Prep Wrestling

Dan Gable Donnybrook aims to bring marquee high school wrestling tournament to Iowa

Inaugural event will be Dec. 4-5, 2020 at new Xtream Arena

Dan Gable annouces a countdown clock before the 2018 Iowa high school state wrestling championships at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines on, Saturday, Feb. 17, 2018. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)
Dan Gable annouces a countdown clock before the 2018 Iowa high school state wrestling championships at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines on, Saturday, Feb. 17, 2018. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)

IOWA CITY — Some of the most notable amateur wrestling events have been hosted in Iowa City and Coralville.

The University of Iowa has hosted NCAA Tournaments and produced “Grapple on the Gridiron,” a dual at Kinnick Stadium that drew 42,287 fans, which remains the largest crowd to attend any wrestling dual or tournament.

Record crowds attended the U.S. Olympic Trials here and United World Wrestling held the 2018 World Cup at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. The nation’s top high school wrestlers have competed here as well.

Local organizers hope to create a marquee high school event, announcing plans to host the annual Dan Gable Donnybrook at the Xtream Arena and GreenState Family Fieldhouse. The inaugural event will be held Dec. 4-5, 2020.

“It has the makings for one of the better tournaments in the country,” Think Iowa City President Josh Schamberger said. “We’re super excited about it.

“We aim to be the best. It’s got to be with Coach Gable’s name attached to it.”

The individual tournament will consist of 32 teams, including boys’ and girls’ divisions. Participants will be assured of more than two matches. The event is invitation only and will be sanctioned by the Iowa High School Athletic Association.

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Schamberger said tournament director Nathan Eichorst approached him with the idea. Eichorst’s vision for the elite competition and Schamberger’s passion for the sport were a perfect combination.

“It’s pretty impressive,” said Gable, a Waterloo native and three-time undefeated state champion at Waterloo West and two-time NCAA titlist for Iowa State, who won a 1972 Olympic gold medal before leading the Hawkeyes to 15 NCAA team titles and 21 Big Ten championships. “I’m very appreciative of what’s taken place.”

The goal is to make it one of the premier events during the regular season. Schamberger would like it to be on par with prep tournaments like Super 32, Beast of the East and Ironman out east. He doesn’t want to disrupt any current established tournaments.

“With this particular event, I know there are a lot of incredible tournaments out there…” said Schamberger, noting that proceeds will help benefit a local veterans organization and a fund aimed to help grow girls’ wrestling in the Iowa City area. “This is something we hope to grow organically and some day and some day we aspire to be at that level, if not higher.”

IHSAA rules limit competitions to Iowa teams and those from bordering states and Kansas. Eichorst has already reached out to some programs to gauge interest and said it is open to any program allowed.

He would like to see the tournament have a chance to grow nationwide.

“It’s something we’d love to see lifted in the future,” Eichorst said about the restriction. “We’d love to have teams from Ohio, Pennsylvania and I know those teams would love to come to Iowa to wrestle also. It’s something I know fans in Iowa would love to see.”

The new venue is favorable for big tournaments, seating between 5,000 to about 7,000 depending on layout. Eight mats fit on the arena floor with up to 24 in the adjacent fieldhouse.

Gable said the tournament is a natural fit but that doesn’t mean automatic success. It will take a lot of work, but it is in good hands.

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“It’s going to take an effort,” Gable said. “You have to make perfection. You can’t hope for it and think it’s going to happen. I think you have the right guy in Josh, leading this because it’s more than just a tournament. It’s deep inside of him. He’s committed and you’ve got a community that has a lot of history that can help out.”

Comments: (319) 368-8679; kj.pilcher@thegazette.com

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