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How life imitates wrestling

BY CODY GOODWIN | MARCH 05, 2015 5:00 AM

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Wrestling is not easy, but neither is life, Dan Gable said. This is one of the many lessons he hopes readers take away from his new book, A Wrestling Life: The Inspiring Stories of Dan Gable.

“This book, to me — it says a wrestling life, but it’s more than wrestling,” he said. “It’s about total life and how you have to work through struggles, and that’s kind of like a wrestling match. It’s not easy.”

Gable spoke in front of a small crowd inside the Englert Theater on Wednesday night, during which former Iowa kicker Nate Kaeding hosted “An Evening with Dan Gable.”

“Really, it’s a neat book. This is Dan’s first foray into literature,” Kaeding said. “To me, this is sort of a collision of Iowa City’s two greatest natural resources: Dan Gable and literature.”

Gable first talked about the book’s making, and how Scott Schulte — with whom he wrote the book — first approached him at the 2012 Olympic Wrestling Trials with the idea of a series of short stories.
Gable said sure, but didn’t think Schulte would follow through. Not long after the trials, Schulte called Gable and they talked for about an hour and a half.

“And in a matter of a week, five typed-out stories came back to me,” Gable said. “I was like, wow. I went through the stories, and they weren’t bad. But I had to change them all into my words.

“When I’m talking, and when he’s talking, there’s two different people. Even though he heard me on the microphone, it really wasn’t what I wanted. I wanted it in my voice. I wanted people to really hear what I had to say.”

After a few more interview sessions — and after Schulte sent over more stories for Gable to copy over — the book became more official. Gable mentioned that he was more pleased with how this book came together compared with Nolan Zavoral’s A Season on the Mat, which chronicles Gable’s final season as the Iowa coach.

“I ended up in friction with [Zavoral] because when I went back and read it, and I recommended the change in my philosophy, he wouldn’t change it,” Gable said. “And he did some things that I really didn’t like. He thought he understood, but he said he was the author, so he got to write about whatever he wanted to write. … In a couple of situations, it made me not look so good.
“This book had my final word on it, and I liked that a lot.”

After explaining the book’s backstory, Gable told stories as they came to mind. Some were in the book, and some were not. He explained that his wife, Kathy, only got about four pages in the book, “and she probably should’ve gotten more,” he said.

He also explained why some stories didn’t make the book. After Gable coached Iowa to an NCAA title in 1978, there was a massive party. That story didn’t wasn’t included because “there were about 110 kegs,” Gable said.

“What’s good is if this book does well, we’ll just do another one,” he said and smiled.

At the end of the night, Kaeding allowed the audience to ask questions. One attendee asked if Gable was going to run for governor. Another asked which was tougher: coaching Iowa wrestlers, or living with all girls.

One young girl, a high-school cheerleader from Fort Madison, walked up and explained that she recently got her first B on her report card. She likened it to Gable’s loss to Larry Owings at the 1970 national championships, and how he strove to learn and become better from it.

“Do you realize how much of an inspiration you are — not just to wrestlers, but to me, everyone here, and other young athletes?” she asked, sparking a rousing applause.

Gable smiled. “I’m going to tell you one thing, young lady,” he said. “That made my day.”


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