Gable will become the ninth athlete to get the award under President Donald Trump.
Former Iowa wrestler Barry Davis (left) talks with former Iowa wrestling head coach Dan Gable during the intermission of a wrestling dual meet between Iowa and Maryland at Carver-Hawkeye Arean on Friday, Feb. 8, 2019. The Hawkeyes defeated the Terrapins 48-0.
Austin Hanson, Sports Editor
October 14, 2020
Dan Gable keeps making history for the sport of wrestling. The former Hawkeye coach is set to become the first wrestling coach and athlete to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Gable was was notified of his achievement via written letter on Oct. 13.
“To get an award like this, it’s a lifetime achievement award, not only for what you did, but for what you continue to do, ” Gable told the The Des Moines Register. “People are texting me and calling me, and they’re just like off the wall.”
According to the Register, Gable has been in contact with President Donald Trump’s administration about organizing his visit to the White House. He will be the 24th recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom during Trump’s tenure in the Oval Office.
Other coaches and athletes of prominence that have earned the award include Jesse Owens, Babe Ruth, Paul “Bear” Bryant, Pat Summit, and John Wooden.
In the official letter to Gable, he was recognized for his “remarkable accomplishments” on the mat, and an even greater coaching career at the University of Iowa for 21 seasons. The letter went on to add, “Today, you continue to inspire your fellow citizens as a motivational speaker and serve as a living testament to countless young people that the American Dream is very much within reach of anybody willing to think big, work hard, and never relent.”
The modern incarnation of the award was established by President John F. Kennedy in 1963 to spotlight people that make or have made significant contributions to the United States’ national interests, society, and culture.
Gable’s history and success as a U.S. wrestler is rooted deeply in Iowa. In high school, Gable won three state titles for Waterloo West. In college, Gable won two national titles as an Iowa State Cyclone.
At Iowa, Gable coached the Hawkeyes to 21-straight Big Ten Championships and 15 NCAA Championships. His Hawkeye wrestling factory produced 152 All-Americans, 46 national champions, 12 Olympians, and eight gold medalists.
“Gable has left me a lifetime philosophy that I do not deviate from, ” current Iowa head coach and former Hawkeye wrestler Tom Brands said. “My brother and I are keen on the lessons we learned from him. That will never change. This award is awesome because it puts Dan Gable in context and brings him back front and center. Gable was a winner. He did not lose. He won nine straight national championships, as many as John Wooden. The stratosphere that those two guys co-exist in is unheard of, and I am reminded every day when I see his statue. Those memories are strong with me. The bedrock of Hawkeye wrestling will always be Dan Gable, and especially when Tom and Terry Brands are running the program, because we cut our teeth right here.”
As an Olympic wrestler himself in 1972, Gable garnered a gold medal having won all six of his Olympic matches without surrendering a single point at 68 kilograms.
In addition to the Presidential Medal of Freedom, Gable’s efforts have landed him in the USA Wrestling, National Wrestling, and United States Olympic Halls of Fame.
“This honor is earned over a lifetime of doing the right things and persevering through tremendous adversity, ” associate Iowa coach and former Hawkeye wrestler Terry Brands said. “Gable earned it by coaching up people as individuals and paying attention to what makes people tick and really caring about moving humanity forward. It is well earned.”