Dan Gable, without a doubt, is the biggest name in American wrestling. As a wrestler at Iowa State in the 1960's he turned out one of the most storied college careers in history. In 1971, Gable became a world champion in freestyle wrestling, and in the 1972 Munich Games he claimed the first American Olympic gold medal in wrestling since 1960.
After his years on the mat, Gable embarked on a coaching career which would see him lead the University of Iowa wrestling program to 16 team national championships in 21 years (Iowa also won three in a row immediately following Gable's retirement). Gable-coached wrestlers would go on to litter American World Teams, and win multiple Olympic gold medals themselves.
Various authors have written books about Gable, multiple filmmakes have made documentaries. Posters with his face and motivational words hang on the walls of wrestling rooms from coast to coast. Even today, he stands alone as the one American wrestler with a household name.
Due the his ultra-aggressive, hard-nosed style of wrestling many mixed martial arts fans have openly wondered how Gable would have performed as a prize fighter. Fortunately, the Des Moines Register recently caught up with the legendary coach to ask his thoughts on the matter.
Here is what Gable had to say:
"You know, I grew up boxing and wrestling," Gable said. "But did you know my left ear is a boxing ear, not a wrestling ear? That's my most cauliflowered ear. I got banged up in college in a boxing match in a dorm room late at night at Iowa State.
"Chuck Jean was on our team. He was really good (two-time NCAA champ), but he got in trouble and had to transfer to Adams State College. Anyway, he got me with a roundhouse. That's what happened to my left ear."
Gable fully comprehends the power and impact of just one punch, let alone an MMA career filled with blows to the head and contorted limbs.
"Maybe I could have done it, but I'm not really fond of trying to knock somebody out," Gable said. "And now with the science and everything, I'm thinking about the longevity point of view with brain injuries and those things.
"I didn't worry about those things (as a wrestler), but I didn't understand things like nerve injuries in the old days. My right hand, if I hold it straight out and write, it still shakes. That's permanent.
The Register's interview is actually pretty long, and in it Gable gives his opinion on how other great wrestlers from the state of Iowa would have fared in MMA. It is a must read, particularly for wrestling fans.
This is not Gable's first encounter with something mixed martial arts related. In 1997 he served as a commentator for the weird proto-mma submission grappling card called "The Contenders". During the event Gable repeatedly trolled his broadcast partner (some big name in BJJ, I'm sure a reader will remember) by referring to gis as "warm ups". It was pretty funny.
Update: I just noticed some of the video of the interview is embeddable. Enjoy.