Iowa Hawkeyes

Wrestling legend Dan Gable explains why he and his family didn't wear masks at White House ceremony

Olympic gold medalist and former University of Iowa wrestling coach Dan Gable (right) and his family listen as President
Olympic gold medalist and former University of Iowa wrestling coach Dan Gable (right) and his family listen as President Donald Trump speaks Monday before awarding the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor, to Gable in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, D.C. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

University of Iowa coaching legend and 1972 Olympic gold medalist Dan Gable said Tuesday he thinks wearing a mask in public is important but not needed “full time.”

Gable, who coached the Iowa wrestling team to 15 NCAA titles in 21 years after a career that included two NCAA and two world titles, was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Donald Trump on Monday in a White House ceremony. It is the highest civilian honor presented in the U.S., and Gable is the first wrestler to receive the honor.

At the ceremony, Gable was surrounded by his wife, Kathy, their four daughters, sons-in-law and grandchildren. The group totaled 23 people.

The extended Gable family and the president were not wearing masks even though the coronavirus pandemic has been surging for weeks.

“You should wear a mask at appropriate times,” Gable said Tuesday while waiting for his flight in Chicago.

Gable said every member of his party was tested Monday before the ceremony and mask wearing was discussed.

“I was with my family and you don’t have to wear mask with your family,” he said, adding you also don’t need to wear one while in bed, for instance. “I don’t think it’s a full-time mask situation.”

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Gable is part of a public service announcement for the state, urging Iowans to wash their hands and “step up” to stop the spread of COVID-19.

Gable said all others at the ceremony were wearing masks. And, he said, he was wearing one in the airport even though he was 60 feet from others.

“I’ve got a mask on right now, but I pulled it down to talk to you,” he said.

Gable also said the president’s abrupt departure at the end of the ceremony did not bother him.

“He kind of just walked away” after getting questions he didn’t like, Gable said. “He didn’t want me to get involved in that.”

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