Publish date:
Updated on

Wrestling legend Dan Gable is born

On October 25, 1948, wrestling legend Don Gable is born in the tiny town of Waterloo, Iowa. His father was a real-estate salesman and former high-school wrestling star; his mother was a homemaker. In high school, Gable ran track, swam and played football and baseball. He didn’t devote himself to wrestling with his trademark single-minded ferocity until he was 16, when his older sister was raped and murdered in the family’s living room. After that, he told an interviewer, he became “a horse with blinders as far as wrestling was concerned” because he wanted to give his parents something positive.

And it was indeed positive. At Waterloo West High School, Gable was undefeated, winning 64 matches and earning 25 pins. At Iowa State, he won 117 matches in a row, along with two NCAA championships and three All-America titles. He lost for the first time ever at the NCAA final his senior year, when Larry Owings, a sophomore from the University of Washington who usually wrestled in a heavier weight class, beat him 13-11. Gable cried when he lost– “I couldn’t face my parents,” he said–but in the end he concluded that the painful loss had been good for him. “I needed to get beat,” he remembered, “because it not just helped me win the Olympics, but it helped me dominate the Olympics. But more than that, it helped me be a better coach. I would have a hundred times rather not have that happened, but I used it.”

After he graduated from Iowa State, Gable began to enter international competitions. There, he was as intimidating as he’d been in the NCAA. He won a gold medal at the 1972 Olympics–an accomplishment he was especially proud of, because the Soviet wrestling team had promised that they would scour the Eastern bloc to find a wrestler who could take down Dan Gable. They were unsuccessful: He won all six of his Olympic matches easily, and pinned three of his opponents.

Gable became the head wrestling coach at the University of Iowa in 1976, and he’s been just as dominant as a coach. His team won 15 NCAA titles in 21 seasons, including a record nine in a row–the most in any sport–from 1978 to 1986. The Hawkeyes were the Big Ten champs for every one of those 21 seasons, and were undefeated seven times. Gable coached 152 All-Americans, 45 national champions, 106 Big Ten champions and 10 Olympians (they won four gold medals, one silver and one bronze).

In 1997, after chronic knee and back injuries made it impossible for him to coach as actively as he liked, Gable retired from the Hawkeye squad. He didn’t disappear from wrestling altogether–he coached the 1999 World Cup team and the 2000 U.S. Olympic team, for example–and in 2007 he rejoined the coaching staff at Iowa. He is also a wrestling analyst for Iowa public television.

FACT CHECK: We strive for accuracy and fairness. But if you see something that doesn't look right, click here to contact us!


Battle of Agincourt

During the Hundred Years’ War between England and France, Henry V, the young king of England, leads his forces to victory at the Battle of Agincourt in northern France. Two months before, Henry had crossed the English Channel with 11,000 men and laid siege to Harfleur in more

Charge of the Light Brigade

In an event alternately described as one of the most heroic or disastrous episodes in British military history, Lord James Cardigan leads a charge of the Light Brigade cavalry against well-defended Russian artillery during the Crimean War. The British were winning the Battle of more

Pablo Picasso born

Pablo Picasso, one of the greatest and most influential artists of the 20th century, is born in Malaga, Spain. Picasso’s father was a professor of drawing, and he bred his son for a career in academic art. Picasso had his first exhibit at age 13 and later quit art school so he more

First kamikaze attack of the war begins

On this day in 1944, during the Battle of the Leyte Gulf, the Japanese deploy kamikaze (“divine wind”) suicide bombers against American warships for the first time. It will prove costly–to both sides. This decision to employ suicide bombers against the American fleet at Leyte, an more

Nixon vetoes War Powers Resolution

President Nixon vetoes the War Powers Resolution, which would limit presidential power to commit armed forces abroad without Congressional approval. The bill, introduced by Senator Jacob K. Javits of New York, required the president to report to Congress within 48 hours after more

Nixon suspends bombing of North Vietnam

The White House orders a suspension of bombing above the 20th parallel as a signal of U.S. approval of recent North Vietnamese concessions at the secret peace talks in Paris. According to Nixon administration officials, the principal obstacle to a cease-fire was in Saigon. South more

John Adams marries Abigail Smith

On this day in 1764, future President John Adams marries Abigail Smith. This devoted couple’s prolific correspondence during their married life has provided entertainment and a glimpse of early American life for generations of history buffs. Future first lady Abigail Adams was more

Russian military plane crashes into mountain

On this day in 2000, a Russian military plane crashes into a mountain in Georgia, killing all 83 people on board. Poor visibility and pilot error caused the horrific crash. The Ilyushin-18 jet was built in 1968 and was used to transport military personnel. On October 25, a crew more

United States invades Grenada

President Ronald Reagan, citing the threat posed to American nationals on the Caribbean nation of Grenada by that nation’s Marxist regime, orders the Marines to invade and secure their safety. There were nearly 1,000 Americans in Grenada at the time, many of them students at the more

Keel of the Monitor laid

On this day in 1861, signaling an important shift in the history of naval warfare, the keel of the Union ironclad Monitor is laid at Greenpoint, New York. Union Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles appointed an Ironclad Board when he heard rumors that the Confederates were trying more