IOWA CITY, Iowa — Dan Gable, 1972 Olympic gold medalist and 15-time NCAA champion coach of the University of Iowa wrestling team, will be presented the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Trump, the White House announced in a written letter on Oct. 13.
The Presidential Medal of Freedom is the highest civilian honor the United States bestows. It was established in 1945 by President Truman and renamed in 1963 by President Kennedy. According to the letter sent from President Trump to Gable, the honor recognizes “extraordinary talents and incomparable individuals who have made exceptional contributions to American national interests, society, or culture, or the cause of world peace.”
Gable is the first athlete or coach from the sport of wrestling receive the honor. Other coaches and athletes of prominence that have earned the award include Jesse Owens, Babe Ruth, Paul “Bear” Bryant, Pat Summit, and John Wooden.
In the official letter to Gable, he was recognized for his “remarkable accomplishments” on the mat, and an even greater coaching career at the University of Iowa for 21 seasons. The letter went on to add, “Today, you continue to inspire your fellow citizens as a motivational speaker and serve as a living testament to countless young people that the American Dream is very much within reach of anybody willing to think big, work hard, and never relent.”
“Gable has left me a lifetime philosophy that I do not deviate from. My brother and I are keen on the lessons we learned from him. That will never change. This award is awesome because it puts Dan Gable in context and brings him back front and center. Gable was a winner. He did not lose. He won nine straight national championships, as many as John Wooden. The stratosphere that those two guys co-exist in is unheard of, and I am reminded every day when I see his statue. Those memories are strong with me. The bedrock of Hawkeye wrestling will always be Dan Gable, and especially when Tom and Terry Brands are running the program, because we cut our teeth right here.”
“This honor is earned over a lifetime of doing the right things and persevering through tremendous adversity. Gable earned it by coaching up people as individuals and paying attention to what makes people tick and really caring about moving humanity forward. It is well earned.”