SPORTS: My interview with Dan Gable | Jake Calhoun (LINK)

In the work that I am doing for my enterprise story on Division I wrestling, I’ve talked to some interesting people. I’ve talked to ISU coach Kevin Jackson – who now probably sees an interview with me as more routine than anything else. I’ve talked to disgruntled coaches from the West coast, I’ve even talked to the Executive Director of the National Wrestling Coaches Association (NWCA). But now I can cross one of the most famous figures in the sport of wrestling off my list: Dan Gable.

It was 11:25 a.m. this morning when I was sitting in my dad’s leather recliner downstairs, looking up some random thing on wikipedia and whatnot, when all of a sudden I heard my phone ringing in my room. I didn’t bother to answer it, for I thought it was only my mom calling to tell me I forgot to take the bag of hot wings in her refrigerator home from her house, so I let the phone ring without a care in the world.

I checked my voicemail 30 minutes later, hearing a deep voice, “Hello, Jake. This is Dan Gable.”

I couldn’t tell you how high I jumped into the air.

About a week ago, I sent an email to the information director of the Iowa wrestling team asking how I could get a hold of Gable for the enterprise story I am working on, and she told me she forwarded the email to him. I figured he was probably incredibly busy, so I wasn’t expecting a phone call from him until January.

Anyways, I called him back, asked him questions, tried to limit my nervous stutter that I always get whenever I talk on the phone. It went pretty smoothly.

No, I did not ask him why he decided to coach at Iowa after wrestling at Iowa State. I have no interest in knowing a person’s motives for taking a job at any type of position, especially when it comes to coaching amateur wrestling. And besides, Iowa has beaten Iowa State seven straight times in dual meets, so I don’t have any right to invoke any nudges of the rivalry, especially as an objective reporter for an independent news source.

In one of the most insightful interviews I’ve ever done, Gable gave me some great insight on the sport and its roots here in the Midwest. I’ll only touch briefly on some of what we talked about, since a lot of it will be going into my story that I am working on.

He started by stating that the success that the state of Iowa has had in the sport, despite its population being inferior to that of Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York, has attributed to its spot as one of the epicenters for the sport of wrestling.

“With that emphasis at the higher level getting the most notoriety, I’m sure the state of Iowa is probably the most well-known state in America from the public’s point of view as far as wrestling.”

Four schools have won Division I titles in wrestling – Cornell College (1), Northern Iowa (1), Iowa State (8) and Iowa (23) – accounting for nearly half of the 77 national titles that have been awarded in the sport.

We also talked about the NWCA’s efforts to educate wrestling coaches and better equip them with the knowledge and ability to sustain a wrestling program – especially at the Division I level.

Gable has spoken at a couple of the seminars that the NWCA has hosted to educate the coaches of the sport, and he says that the organization brings in a variety of experts – administrators, associate athletic directors, financial experts – who teach the coaches what needs to be done in order to sustain, as well as grow, a wrestling program in this day in age when not long ago multiple programs had been sacrificed to keep the school financially sound or in compliance with Title IX.

Even though almost every coach who comes to the seminars knows how to coach the athletes in their wrestling room, Gable says it is important for them to know who the biggest supporters of their program are – whether it be alumni, fans, or even students.

Knowing the constituents as well as the donors who shell out money for the benefit of a program is key, according to Gable, and is something he emphasized as one of the important factors that will help Division I wrestling from suffering anymore damages.

I don’t want to give away anything else we talked about, for some of the content of the interview will be going into the story I am working on, so I’ll leave it at that.

After the interview he asked me if I had ever been involved in wrestling and after telling him I have not, I told him I have been covering the sport for over a year and have grown to really enjoy it, to which he said, “Well I tell you what, if you like it, then you’re on my good list.

“Because I more than like it. I love it.”