Dan Gable Interview 7

      No Comments on Dan Gable Interview 7
dan-gable

Editor’s Note: Dan Gable has dealt with plenty of winning and losing experiences at the NCAAs as both a wrestler for Iowa State and head coach at Iowa. He recently spoke to WIN Editor Mike Finn about the 2013 national tournament and what will be critical elements to winning as a team and individual championships.

 

WIN: How would you break down the team race?

GABLE: There are four teams that are kind of above the rest: Penn State, Iowa, Minnesota and Oklahoma State. Teams like Ohio State or Missouri are teams that are not hoping to sneak in but feel they should be there. They may not have enough firepower.

The key is consistency, where the better teams accomplish “major” things more than once. Those four teams have been consistent and they have beaten each other during the season.

If there is any team that already has countable (NCAA All-American) points, that is Penn State. When you can say names like (returning champions) David Taylor, Ed Ruth and Quentin Wright, you have guys who have been consistent all year. Penn State appears to have automatic points while the other teams will have to earn them more.

Oklahoma State has Jordan Oliver. You can put him in a category with those Penn State guys. He really has not slipped much since losing last year’s NCAA championship match that he could have won, based on an official’s call. But he did show some vulnerability in his National Duals match with Dylan Ness.

Penn State has the edge with top individuals, but that doesn’t necessarily win the team title anymore. The last time the Nationals were in the state of Iowa (2001), Minnesota won a team title without a champion or finalist.

I don’t know if Penn State has an edge on overall team balance, where nearly every weight class could produce points. Oklahoma State, Minnesota and Iowa are those kinds of teams. When you speak of team depth, you might want to give the edge to any of the other three schools.

And if you look at Iowa, the Hawkeyes are more than a balanced team. They had two wrestlers — Matt McDonough and Derek St. John — who were ranked No. 1 pretty much all year until the last couple weeks. And they also have a wrestler like Tony Ramos, who just went to overtime against one of the better wrestles in the country like Ohio State’s Logan Stieber.

Iowa did not look good at the National Duals, but did look pretty good at the Big Ten tournament, except for those four final matches. If Iowa can feed off their Big Ten success, placing nine in the top four of their weight classes and feed off the Iowa atmosphere, they could do well in Des Moines.

 

WIN: How much of a home-mat advantage does Iowa have?

GABLE: I don’t know because I don’t know what fans will have the tickets. It’s a pretty small arena. I was talking to a guy at the Big Tens from a little town in Iowa. He told me that they normally have a group of 40 people who go to the Nationals, but only ten of them got tickets. If wrestlers from Iowa State and Northern Iowa stay in the tournament, the Hawkeyes could pick up some of those fans. That’s what happened at the 1997 Nationals in Cedar Falls, where in the end it seemed like it was all Iowa fans (in the UNI-Dome).

 

WIN: Normally, people say the teams that produce the most bonus points are the teams that win. But because these top four schools are close in balanced talent, will it be more important to win the close matches?

GABLE: Everything is important, especially when there are four teams that could win. Bonus points are always a factor and that’s what I like about tournament scoring.                         The fans are really in tune to those points, probably more than the wrestlers That is a matter of mentality and one I have not seen in those other three teams other than Penn State. Some of them are not strong enough to go from a five-point lead to eight.

But more than bonus points, it’s about the number of athletes teams like Iowa, Minnesota and Oklahoma State can keep alive and scoring any points until the end.

 

WIN: There is a former NCAA champion competing in eight of the ten weight classes. Is this one of the most talented fields the NCAA has had in a long time?

GABLE: Earlier in the year, I was more set on who I thought was going to win the team and individual championships. I’ve changed my mind a little bit on that because I’m trying to figure out who is an automatic champion.

That’s also a sign that younger wrestlers have taken the challenge. At 125 pounds, you have a kid (Jesse Delgado) from Illinois who has stepped up and challenged McDonough and took over the weight.

But he still has to wrestle a style to win. All it takes is for the other guy doing a better job of forcing his style. McDonough did a better job of becoming an offensive wrestler in the past when he won his two national championships and when he was more consistent. That means he still has it. These former champions have to figure out how they won before. When they do that, it will give them their best chance to win again.

 

WIN: McDonough is also one of four former champions who are not ranked No. 1 at their weight class. One is Penn State’s David Taylor, who must beat the likes of three-time champ Kyle Dake to win again. A lot of people are looking forward to them wrestling in Des Moines. What are your thoughts on their rivalry?

GABLE: I was kind of surprised that the pace of their previous matches was not at the level that Taylor usually wrestles. There seems to be a lower level of intensity that I thought would be brought to that match. It seems like there is more precision and (they’re) are more calculated.

I know the wrestling will be good in their match, but I’m not sure how much scoring we will see. It seems to me that Dake has controlled the mental part of the matches and the pace, which gives him the edge. If the pace got faster, that would be more of a Taylor advantage.

 

WIN: When Dake pinned Taylor in a freestyle match during the 2012 Olympic Trials, did that take something out of Taylor?

GABLE: It could have. There were quite a few offensive moves going on, but Dake was winning all those situations. That could affect how Taylor competes against him now.

 

WIN: If Dake wins his fourth championship at four different weights in four straight years right out of high school, how would you rank him among the best ever?

GABLE: Dake’s accomplishment would be a great feat and almost the highest that a college wrestler can earn, but Cael Sanderson was an undefeated four-time champion who won the Outstanding Wrestler award each year. I had a loss, but I was able to dominate wrestlers with a large number of pins.

Also guys like Cael and myself continued to wrestle after college, winning Olympic gold medals. Dake hasn’t had a chance to do that yet and if he does that, he will have to do it through (2012 Olympic gold medalist) Jordan Burroughs.

 

WIN: Speaking of which, Kent State’s 2011 champion Dustin Kilgore is ranked No. 1 at 197 after taking an Olympic redshirt. What do you think of him?

GABLE: You have a kid who took a year off and enhanced his wrestling by spending time at the Olympic Training Center and wrestling all over the world. A probable match between him and (Quentin) Wright is one that people will want to watch.

 

WIN: You would think returning champions would have an advantage in the finals against someone who has never been there. Is there a difference?

GABLE: There is a difference and the ones who are more successful are the ones who do a better job of getting over the happiness of making the finals. When wrestlers overcome barriers, like reaching the NCAA finals, it’s a feeling they have never had before. And because of that, they may wear themselves down.

There is a long time between a Friday night semifinal and the Saturday night final. There is a lot of emotion and draining or satisfaction knowing that you are going to go before the entire wrestling world. That focus has to stay the whole weekend. It can be distracting because of that break.

 

WIN: How does an NCAA finalist deal with that 24-hour period after winning a semifinal?

GABLE: It depends if that possibility of winning a championship was real for a long period of time or was it simply a dream. It’s got to be part of a whole lifetime of getting ready. It should have been played out 365 days or more ahead of that. If he is fifth-year senior, he pretty much has a finger on his own pulse and doesn’t really need the coach as much.

It’s what is current, which helps the coach and athlete in making the right decisions. You don’t want surprises and there are no quick fixes.

Dan Gable Interview 6

      No Comments on Dan Gable Interview 6
dan-gable-6

Editor’s Note: On Feb. 12, Dan Gable was among the countless wrestling fans in this country, who were shocked to hear that the International Olympic Committee was recommending that wrestling be dropped from the Olympics, beginning in 2020. Gable, a gold medalist wrestler and coach, recently spoke to WIN Editor Mike Finn about the decision and what needs to happen to get wrestling re-instated on a regular basis in the Olympics.

 

WIN: When you heard about this, you spoke about how emotional you were. Why?

GABLE: This may turn out OK and really good or we could lose an Olympics or more than that. Just the fact that we could have a possibility or having any of that lost, makes me cry. I already saw what happened in 1980 (when the U.S. boycotted the Olympics for international political reasons) when we had Olympic wrestling. That was heartache. That was not the right decision. They always say the one thing we have to worry about is sports and politics. I know there will always be politics in sports, but it should never go to this high of a level and that’s where it is.

 

WIN: Was this decision based on sports and politics?

GABLE: Yes, this is sports and politics and from a standpoint of (FILA) not being very smart in how it ran wrestling. But it was the politics by the group (IOC) above FILA, which is stronger. There was politics and not good politics. There were too many things that did not make a cohesive group (of FILA and the IOC). Relationships and a lot of things could have been better … and it will become better now. But at what expense will there be in making it happen? Hopefully, it can be a better organization, a better sport and not miss a beat.

 

WIN: Are you familiar with, Nenad Lalovic, the new acting director of FILA?

GABLE: I’m not real familiar with him personally, but after many hours on the phone, I’m more familiar than what I was. I have to feel that Stan Dziedzic (named an assistant to Lalovic) would also be the best choice they could make now.

 

WIN: Is this the highest influence that the U.S. has had on FILA?

GABLE: It would take someone of the late Bill Farrell’s stature and who has been involved for the last 40 years. Based on a quick answer, yes. But I’m not sure if Stan is really moving up since he was already a vice president. The issue was that (FILA) was the president (Raphaël Martinetti)  and no one else.

I believe that Martinetti kept tight control, so much so that he could not get the help he could have gotten. When you are dealing with a big sport throughout the world, you need a lot of help. With all these other people on the board, there is more potential help.

 

WIN: If FILA is to blame, what went wrong?

GABLE: It was a system that allowed this type of power to take place. If you look around the world, you can pin point a few places where that has happened and where things fell apart. When people are in charge, they should try to take care of everybody in some capacity. I think the system was too one-sided and broken.

WIN: When you say the system was broken, what do you mean by that?

GABLE: Unless you are a genius, or have the luck to win a lottery, you have a lot to get done and you have to do it in fine fashion. The system needs to be revamped a little bit and a lot. We need a lot of brains working and not just one brain.

 

WIN: What recommendations would you make to FILA?

GABLE: Pretty much what everybody thinks and that is thinking about the future. They need to establish a plan of where and why FILA and the sport fits into the IOC and the Olympic Games. We also need to make changes to the sport to make it the best possible sport in every area: technically, tactically, politically. Everything that I hear from high people is that (FILA) was not doing its homework. It’s pretty simple. You go to school and don’t do your homework, you might still get good grades, but you’ll eventually fail. We might have sold out arenas, but that’s not good enough criteria (to keep wrestling). I had some wrestlers who fell into this type of category and until they changed their ways of doing their homework, they were not going to wrestle.

 

WIN: What about the current rules of wrestling, changed many times by FILA?

GABLE: This organization also has to keep up with the times. You can look at American wrestling and some of the rules that we’ve had in history and see where they are now. It’s a lot better than the way FILA went through rules. There are less politics involved in (folkstyle rules). FILA says officials can’t call stalling. We don’t want wrestlers to stall. The bottom line is that you look at the rules and see how they need to progress from a non-political way and in a sports-entertainment style for the fans and the athletes. Then I think FILA can make some good decisions.

But FILA should not worry so much about the rules, but overturning the IOC decision. I don’t know if it has as much to do with the rules. What’s important now is what is FILA’s plan for promotion and how FILA is going to work with the IOC and be compatible.

WIN: The countries of Russia and Iran have joined with the United States in saving wrestling in the Olympics. Can’t the world learn something from this unique coalition?

GABLE: That is something of value. (The U.S. doesn’t) usually get along with Russia and Iran, but we get along with them on this issue. When you find common bonds among countries that want to have power, it brings along peace a little easier.

 

WIN: On Feb. 15, you were part of a press conference in Des Moines with Iowa governor Terry Branstad to speak about the IOC decision and to promote the sport of wrestling. There are other grassroots organizations around the country and around the world doing the same thing. How do these organizations come together and get this message across so that FILA and the IOC understand and are listening?

GABLE: That’s a hard question to answer but the most important thing is the statements by these groups should not be confusing. We should not be throwing out facts and what people can do to help this cause right away. Right now, everyone should be on alert, go to the proper websites, keep updated and get involved. Stay educated and do what you can. The governor even by-passed the normal channels to create the “KeepWrestling.com” T-shirts we were wearing and handing out. When he got asked about doing that, he said it was such a good investment to the state of Iowa. It was a good investment for the state. Just look at how much money was brought in from the 2012 Olympic Trials in Iowa City, the high school state tournament in Des Moines and packed high school and college arenas all over the state.

We need to make sure the IOC, which does not have any wrestling people on its committee, sees the sport is multiplying across the world. We need to better educate the people who are voting on this. They need to know wrestling is well-established and we’re not going to go away.

 

WIN: Wrestling has taken its shots on the college level, including the impact of Title IX on wrestling. Some people might say, “If the world doesn’t care about wrestling, why should college administrators care about the sport?”

GABLE: Some people could use this as a reason to justify an action, but most people are smart enough to know that is not the case. It’s the ones who already have an agenda, which is not a true agenda. No one can say wrestling is not a national sport. There is only one state that does not have high school wrestling. We have states where there are so many high school wrestlers but few if any college wrestling programs like California and Florida. The states that are taking care of these wrestlers are the states that offer college wrestling.

The best thing about this situation is that I haven’t heard comments from a media source, including those that don’t follow wrestling on a regular basis, which agreed with the IOC. And when those in the media do a little research, they see that wrestling is popular in this country. I think in the first week since the IOC announcement, I bet I spoke to over 100 media outlets around the country. There were a lot of them that didn’t know how good the wrestling was that existed around them.

Dan Gable Interview 5

      No Comments on Dan Gable Interview 5
dan-gable-5

Editor’s Note: The legendary Dan Gable is known primarily for his knowledge of college and international-style wrestling — winning NCAA and Olympic gold as a wrestler and coach. On Jan. 24, Gable was asked to provide color commentary of an Iowa high school meet between Independence and West Delaware, the first time Gable attended a meet in that fashion. Gable, who also has several grandchildren wrestling, spoke to WIN Editor Mike Finn about the sport at the younger level.

V11I2 BW, master (Page 8)

WIN: What were your impressions of high school wrestling after the recent dual meet that you helped broadcast?

GABLE: It was kind of a special meet, a rivalry meet. Because of location, because of the emphasis on the wrestling programs, it was kind of a unique situation. I don’t think it was the typical dual meet that you’d have across the state or the country. The atmosphere was one that you want to use as a template for what you want to happen in wrestling. There was standing-room only … the gym was packed an hour before the meet started. The meet was entertaining. It was being televised. There was more than wrestling at the event. People were charged-up. There was dancing, a light show.

All these things were perfect in getting ready for the main event. When you look at what works, you see some spectacular things. And then there was good wrestling. No matter what kind of pre-meet entertainment you have, the main event still has to be entertaining.

 

WIN: What did you see in the kids wrestling?

GABLE: I saw more than I normally see. I know there are coaches who promote the technical and tactical parts of wrestling to suggest how good and talented a wrestler is and how good he can execute a move. But what I saw were coaching staffs on both sides that were able to get inside the kids’ heads … even on the losing end as they put on good competitive exhibitions.

The more I watch my grandkids in this sport and see these kids’ tournaments, the more I realize we have a very unique sport. Wrestling is so unique that is should be mandatory for everyone who walks on the planet.

After a college meet, I recently helped televise, a dad came down with his three sons, who all wrestled. They were triplets and cute as can be. Their dad said they have to wrestle through eighth grade even though they also played basketball. That told me that their dad “got it.” He understood there is an edge that athletes can get from the competition that wrestling brings out.

It’s not just about sport. It’s about other areas of your life. Those three kids might decide to play basketball in high school, but wrestling will give them an edge more than those who didn’t compete in wrestling.

As I watch my grandkids and these little kids tournaments, it’s about being able to react without thought. Whereas in most other sports, those athletes have more time to think because of the time breaks those other sports have.

In baseball, there can be as much as 30 seconds between pitches. In football, there is the huddle. And now with football turning to more no-huddle plays, it tells me that football is becoming more like wrestling; because the athletes don’t have time to get their wits together before another play. Wrestling is more initiation and reaction instead of initiation, stop and look at what happened before you do something else. In wrestling, if you take time to look to the side for coaching, you are going to get taken down.

I really think what wrestling can teach athletes is that competitiveness that other athletes do not conquer. This leaves (other athletes) them a little bit behind their whole lives, especially in how they deal with emotional breakdowns. I see breakdowns in our sport because the wrestler might lack confidence or just try and survive.

But eventually, they get that confidence and both of those teams (at the Jan. 24 high school meet) had that confidence and were able to lay it out there on the mat and represent themselves. They had enough competitiveness in them to stay in matches and represent what you want to see and the fans are left feeling good and have more to yell about. That’s why our sport is healthy for a kid.

WIN: Are you saying, the more you train your mind to compete, the body will follow?

GABLE: Yes and at that high school meet, I saw a lot of execution. I saw a lot of wrestling. If you focus so much on the technical and tactical part of wrestling, you don’t get as much done as when you focus on teaching kids how to compete. And you know what comes out of teaching kids how to compete? The technical and tactical part of wrestling.

When you teach them how to compete, they will execute and complete way more technical moves than they will by going the other direction.

It makes me think back to the way I practiced as an athlete and a coach. It reminded me what my edge was. You learn to score way more in a practice where you work on developing your competitiveness. In the meantime, you are also building stamina, the ability to react. You are learning positioning. It makes more sense to me when you see wrestlers who can dominate; that it goes back to their practices.

 

WIN: What about when a wrestler hesitates? Is it because their minds are not prepared?

GABLE: There is probably more nervousness, which holds them back, which I called being scared. Fear is big and you want to get rid of that. You eliminate fear by making an athlete a tremendous competitor. When I look at the athletes I coached, I had tremendous competitors and I believe the system helped them become that way or brought along something they already possessed.

Coaches and athletes have to study what has been accomplished and why. When you do that, you have to apply that in what you do. Sometimes the most elite wrestler isn’t the most elite athlete. He may simply be a better competitor.

WIN: Regarding fear, is it a fear of failure or fear that you are letting others down?

GABLE: It can be different things but there is a lot of fear of failure and it breaks wrestlers down and they lose focus. Instead of reacting and naturally going on to the next move, you absolutely go into a shell and lose all hope of what needs to be accomplished. Those athletes are in the rafters and not prepared for what will happen on the mat. You see that from a kid who has qualified for his first state tournament and is not ready for the moment. Those kids are not where they need to be. They are scatter-brained.

 

WIN: Do you force kids to face their fears?

GABLE: Beyond what you do in practice, you have to have special conversations and you have to have many of them because they are not going to understand it or even hear you. People block off what you say. When someone has a different thought than what you have at the time, they are thinking about their thought and not about what you are saying.

At practices, I would preach what I believe are the essentials of our sport over and over. I would say things 100 times in practice and even with that I know there are those who did not hear what I said. But eventually, those thoughts would become part of their process. You also don’t let up until you actually witness that they understand what you are saying. And even with that you don’t let up; you just let off a little as they start to understand.

 

WIN: What role should parents play with their kids in wrestling?

GABLE: Parents should absolutely keep their kids in this sport until they can learn how to compete at least to a point where parents feel good about them in their lives.

I know there are some parents who pull their kids out because the sport is too hard on them. They are not doing their kid a favor by doing that. It’s too easy to say it’s because he doesn’t like it. But why doesn’t he like it. Is it because he is getting beat or that he is scared? Pulling him out too soon won’t help get him prepared for life.

For example with my grandkids, I want them to listen to and believe in what the people are helping them with. I want to see them be able to hold up in adverse situations. And I like to see support between the parents and the coaches to help these kids hold up better.

By doing that, we are making society more competitive and helping prepare people for academics, for athletics, for life. Then, all of a sudden we have more excellence in the world because we are taking the youth and getting them to learn how to handle adversity, fear and teaching them how to compete.

In the end, they will be more productive people as they get older and our society will be better.

Dan Gable Interview 4

      No Comments on Dan Gable Interview 4
dan-gable-4

Editor’s Note: With the completion of the Southern Scuffle and Midlands, college wrestling has hit the halfway point of this season. Legendary coach Dan Gable recently spoke to WIN Editor Mike Finn about what teams are making the biggest moves with two months to go before the 2013 NCAAs.

 

WIN: Many of the coaches whose teams competed at the Southern Scuffle or Midlands commented they liked such tough events because they got a chance to see where their wrestlers stood against other tough wrestlers. So what do we know about the top programs at the mid-season point of 2012-13?

GABLE: Based on what I’ve seen, Penn State backed up what people already think. There are quite a few good teams right now, but Penn State showed firepower beyond ten guys. (The Nittany Lions) went to backups and they came through. And based on the strength of David Taylor, even though he lost to Kyle Dake, Ed Ruth and Quentin Wright, I don’t think any other team has those types of guys on their team right now. They may have guys who are capable of becoming that but they have to show it first.

Those three guys carry a lot of weight and are influencing their team. I probably have switched my mind since from the beginning of the season when I was leaning more towards Minnesota and some teams like Iowa, Ohio State and Oklahoma State have to prove themselves yet. Even though Penn State is the defending NCAA champion, it looked to me that Minnesota might be stepping up to the plate, but based on what we’ve seen, (the Gophers) are not quite there.

Consistency is what I am looking for and the only team so far that has been consistent is Penn State. No other team has three guys like Taylor, Ruth and Wright who have consistently stepped up. But January will be a big month so time will tell.

 

WIN: Regarding Penn State, considering coach Cael Sanderson sat two of his talented wrestlers — Andrew and Dylan Alton — from competing in the Southern Scuffle for breaking team rules, what kind of message is a coach is delivering to his team? Was it a message intended for the entire team and not just those two guys?

GABLE: I do think what has happened at Penn State — regarding the football problems —  has changed the landscape at Penn State. Sanderson had to pull those two guys but what the effect was that it proved just how strong the Penn State program really is when back-ups are also scoring points.

 

WIN: Iowa coach Tom Brands was not happy with his team or his coaching even after his team defeated Ohio State, Jan. 5. He was upset his wrestlers were not competing at their highest level. Do coaches need those moments to remind their teams what should be important this time of year heading towards the NCAAs?

GABLE: I don’t think (Ohio State coach) Tom Ryan was happy either. That’s why I said I think Penn State is the only program where the coaches have their kids competing like they want them to. Brands wants his kids to compete. In watching the Iowa-Ohio State dual, there was talent on both sides, but the kids were not utilizing their talents very well.

There was too much strategic-type wrestling and not enough combat-type wrestling. When (Iowa’s Mike Evans) took (Ohio State’s Nick Heflin) to his back in overtime (of the 165-pound match), that’s what fans and coaches are looking for. When wrestlers are hesitant or just trying to win, there are not too many good situations. And when that match ended the way it did, it got the crowd even more involved in the dual with their noise.

Whatever coach of these top teams, other than Penn State, can bring out that fight from their kids are the ones who are going to be able to put themselves in position to challenge Penn State down the stretch.

This is a tough sport because of the mind. Coaches have to read the faces of their guys during tough matches. How much emotion do they show? How much hustle do they show? Just going one pace during a match is not going to do it.

 

WIN: Are you saying it comes down to what wrestlers believe in themselves more?

GABLE: Oh yeah. But it just does not come to them by themselves. It comes from their surroundings, from other athletes and coaches, everything. Coaches know there is more to be gotten from wrestlers. One reason for our success was because of the number of athletes I got to be strong during a match and make their own breaks. That’s what Penn State is doing now.

 

WIN: Ohio State did not have its top-ranked 133-pounder Logan Stieber available to wrestle against Iowa. When a team does not have its “stud” wrestler, how much momentum and energy does that take away from the entire team?

GABLE: Wrestling is an individual sport, but for some reason, some guys’ confidence depends on what or who is around them. Not having Stieber definitely affected the rest of the Ohio State line-up. But there were some Buckeyes, like the heavyweight (Peter Capone, who upset Iowa’s Bobby Telford), who showed it had no affect.

 

WIN: Some of the returning All-Americans this season appear to be wrestling with a little less confidence. Why is that?

GABLE: I think a guy like Matt McDonough is the guy who should be coached even more this year because he is a fifth-year guy who has been dealing with the “same old-same old.” I remember I messed up with John Bowlsby. (Bowlsby, 1975-’79, finished third nationally as a freshman, and fifth as a sophomore and junior but did not place as a fifth-year senior.) By the time he was a fifth-year senior, his drive was not as much as what it was during his first year. And the same thing happened with Mark Reiland, who was a fifth-year guy, who won a championship as a junior (in 1991) and did not place as a senior (1992). I didn’t step in early enough. Sometimes we take too much for granted.

I think it’s important for returning All-Americans to look for even higher goals like why not become an Olympic champion? There are always ways to help these guys.

 

WIN: At 165 pounds, the pressure of the moment doesn’t appear to bother Cornell’s Kyle Dake at all. Does it have something to do with the fact that he has wrestled at four different weight classes and many things are new this year?

GABLE: For what he has done, including spending the past summer training with the Olympic freestyle team, I think he is a pretty confident kid and he feels like he can win the tough situations.

WIN: On a flip side, (2012 Hodge Trophy winner) David Taylor of Penn State has lost twice to Dake this year. How should the Penn State coaches handle him?

GABLE: I would work on his positives. Remind him he actually beat someone like Oklahoma State’s Tyler Caldwell worse than what Dake did earlier this year. There are plenty of things the coaches can do to take away the void of losses. Coaches have to keep building him up to take the next step.

 

WIN: So where do teams go from here, especially during the dual meet time of the season? Is it even more critical for teams to make changes now considering Penn State appears to be wrestling so well?

GABLE: Yes. Penn State is in the driver’s seat right now. If it were two weeks from now, we’d know pretty much who is going to win (the NCAA championship).

Every team is pretty much in the same boat now and I don’t think any team will hold an edge from the standpoint of what their schedule is. By the time March comes, there could be another contender and that will be whatever of those teams get their athletes to step up and be more dominant and learn how to win close, tough matches.

The season is not over by any means. While most wrestling analysts would say it’s clearly Penn State, I don’t think that’s the case. There are some other good teams out there but they don’t know it yet.

Dan Gable Interview 3

      No Comments on Dan Gable Interview 3
dan-gable-3

Editor’s Note: For many wrestling fans, the legend of Dan Gable began at the 1966 Midlands where he won the first of six championships as a freshman at Iowa State. Gable, who saw his Iowa wrestling team capture over 10 team titles at the Midlands, recently spoke to WIN Editor Mike Finn about the tournament, where his name is now associated with the tournament’s Outstanding Wrestler Award.

 

WIN: What can wrestling today take from a tournament like the Midlands?

GABLE: When I look at events that help our sport more, it seems like the biggest impacts on the sport come when you created something in a large city, a very popular city. Look at New York City and the impact that Beat The Streets has made the last four or five years in New York City, especially where you have events like USA vs. Russia like what we’ve seen in Times Square the last couple years.

So when I think of the three biggest cities in America, it’s New York, Los Angeles and Chicago, which was really big for me growing up in the Midwest. When I went to the Midlands as a college freshman, the Midlands were not excited that Dan Gable was coming to wrestle in the Midlands. But I was excited to wrestle in Chicago and I knew about the Midlands.

 

WIN: Other than beating the likes of Don Behm and Masaaki Hatta, great college wrestlers of that era, in the 1966 tournament, what do you remember about your first Midlands?

GABLE: To show you how much of a nobody I was my first time in the Midlands, one of the guys — Paul Barrow of Southern Illinois — who lost to me early, checked out and went home because back then I needed to make the finals in order for him to wrestleback. I’m sure he thought no college freshman was going to make the Midlands finals, especially considering I had to wrestle Don Behm in the semifinals. The next day, he picked up the paper and saw that I was in the finals and he ended up forfeiting his consolation match.

I remember it was then held at LaGrange High School and was a crowded event. I also remember the Chicago Tribune put my name in headline that I made the semifinals as a freshman. When I saw that, I remember saying, ‘Whoa.’ I couldn’t believe they even know me. From that moment, the growth for me came from the Midlands tournament.

 

WIN: Did those wins over Behm and Hatta prove to you that you could be the best?

GABLE: I never really doubted my abilities before that. I just wasn’t sure of the outcome. And the pressure of those moments didn’t bother me. The first big match of my college career was against Behm in the semifinals and I wasn’t that nervous about the potential outcome.

It was like the first wrestling match I wrestled as a seventh grader at Logan Junior High in Waterloo as a seventh grader, when I came off the mat and my forearms were unbelievably swollen and tight. I had to find a drinking fountain because I was so parched but I could hardly even turn the knob because my muscles were so tight.

I was ready to go against Behm, but after the match, I remember walking over and my forearms were unbelievably tight again. I felt the same way that I did after my first match as a seventh grader.

I remember back then there were certain things you had to do to prepare yourself. There was no question I was going to compete hard and be ready to go. The only question was the outcome. I never thought about losing. If it was going to be a loss, it would be a loss and I was going to lay it all on the line.

I felt the same way about the finals. What I remember about the Hatta match was that the crowd stood up and applauded after every period we wrestled. He was from the Chicago area and (the fans) appreciated this good match and this young kid was giving this “old timer” who was still very talented, a tough match and good show.

 

WIN: There was a time when a lot of former college stars continued to wrestle in the Midlands. Unfortunately, that does not happen as much today. What are your feeling about that?

GABLE: Back then, wrestling’s governing body did not have as much of a national coach and training organization like it does today. Back then a lot of Olympic-caliber wrestlers used the Midlands because it was one of the highest level of competitions they could find that time of year to prepare yourself for future World/Olympic events.

For our sport right now, and for our top-level individuals who want to show they are capable of winning at any level, I still think they should wrestle in events like the Midlands. I say that even with the system that is set up now where wrestlers can find plenty of tournaments to compete. I think these individuals need to prove they can walk into any wrestling tournament in America, whether it’s a takedown freestyle tournament or college tournament, and win that tournament easily.

Wrestlers don’t have to go that route anymore, but I believe it would be good for the sport if (2012 Olympic gold medalists) Jordan Burroughs and Jake Varner wrestle in the Midlands again. People would come out of the woodwork to watch that and that would be good for our sport.

It would also be good for those guys’ minds. I know it’s a different style but if you are an Olympic champion, you should be able to be any collegian. I don’t care how different the styles are. It’s not that different. A takedown is a takedown. A pin is a pin. Even if I was a women’s world champion, I’d like to think that I can beat some of these college guys.

I know the Midlands brought back (Jake) Herbert and (Ben) Askren to wrestle in an exhibition in 2010. But why didn’t they just enter the tournament?

 

WIN: In the 1970s and ‘80s, many wrestling clubs — like the Sunkist Kids and Hawkeye Wrestling Club — around the country fared well against college teams in the Midlands. There are a growing number of USA Wrestling regional training centers around the country. Is there any way, these training center teams could compete against each other at events like the Midlands?

GABLE: Yes and once again, I’m not sure why our freestyle wrestlers don’t want to wrestle in a college folkstyle event. You are limiting the full potential of an athlete. The more you can dominate something, it gives you an even bigger edge.

 

WIN: You basically are saying wrestling is wrestling. How can folkstyle continue to help a freestyle wrestler or even a Greco wrestler?

GABLE: The thing you have to remember about freestyle and Greco is that FILA is always changing the rules of those styles … sometimes without really letting American wrestlers know. That could happen now and our wrestlers have got to learn to adjust to those rules changes and be adaptable.

What I like about going to the Midlands is that it teaches our wrestlers to be even more adaptable … so that if they eventually go overseas and FILA changes the rules, our guys will be adaptable for that. I know in 1983 in Kiev, I was training a team that showed up but they changed the rules in how much mat time they allowed but they didn’t let us know until we got there. We ended up doing well because we had guys like Dave Schultz who were able to adapt to changes.

WIN: There are some who are concerned about the future of this event when many great wrestling programs are choosing to wrestle in other holiday tournaments or forced to focus more on their conference dual season. It appears that coaches and wrestlers are finding more alternatives to the Midlands when it comes to preparing for their season-end goals. Is that good?

GABLE: Alternatives are fine as long as they fit the needs of a coach and wrestler. You have to decide what will help you peak at the correct time.

As a wrestler, I learned the hard way when I peaked for (former Oklahoma wrestler) Mike Grant in February (1970) instead of for Larry Owings (later that year in the NCAA final).

Dan Gable Interview 2

      No Comments on Dan Gable Interview 2
dan-gable-2

Editor’s Note: Les Anderson, who served as an assistant coach to Harold Nichols at Iowa State in the 1960s and 1970s, recently passed away. One of their wrestlers was Dan Gable, who went on to copy much of their success at ISU while he led Iowa to 15 NCAA championships. With this in mind, Gable spoke with WIN editor Mike Finn about what makes a good partnership between a head coach and his assistants and actually compares it to a good marriage.

WIN: What made the relationship between Harold Nichols and Les Anderson unique?

GABLE: I had never seen a coach like Harold Nichols in my entire life. I tried to be close to what he did. I call it independence, which is really a hard word to understand.

Nichols developed and coached a style that you had to have examples in the room, leaders in the room of what you really wanted. He took advantage of that more than anything else. He was able to rub it off on others and spread it.

But he also needed someone like Anderson. Once they got together and got their working relationship established, Nichols knew what Anderson was going to contribute. For example, there were times when Nichols, maybe upset after we got beat by Oklahoma State, he would be a little ruffled before the start of the next practice, so Anderson would get it going. Both coaches brought their own unique structure to the wrestling room and when Nichols really needed help, Les was the guy he brought in to settle the issues.

 

WIN: Did you do the same thing at Iowa with your assistant coaches?

GABLE: I think I learned as I went through my coaching career. I didn’t know how J (Robinson, the current Minnesota coach who assisted Gable, 1976-84) and I would complement each other, except knowing that we had spent time together for about a year while we were training for the 1971 Worlds and 1972 Olympics. In fact, (former Iowa coach Gary) Kurdelmeier brought us both in to assist him at the same time.

Coaches need to look and see what they are good at. They each have a certain expertise. For example, J was a military guy and was used to getting up in the morning so he did a lot of our early-morning workouts that he really enjoyed. I focused more on the afternoon practices.

When J left, there was something missing and we were showing it in our performance. By the end of the first year, after Jim Zalesky also left to join J, I got Jimmy back. Jimmy was the coach who J was like earlier.

 

WIN: How should coaches develop their responsibilities and roles within a team?

GABLE: I think each situation is unique and depends on how much success is actually taking place, what has been accomplished and what will happen in the future. There has to be a guy who is the mastermind and sees an ending point. When things are not going as well as you want, they have to jump back into it.

During my career, I tried doing some other things along the way and had to jump back in just to get the strong finish. That happened in 1984 and 1997. You have to make decisions that are good and you map things out for that to happen. When they don’t, then you have to get back in. If you do it well, it’s not a personal thing.

For example in 1997 at the Big Ten Championships in Minneapolis, I was not planning on coaching (while recovering from hip surgery). I was sitting in the stands with my crutches, but I could see (the probable results) were not going to be good enough an hour into the first session to where I flew out of the stands and onto the floor and probably made a fool of myself. Something just hit me and it was the third bad call and I remember my wife, Kathy, saying, “Why are you sitting up here?” That’s all I needed to hear.

Head coaches have to be like closers to a goal. You hope that your structure is put in place where there is a remedy. Sometimes, it’s an automatic process and instinct takes over.

 

WIN: How does a coach separate himself between that of a dictator and a delegator when it comes to his coaches?

GABLE: There is a fine line there and I don’t like the thought of being a dictator because dictators don’t take care of their people. You have to take care of everyone on your team. You have to be the person making decisions but there are a lot of decisions that must be left to other people.

I may write out a practice plan and say this is what we’re going to do in A, B and C. By the time I get to D, I might have to change. A head coach has to make adjustments for the good of the team at the drop of the hat. Sometimes they backfire but usually they don’t.

If they get upset with what the head coach is asking, there should be a discussion. Sometimes a head coach must say, “trust me on this one.” Trust is the biggest key. When I pleaded for help a couple times and had I not had a reputation and good relationship with these coaches, I think I would have had more confrontations.

You really believe in the other (coaching) parts. You know they are doing their part and you have some good help.

I compare it to my marriage and how much I count on my wife. I go on so many trips (to give clinics and speeches). Do you think I double-check my suitcase when I go on trips? No I don’t. Kathy is the one who helps me keep track of my schedule. I don’t want to say that Kathy is my assistant coach, but everyone needs a person to keep them straight and narrow.

 

WIN: Marriages have honeymoon periods. Is it the same with coaching partnerships?

GABLE: That is a key point. Every marriage should have a honeymoon last the entire time. You have to work at it. Together you have to have this vision. If one doesn’t see the vision, then bad things are going to happen.

There is the trust factor and the love factor like there should be in a marriage. But there must be distinct roles. They can’t mirror each other’s beliefs or they might be agreeing on things that are not good. Everyone has a role. If it is exactly the same role, then it will not end up as well as it could.

 

WIN: Not all partnerships are good. How should a head coach determine if it is not working?

GABLE: I use the term, “the longer, the longer.” The longer you take to fix a problem because you keep saying, “I can get by,” the longer it takes to fix it and the longer it’s going to take to see better results.

You have to smartly and quickly deal with it and you will have a better chance of quickly getting back to where you want to be.

I remember when it took so long for us to win a tenth national team title that my conclusion was that the problem didn’t happen because of what happened in the 1987 tournament, but in 1984, 1985 and 1986 and we won all those championships and didn’t make adjustments. I think it took us almost as long to get back (to winning the tenth title in 1991) as it did when the deterioration started.

I also believe the problem started with me. This is a big talking point for me with companies who want better performances.

 

WIN: Are coaches afraid to admit there is a problem?

GABLE: You are in denial and the reason why is because you don’t understand. You live at such a fast pace, and I’m sure I was living at a fast pace in those days, that I wasn’t taking my time to analyze correctly what the issues were and what needed to be done.

Dan Gable Interview 1

      No Comments on Dan Gable Interview 1
dan-gable-1

Editor’s Note: On Oct. 23-24, the majority of NCAA Division I coaches met in Chicago for a summit to discuss the future of the NWCA National Duals; a subject that severely split the Division I coaches this fall. Legendary coach Dan Gable recently met with WIN Editor Mike Finn to speak about the direction of the coaches association and its impact on the sport.

WIN: What did you think of the NCAA Division I Coaches Summit, which took place in Chicago in October to vote on the controversial National Wrestling Coaches Association National Duals future? While NWCA president Rob Koll was disappointed that the coaches did not endorse the idea, he was pleased that so many coaches showed up to express themselves at a time that many consider is a critical time in college wrestling.

GABLE: When they had the first vote, Rob Koll said, “This is perfect.” I thought about it for awhile and decided while nothing is perfect, this has been as historic of an event that wrestling has had because it was a positive gathering of coaches’ minds.

Wrestling coaches are tough and not always as smart as they should be. Mike Moyer is the executive director of the NWCA and these coaches are his team. That’s hard for some of the coaches to accept because they like to be their own leader. But if they are his team, I felt Mike was finally putting his team all together in one room.

While it’s good that coaches are so independent minded, they should not get away from the concept of what it takes to win team titles and that’s a team of individuals who want to work together … because one individual will not win a team title. If you can get 60 percent of your team to get on the same level, you have a good chance of winning.

So if you look at this sport, is this group of coaches a team? They have to be if they want wrestling to be a significant college sport. If wrestling is going to be untouchable from administrators threatening it existence, these coaches have to be a team.

In turn, I hope Mike Moyer also learned something about his team considering they were there for nearly 24 hours straight. The more a leader knows about his team, the more the leader knows who he should talk to, to get them on board more.

I don’t think all the wrestlers on my Iowa teams were the best of friends. They learned to tolerate each other and may have gotten excited about someone they may not have liked. Mike needs to get Tom Brands excited about Cael Sanderson for what they can do for the sport.

There had to be more good come out of that meeting that bad. The problem with the National Duals was that there was not a good structure in place. This coaches summit, to me, was the start of a structure to make the sport better whether it’s for the National Duals or conference realignment and whatever other issues wrestling has. I call this a good start.

 

WIN: Was it simply because the coaches met face-to-face and not from far away, which could lead to more criticism?

GABLE: You learn the human aspect of people and see them react right in front of you instead of over the phone or the internet. That’s what I don’t like about our technology age in that people don’t really talk to each other face-to-face anymore. Items that get discussed on the internet blow up nearly all the time.

I think coaches had a reality situation in Chicago that can be a positive. But if the coaches simply just walked out the door those days and don’t come back to it, then it was a hit-and-miss. The NWCA now has to follow up and continue to work on the agenda that has come out of the Summit and show that they can come up with a conclusion.

 

WIN: Not all college coaches and programs have the same struggles. I can’t image top programs like Penn State, Iowa and Oklahoma State dealing with the same things that a Sacred Heart would face. How should the coaches association deal with these programs with different issues?

GABLE: I do think the NWCA is doing something to help the programs that are being threatened by going to those universities on behalf of the wrestling programs.

If you take programs like Penn State, Iowa, Oklahoma State and Minnesota and put them at the top. If every program was at their level, we would not have many problems.

Whatever is the ground level of wrestling programs, the NWCA needs to move them up a little. Do the top programs stop? No, we want to get them higher too. For example, Cael Sanderson should want to fill the bigger arena on the Penn State campus, not Rec Hall. He should make the basketball arena a wrestling arena.

It’s going to be tough to get the bottom programs to the highest level, but that’s the way it is in any business. But we also don’t want our sport to level off. There is no ceiling to college wrestling.

 

WIN: If we can keep comparing the coaches association to a wrestling team, where a team might have a weaker link, how does the organization help these weaker programs?

GABLE: College wrestling programs are an educational system that has potential to help other programs within a school. Also if the less-strong programs, which are more impressionable and want to see where it is going, they need to see on a daily basis that this is worth-while.

The leaders — and I mean the coaches — have to be visionaries to help the lower-tier programs as well as the programs that are Division II, III and NAIA programs. The more excited we can get the coaches, the higher level they’ll shoot for.

Unfortunately, the vision of these coaches has been one of only looking at their own team and not beyond.

 

WIN: Are today’s coaches dealing with things that you never had to?

GABLE: Yes, and that’s why today’s programs are in such tough situations right now.