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Olympic Wrestling Gold Medalist Dan Gable Honored With Presidential Medal of Freedom

By Todd Kortemeier | Dec. 07, 2020, 7:41 p.m. (ET)

Dan Gable acknowledges the crowd after being introduced as part of the 1972 Olympic team at the U.S. Wrestling Olympic Trials on April 21, 2012 in Iowa City, Iowa.


Dan Gable already has the highest award a wrestler can receive. Now he has the highest award any civilian can receive as well.

The 1972 Olympic gold medalist was honored Monday with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in a ceremony at the White House. Gable was honored for not only his success in wrestling, but also his promotion of the sport and long coaching career.

“I thank you very much for giving this kid here the opportunity to reach this level of the highest award a civilian can get, the Presidential Medal of Freedom,” Gable said. “... And to the sport of wrestling, being the first to win this award becomes a higher challenge to all that participate.”

Gable is often mentioned as one of the greatest wrestlers of all time. Indeed, it would be hard to top Gable’s career that began at Iowa State University. A two-time national champion, Gable lost just one out of 118 matches in his college career. That loss came in the 1970 NCAA national championship match, the only one of three that he lost. 

The next year, Gable won the gold medal at 68 kg. in the Pan American Games and the world championships. In Munich in 1972, Gable made it to the top of the mountain by adding an Olympic gold medal at 68 kg. 

Gable returned to his home state as an assistant coach at the University of Iowa. He then took over the legendary program after his promotion to head coach in 1976. Gable added to the legend by winning 15 national team titles and coaching 12 Olympians. At the same time, he coached with Team USA at five Olympic Games. Gable retired as Iowa coach in 1997 and joined the Hawkeyes athletic department as assistant to the athletic director, retiring in 2010. A statue of Gable now greets fans outside of Carver-Hawkeye Arena.

Todd Kortemeier

Todd Kortemeier is a sportswriter, editor and children’s book author from Minneapolis. He is a contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.