Gable's HS Coach Says "Daniel" Is Still The Man
Thanks to Fred Tripp for the link to this story from the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier
The best ever, metro wrestling: Dan is still the man
By JIM NELSON, Courier Sports Writer
It has been 41 years since Bob Siddens coached Dan Gable to his third and final state championship at Waterloo West High School.
But to Siddens, the legendary wrestler and coach is still Daniel.
To almost a person who has any wrestling knowledge in the Cedar Valley, Gable is the best wrestler to ever wear a singlet in the Cedar Valley.
That isn't a hard conclusion to formulate.
Gable lost just one match in his prep and collegiate days and culminated his athletic career by capturing a gold medal at the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich. There is not another Cedar Valley wrestler who has similar credentials.
But there have been rumors that Siddens said Gable wasn't the best wrestler he coached. Siddens, arguably the greatest prep wrestling coach in history, put those rumors to rest recently.
"After his last match, last title, as Daniel walked off the mat, I told him, 'You're the best wrestler I've ever had with your intensity, work ethics, this and that. I've never had one like you before or will have another like you,'" stated Siddens.
Where the rumors failed, Siddens explains, is Gable may not have been the most gifted athlete he ever coached. When athletic ability is the primary consideration, names like Tom Huff, Dale Anderson, Rod Harp and Tony Cordes quickly rise to the top of any Siddens list. And all four of those wrestlers were multi-state champions at West, as well. .
"When I would go out and put on seminars or clinics, people would come up to me and say, 'You're Dan Gable's coach,'" said Siddens. "I would respond by saying I was very fortunate and lucky to have that young lad around. And, to be honest, I was very fortunate for many years to have many fine young lads.
"I'm so proud of Daniel's accomplishments as a wrestler. But in many ways he's still that little red-headed kid with a crew cut who came to my wrestling room every day with this tremendous work ethic. He was so great to have around. He rubbed off on a lot of my other talented lads."
While naming Gable as the Cedar Valley's best-ever wrestler is easy, our staff here at the Courier wanted to do more than state the obvious. So we decided to ask ourselves and some other area wrestling experts what other former Cedar Valley greats would we like to see wrestle Gable, regardless of weight class, if both were in their prime.
But what complicates this part of the equation is Gable, at his prime, may have been the best ever ... period.
Two highly decorated Waterloo wrestlers -- Chuck Yagla, a two-time national champ at Iowa, and Jim Miller, a two-time Division II national champ at Northern Iowa -- recalled personal stories of Gable as he prepared to leave for the Olympic Games.
"It was just after my senior year in high school, and Tony Cordes called me up and said Gable was coming to his garage with Ben and John Peterson and Chris Taylor for a workout," said Yagla. "I didn't participate, but I watched as Gable mopped all these guys up.
"None of them came close to doing anything to Gable, and I'm thinking, 'How do these guys think they have a chance at winning at the Olympics if they can't do anything against Gable?' It was an incredible workout and it went on forever."
For the record, the Petersons and Taylor, all Iowa State teammates of Gable, went on to great success at the Olympics that year. Ben won a gold medal at light heavyweight, John was the silver medalist at middleweight and Taylor, called the Gentle Giant because he tipped the scales somewhere around 400 pounds, won a bronze medal at super heavyweight.
Gable, for that matter, didn't allow a single point en route to his victory at lightweight.
"That just goes to show you how much better he was than everybody," added Yagla.
Yagla also recalled Taylor saying this about his workouts with Gable, "I could do good the first 30 minutes, but after that he got the best of me."
During that same training period prior to the Olympics, Miller said he took part in a workout with Gable, the Petersons, Mark Fox, Ken Snyder and Mike McCready at UNI's West Gym wrestling room.
"We -- Fox, Snyder and Miller -- traded off with him like three times each before the Petersons and McCready got there," said Miller. "Then he went at them. He dominated. It was incredible to witness."
When it comes to a prime-time match, there is another great Gable story Siddens recalls.
In 1968, both Gable and Anderson, who won two national titles at Michigan State, started the year at the same weight class -- 137. Over Christmas vacation, both were in Waterloo working out at West High when Siddens suggested that one of them drop a weight class in order to give them both a chance to win a national championship.
Nothing was said about the subject that day, but a couple of weeks later Gable beat Anderson in overtime to win the Midlands championship. A few weeks later, Siddens got a phone call from Gable.
"About three weeks before nationals at Penn State, Daniel called me and said, 'I'm dropping to 130,'" said Siddens. "I said, 'That's great.' I then called up to East Lansing and got Dale on the phone and told him what Daniel was going to do. Then there was this hesitation from Dale, and when he did talk, he said, 'I'm dropping to 130.
"After another pause," added Siddens, "Dale said, 'I'm just kidding coach. There is no way I could get to 130. I've been wrestling a lot at 145 as is.'
"It was a great decision for both because they both went on to win. It was kind of exciting. But at the same time, I feel Dale, in his mind, has always believed he could've beat Gable."
It should be noted, Anderson had already won the 1967 137-pound national title.
With those stories in mind Yagla, Miller and Siddens came up with a short list of opponents they believed would be great "in your prime" opponents for Gable.
Leading the list is Anderson, as a 1968 rematch would've been a barn-burner. Also making the short list was Huff, who pinned Gable in a 1968 Olympic Trials pre-tournament.
Bob Buzzard, a 1972 Greco-Roman Olympian and two-time East state champion, makes the list.
"Dan told me, 'Bob, who was a few years older than Dan, could handle him pretty good," said Yagla.
Miller said the one guy he would've loved to see Gable face was Bill "Beets" Dotson, the former East state champ who later beat Huff for the 1963 137-pound national title.
"He was one bad dude," said Miller of Dotson. "He was a brawler and ornery enough to stay with Gable."
Other names include 1953 Iowa State Teachers College national champion Jim Harmon. three-time Cornell College Division I national champion Lowell Lange and his former Waterloo West teammate Dick Hauser.
One could also add Joe Gibbons, who won the first two of his four Iowa state prep titles at Waterloo Columbus before he went on to win a national title at Iowa State.
Paul Stinson, East's only three-time state champ, and another Trojan, Jim Duschen, also make the short list.
Cedar Falls' three-time state champ, Kim Rhoades, makes the list as does West's Mike VanArsdale.
The list could be extended, but chances are, the 1972 Gable might have taken them all on and probably would have came back for seconds and thirds.
Contact Jim Nelson at (319) 291-1521 or firstname.lastname@example.org