A Long Time Coming

June 6, 2011

Editor’s Note: The following first appeared in the University of Iowa’s Hawk Talk Daily, an e-newsletter that offers a daily look at the Iowa Hawkeyes, delivered free each morning to thousands of fans of the Hawkeyes worldwide.

IOWA CITY, Iowa — The multi-million dollar revitalization of the University of Iowa’s Carver-Hawkeye Arena is months from completion, but it already has an exciting new addition: a statue of Dan Gable, the UI’s iconic former head wrestling coach.

The announcement of the statue — which will be installed on the plaza outside the new main entrance to Carver-Hawkeye Arena next spring prior to the UI’s staging of the 2012 United States Olympic Wrestling Trials — was made at the end of “Gable’s Gold: A Celebration of Dan Gable’s Legacy” Saturday night at the Coralville Marriott Hotel and Convention Center.

“Just prior to the (2012 USA Wrestling) Olympic Trials, a larger than life statue honoring a larger than life Dan Gable will be placed at the new entrance of Carver-Hawkeye Arena,” UI Director of Athletics Gary Barta announced to the sellout crowd of 800-plus — an audience that included more than 100 former Hawkeye wrestlers, assistant coaches and administrators; countless peers, fans and friends; and family of the Waterloo, Iowa, native who stands alone as an athlete, coach, and ambassador for the sport.

The UI Athletics Department has commissioned Larry Nowlan to create the statue from an image of Gable familiar to fans of the Hawkeyes: Iowa’s former head coach is standing and pointing in anticipation of a pin by the UI student-athlete on the mat. Nowlan, the artist responsible for the statue of Nile Kinnick that rests on the Krause Family Plaza at historic Kinnick Stadium and the butterfly stroke in the UI’s new Campus and Wellness Center, said he expects the finished product will stand approximately seven-feet tall from the tip of Gable’s toe to the tip of his raised hand.

Nowlan said the finished product will have a bronze finish identical to that of Kinnick. What the statue will ultimately rest on is yet to be determined. What wasn’t difficult was the decision to celebrate one of the state’s truly great citizens at the entrance to a facility where Gable’s wrestling teams performed at a level that may never be matched in any sport.

During his tenure, the Hawkeyes averaged more than 17 wins and just one loss per season and posted a 95-1 record in Carver-Hawkeye Arena.

“(The statue) is a way to take a person who was the best in the world at what he did and commemorate that on our campus for an eternity. It’s a special opportunity and I’m glad it’s going to work out,” Barta said following the announcement.

Under Gable’s direction, Iowa wresting teams won 21 Big Ten Conference championships in 21 seasons from 1976 to 1997, and 15 NCAA titles — including the 1986, 1991 and 1995 NCAA Championships contested inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena.

“If Dan Gable was just a wrestler, then John Wayne was just a cowboy. His legacy is still being written, it’s not over. The legend continues and it will continue to grow,” said Mike DeAnna, a four-time All-American from 1977-81 and one of six individuals invited to share their thoughts and memories of Gable.

Other speakers included Ben Peterson, Gable’s teammate on the 1972 United States Olympic team; Bump Elliott, Iowa’s Director of Athletics from 1970-91; J Robinson, Minnesota’s head wrestling coach and a former Gable assistant; Terry Brands, a two-time NCAA champion and former Gable assistant; and Tom Brands, Iowa’s current head coach and four-time All-American wrestler at the UI and, like Gable, an Olympic gold medal winner.

Gable joined the Iowa coaching staff for the 1972-73 season, assisting head coach and Hall of Famer Gary Kurdelmeier before taking the program over for the 1976-77 season.

As the University of Iowa’s all-time winningest wrestling coach, Gable compiled a career record of 355-21-5. He coached 152 All-Americans, 106 Big Ten Champions, 45 national champions and 10 Olympians — including four gold, one silver and three bronze medalists.

After stepping down as the University of Iowa’s wrestling coach, Gable served as Assistant to the Athletic Director, dealing with team and individual performance. He retired from that post Dec. 31, 2010. Aside from assisting with Iowa athletics, Gable aids the University in their fundraising efforts to promote the sport of wrestling worldwide. He also coaches potential Olympic wrestlers in the local sports club, gives motivational and performance speeches nationwide and does color commentary for televised collegiate wrestling events.