Dan Gable is wrestling.
Say the name, and people look.
When he walks into a room, people go silent and stare.
He has a wrestling museum named after him.
A gold-medal winner at the 1972 Munich Olympics while never giving up a single point in that tournament, Gable became a wrestling legend by going 181-1 through his high school and collegiate careers, winning two NCAA titles for Iowa State before losing to Larry Owings in the 1970 NCAA finals, the final match of his college career.
The 65-year-old Waterloo, Iowa, native, who now resides in Iowa City, coached three Olympic teams and is the all-time winningest coach in University of Iowa history, tallying a career record of 355-21-5 while coaching 152 All-Americans, 45 NCAA champions and eight Olympic medalists.
By comparison, Lehigh has produced 27 NCAA champions and 136 All-Americans.
Under Gable's leadership, Iowa won 25 straight Big Ten championships (21 as a head coach).
Gable is scheduled to speak to the Lehigh Wrestling Club at an event before today's 7 p.m. match at Stabler Arena where No. 21 Lehigh hosts No. 3 Iowa.
When Dan Gable speaks, people — especially wrestling people — listen. And he spoke volumes about Lehigh University wrestling with a few brief remarks he made after Iowa beat Lehigh at Grace Hall 42-4 in 1990.
When Gable was told Lehigh offered no scholarships for wrestling at that time, he made a statement that wrestling needed Lehigh to be good. That short quote helped spark a Lehigh alumni fundraising effort for wrestling scholarships and placed a re-emphasis on wrestling success going hand-in-hand with student success.
Gable has been watching Lehigh wrestling since the end of his high school career in 1966.
"I had just finished my high school career undefeated and was at the NCAA championships with Tom Peckham and Bob Buzzard [from Iowa State], and they were telling me tales about wrestling in the Snake Pit [Grace Hall]," Gable said in a phone interview in advance of tonight's appearance.
"At that tournament, I got the chance to see [Mike] Caruso and several of Lehigh's guys that were pretty outstanding, and was very impressed and started following their team. Once I got to Iowa State and we got the chance to wrestle in front of that standing-room-only crowd — it was smaller than the crowds we had at Iowa State — but it was crazy. I got the chance to wrestle Gerry Leeman's son, so that was a pretty big deal."
Gable is hoping to similarly use tonight's speech to again boost Lehigh's program.
"I want it to go to new heights …I want to motivate people in our sport," he said. "After I saw what took place with the Olympic effort [to get wrestling reinstated for the 2020 Olympics] and what needs to be done in terms of leadership, it has given me more purpose. I'd like to energize the Lehigh group for the future. There's so much potential there beyond what they already do. I might upset some people, but I'm doing it for the right reasons."
Gable said he fondly remembers hitting the then-all-male Lehigh campus as an Iowa State wrestler.
"That one part of town [South Side], Ames had one too we called Dog Town, but when we got to South Side, people knew who we were. People came up to us. In some places, they don't know wrestling, but it was a big deal in Bethlehem, and that always impressed me. I put that kind of treatment on a pedestal. That's what I'd like every college to have for wrestling."