iowa State officials say it's 100, but the program at past NCAA championships listed it at 98 even though the NCAA doesn't keep official statistics for wrestling. The late Bob Dellinger, a noted wrestling historian, listed Gable's mark at 98.

  • The discrepancy seems to be about Gable's victories over a junior-college and unattached opponent. Iowa State credits him with the two, giving him the 100.

  • No matter Gable's number, in January 2001, Iowa State's Cael Sanderson broke Gable's record for consecutive college victories.

  • Gable had a 101-1 record at Iowa State in his three varsity seasons. He also went 17-0 as a college freshman, wrestling in tournaments open to all amateurs, but these victories aren't included in his overall college total because of freshman ineligibility rules.

  • Gable got his rematch against Larry Owings, who handed Gable his only defeat at Iowa State, when he defeated Owings in the 1972 Olympic Trials.

  • After college, Gable won titles at the Pan-American Games, the Tbilisi Tournament and the World Championships.

  • In preparation for the 1972 Olympics, Gable put in three hard workouts per day -- lasting about seven hours -- consisting of wrestling, running and weight lifting.

  • Between 1963 and 1973, Gable had a 299-6-3 record.

  • The nine straight national championships Gable guided Iowa to from 1978-86 equaled the longest streak of national titles won by any major school in any sport at the time. Yale had won nine straight golf titles from 1905-13 and USC had won nine straight track titles from 1935-43.

  • Gable coached 152 All-Americans, 45 NCAA champions, 106 Big Ten champions and 10 Olympians, including four gold medalists.

  • Gable's Big Ten coaching record was 131-2-5.

  • Gable's 1992 team set NCAA regular-season records with an average margin of victory of 36.9 points and an average of 41.3 points per dual meet.

  • In his 21 seasons as coach, the Hawkeyes accumulated 2,536.75 NCAA points. The next highest total was Oklahoma State's 1,690.5.

  • Gable was inducted into the USA Wrestling Hall of Fame in 1980 and five years later he was voted into the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame.

  • Gable married his wife Kathy in 1974. They have four daughters.