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Review: Dan Gable's A Wrestling Life

BY CODY GOODWIN | FEBRUARY 19, 2015 5:00 AM

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In April 2012, Scott Schulte found legendary Iowa wrestling coach Dan Gable in Carver-Hawkeye Arena during the Olympic Wrestling Trials. Schulte approached Gable with the idea to write a story about the death of Gable’s sister, Diane, and how it affected him and his wrestling.

Gable agreed. The story ran. Then, Schulte came up with the idea to write a book about Gable’s life. Gable said sure, and not long after, A Wrestling Life: The Inspiring Stories of Dan Gable, written by Gable with Schulte, came to life.

The book, set to hit stores March 1, is not a traditional autobiography. It is instead a series of first-person snapshots detailing Gable’s life. Each chapter is a different story or set of stories, ranging from his upbringing to his college and post-college wrestling careers to his days as Iowa’s head coach and beyond.

All told, it is an easy read — roughly 150 pages — if only because every story and chapter is more interesting and crazy than the last. You’ll learn how his drive to succeed was shaped over time, why his family means so much to him, and that, before the headgear, singlets, and cauliflower ear, he first wanted to be the world’s best swimmer (primarily in the backstroke).

If you’ve ever met the man, you’ll soon find the words start to sound like they are straight from Gable’s mouth the more you continue to read. If you haven’t spoken with him directly, you might think a grandfatherly figure wrote these stories — which makes sense because Gable is the father of four and grandfather of 10.

It reminded me a lot of The Art of Scouting, a book of similar construction written by storied major-league scout Art Stewart with Sam Mellinger, a sports columnist for the Kansas City Star. It might also remind readers of Jim Zabel’s book 65 Years of Fun and Games.

Without revealing too much, my favorite story is absolutely the first half of the Molly Putz chapter, in which Gable’s mother gives him a much-needed wake-up call after losing a junior-high wrestling match. Another is the chapter about coaching both Tom and Terry Brands, in which he gives a behind-the-scenes look at the Brands’ time as wrestlers at Iowa.

In all, the book provides an honest, fascinating look at Gable, and it is made even more intriguing because they are his words. Littered throughout each story are lessons he’s learned — all of which can be applied to life, and damn-near most of them can, of course, be applied to wrestling.

At the top of the book’s cover is a quote by longtime ESPN broadcaster Mike Golic, in which he says, “As a high-school and college wrestler, I wanted to wrestle for Dan Gable. Now I know why.”
You and me both, Golic.

Follow @codygoodwin on Twitter for updates, news, and analysis about the Iowa wrestling team.


A Wrestling Life: The Inspiring Stories of Dan Gable will be released on March 1. You can order a signed copy from Prairie Lights and Iowa Book.

Gable will hold a reading of the book at 7 p.m. March 4 at the Englert Theater.


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