A new sport for Dan Gable: Author

Standout wrestler, coach finds niche in writing

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Wrestling legend Dan Gable is thrilled his book — “A Wrestling Life: The Inspiring Stories of Dan Gable” — has been picked up as this year’s Linn Area Reads selection.

But, in typical Gable fashion, he wants more.

“Would I like to win the Iowa book award? Yes,” he said in a phone interview from St. Louis, where he was attending the NCAA Wrestling Championships. “Would I like to win the United States book award? The World? It’s just like I did in wrestling.”

Gable’s story is not new to most Eastern Iowa sports fans. He was a three-time state wrestling champion at Waterloo West, who never lost a match. He went on to win two NCAA titles at Iowa State, losing only once — his final collegiate bout. In 1972, he went unbeaten in international competition and captured Olympic gold without surrendering a single point.

As a wrestling coach, he is unmatched. His University of Iowa teams went 355-21-5 in dual meets in his 21 seasons, winning 21 Big Ten team titles and 15 NCAA titles.

But in his book, published in 2015 with co-author Scott Schulte, Gable was able to open up in ways he never did before. Many of the stories are well-known, like the murder of his sister, Diane, in 1964, but others were new to his multitude of fans and showed a new side to the old coach.

“I don’t think it is necessarily a wrestling book,” said Gable, 68, when the book was released. “I think it’s a good read with lots of good philosophy.”

Gable said the popularity of the book — it spent two months on the New York Times sports best-seller list and is the best-selling book in University of Iowa Press history — took him by surprise, but he’s learned several “tricks of the trade.”

One is promotion.

“I put a lot of work into it,” he said. “I went out on 40 book signings ... that sells a lot more.

“That promotion area and selling it to the people is something our sport needs to do more.”

Gable has a second book coming out in June, “A Wrestling Life 2: More Inspiring Stories of Dan Gable,” co-authored by Kyle Klingman.

“It’s a little more in-depth,” Gable said. “Instead of saying ‘I worked really hard,’ I tell you what the work was.

“My way is really simple ... make it simple.”

One of the blessings of the first book, he said, was he learned more about his relationship with his youngest daughter, Mackenzie. Her sisters were gone and Mackenzie shared her father’s passion for wrestling. Then, he retired from coaching.

“It rocked her,” Gable said. “I didn’t realize it, she didn’t realize it.

“With that book, I actually saw some issues in my life.”

Well-known author John Irving called Gable “one of my heroes.

“Meeting him changed my life,” Irving wrote. “His life (as a wrestler, as a coach, as a man dedicated to his family) has served me as a model. Gable’s life is truly inspiring.”

Gable, too, found himself inspired after going over the first book, especially the chapters about his family — Mackenzie, as well as his wife, Kathy, and other daughters Jenni, Annie and Molly.

“I can get emotional (reading some of the stories), even though I’m the writer,” he said after the first book was released.

LINN AREA READS 2017 PROGRAMS

Movie Screening

What: Movie Screening of “Freestyle: The Victories of Dan Gable”

When: 6:30 p.m. Thursday

Where: Cedar Rapids Public Library, Whipple Auditorium, 450 Fifth Ave. SE, Cedar Rapids

Cost: Free

Author Visit

What: Dan Gable will talk about his book, “A Wrestling Life: The Inspiring Stories of Dan Gable”

When: 1 p.m. Saturday

Where: Cedar Rapids Public Library, Whipple Auditorium, 450 Fifth Ave. SE, Cedar Rapids

Cost: Free

l Comments: (319) 368-8696; jr.ogden@thegazette.com

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