The Power of 3
This year marks the 40th anniversary of a major milestone in the Iowa Hawkeye wrestling fraternity. In 1976, Dan Gable became the University of Iowa’s head wrestling coach.
Bump Elliot and Gary Kurdelmeir—Iowa’s athletic director and assistant athletic director at the time—knew that Dan would fashion team success just as he had achieved his own personal triumphs. He’d proven himself during his three years as Iowa’s assistant wrestling coach. Of course, it’s not a given that a good athlete makes a good coach. Gable proved the naysayers wrong!
As coach, Dan went on to accomplish a very laudable feat—winning 15 NCAA Division I team titles in 23 years. This coaching record has stood the test of time, for any collegiate sport. In the Big 10, Dan won 21 consecutive team titles.
His Hawkeyes won again and again. They won consistently, year after year. Hawkeye fans didn’t experience the agony of defeat very often. And they revered Coach Gable for his never-ending pursuit of victory.
Dan Gable had a coaching formula, and it worked very well. It drew upon a timeless formula for success.
For one, Dan recruited young men with heart and drive. They’d won championships but they’d also experienced setbacks. These “black-n-blue chip” grapplers really wanted to win, and they brought intensity to their training and matches.
Coach Gable also recruited brothers because of their fraternal bond and the private emotional support they provided to each other. Time and time again, his formula worked—with the Zaleskys, Trizzinos, the Brands brothers, and others.
Finally, and quite importantly, Dan surrounded himself with great assistants who complemented his motivational strengths. These experienced and accomplished coaches, such as J Robinson, Chuck Yagla, and Mark Johnson, added technical, conditioning, and strength expertise to the Hawkeye coaching staff.
While Dan coached the Hawkeyes, he also recruited for World and Olympic teams—not simply collegiate wrestlers. Indeed, 40 percent (four out of ten) of the 1984 Freestyle Olympic Team members were his recruits, his Hawkeye wrestlers.
During our five years as student-athletes, my brothers and I witnessed—and had the good fortune to contribute to—a dynasty in the making. We cherish our memories of those years, and we are Hawkeyes for life!
Today there’s a statue to Coach Gable in Iowa City. He’s a living legend, and a man of great character and inspiration.
We are proud to have wrestled for him!
Happy 40th Coach Gable!