Dan Gable talks wrestling, meets local residents during stop on book tour

It's not every day that you can go into your local Caseys general store and meet a legend. That was the case for many Sigourney and surrounding residents who came to see Dan Gable, as he notched another stop on his Caseys book signing tour of rural Iowa towns. Gable and publicist Mike Doughty took a couple hours out of their morning on Tuesday, Dec. 12 to talk wrestling, along with sell and sign Gable's two books.

"I'm signing books but that's not the objective of this tour," Gable said. "The objective is that Caseys are located in small towns in Iowa and the Midwest. They just wanted me, who's a recognizable guy, to go around to these different Caseys and promote them."

Gable and Doughty arrived at 7 a.m. to a line of fans already waiting to meet with the famed wrestler and coach, with some there to purchase his books as well. The two also noted this was their first stop in which residents were willing to help with the set-up and bring in books and supplies.

In a county mixed with Iowa and Iowa State fans alike, Gable appealed to people of all ages and backgrounds. Gable wanted to go back to his roots, by visiting small towns across the southeast region of Iowa. Though he didn't compete in the area, Gable started at a relatively small school in Waterloo and knows how important the sport is to rural Iowa.

"The interesting thing is that wrestling is in just about every small town as well," Gable said. "The thing about wrestling is that if you're going to go and win a State championship, the whole team can go support one guy if he makes it to State. If he wins he's kind of the hero of the town."

Gable was one-of-a-kind when he wrestled at the prep level, never losing a match along the way. Since then, he's been looked up to by young and old wrestlers, which was evident by some of the fans who gathered to meet him.

"They say wrestling isn't for everybody, but I say it should be," said Gable when discussing some of his insights early on. "We're the only sport out there where you have to make a weight class, whether you go up or down you have to learn and understand nutrition to meet weight. It's also one of the sport that takes quite a bit on endurance, combining track and field, swimming and other activities."

Perhaps one of the most unique aspects about the sport is how important each individual each, with each wrestler controlling their own destiny and dealing with personal adversity.

"You can't slough up, everybody sees you," Gable said. "It's like being a good business person in life. You're there in your business and you kind of decide the results, and have a lot to do with them. Every time out in a wrestling match you're in the decision process along, going against a competitor out there in front of everyone. You face nervousness and jitters that you learn to overcome, and then you either win or lose."

Gable has made wrestling his life ever since the mid 1960's, and continued to show dominance over the sport when he wrestled for Iowa State. At the collegiate level he wound up with a record of 117-1, with his only loss coming in the Finals of the NCAA tournament his senior year. From there he went to compete at the national level, and wound up winning an Olympic Gold in 1972.

He returned back to the college scene, this time as a coach for the University of Iowa. During his tenure, he led the Hawkeyes to 15 National Titles, and was named the winningest coach in Hawkeye history, amassing a 355-21-5 record.

From his beginnings as just another prep wrestler, to his overwhelming success at the collegiate level and now to his present self, Gable has seen the sport of wrestling take on new changes and gain popularity. Still to this day, wrestling is more confined to the rural cities, and is quite a-ways behind basketball and football in terms of fanbase.

"It's a little bit harder to understand too until you get in there," Gable said. "It was mostly one-sided, primarily being male based in the beginning. Now it's starting to see some females join the mix, but Iowa is a little conservative on that yet, but we're going to pick up on it. We have 100 or so females competing in Iowa, but that's not enough to warrant a State championship. The females are finding out it's good for their confidence and can be used as self-defense."

Gable touched on the fact that the state of Iowa is well entrenched with the sport of wrestling, with wrestlers coming from bigger and smaller cities, as well as the competition level at the college level. Still, towns such as Sigourney, North/South English and Keota have all been important in terms of raising wrestlers and building dynasties.

"They have a big impact," Gable said. "Almost every one of these small towns has someone famous, because it just takes one person. You get a name from a town and then all of a sudden it goes statewide, getting exposure at State in front of almost 15,000 people, not to mention the media following them. It's a great little name recognition, just like Caseys."

Gable chose to stay a little past his scheduled time, as the fans kept coming in to meet the legend himself. Gable joked about possibly running out of books, and having to get more printed and delivered before he could commence the final leg of his tour.

"This was the 17th stop for us, and none have been better than here in Sigourney," Gable said. "What I enjoy most is the towns that have had great success in wrestling and they turn out to see me. Adding to what's already good, and Sigourney is already pretty good, I can tell you that."


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