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Gable tells what life takes

Iowa wrestling legend motivates Fort Dodge

May 10, 2008
By DON COGGER, Messenger staff writer
Show up. Dominate. Go home.

When using sports as a metaphor for business, one would be hard-pressed to find a better motivator than Iowa wrestling legend Dan Gable.

In Fort Dodge Friday to present a motivational speech to local businesses, Gable drew on his experience as an Olympic gold medalist, a two-time National Collegiate Athletic Association champion and arguably the finest coach in NCAA wrestling history to inspire those in attendance to never settle for being average.

‘‘I don’t think that very many people in this room are here listening to me today because they’re content with being average,’’ Gable told the crowd. ‘‘You must constantly strive for bigger and better things.’’

The event, held at the Best Western Starlite Village, was the result of a joint venture between the Employer Network and the Fort Dodge Chamber of Commerce. The Employer Network meets on a bimonthly basis, according to Sara Blair, director of human resources for Heartland Communications, addressing subjects ranging from recruiting and hiring practices to motivational training. The idea for a motivational speaker was a departure from the norm.

‘‘I was able to get ahold of coach Gable almost by accident,’’ Blair said. ‘‘We just thought that he would be fantastic for this area to come in and share his experiences, and hopefully incorporate some of his wisdom into what we do here.’’

Gable spoke for more than an hour to an audience comprised of 51 local business men and women, representing 25 businesses. He relied heavily on anecdotes from his wrestling and coaching days, illustrating for those in attendance the importance of having a solid team as a support system in both business and life.

‘‘You need a good group of people around you to make things work in your business, but that can’t be all that drives you,’’ Gable said. ‘‘I’ll tell you, if you need motivation in life, just look at your family.’’

Born and raised in Waterloo, Gable was undefeated as a prep athlete, compiling an astounding 64-0 record. He carried that momentum into a stellar collegiate career at Iowa State University, winning every match but one.

It was that one loss, in the last match of his collegiate career, that taught him his most valuable lesson.

‘‘As it turns out, that match was exactly what I needed,’’ Gable said. ‘‘Going into the Olympics, it helped me refocus, and I was able to rebound and excel. You don’t want to make a habit of it, but losing can have its advantages.’’

Gable went on to a gold medal in the 1972 Munich Olympics, capturing the top spot without allowing a single point to any of his opponents. A legendary coaching career followed, and now Gable enjoys sharing the lessons he’s learned through the years with those who have a desire to excel in all aspects of their lives.

‘‘I gave motivational talks to my teams pretty much on a daily basis, but never to anyone else,’’ Gable explained. ‘‘Once I stepped down from coaching, I started hitting the motivational speech circuit. I approach each speech like a wrestling match: I don’t want to lose.

‘‘If I leave, and I’m not feeling so good about how it went, that’s like a loss. I prepare for each one in that way, and hopefully, people get something out of it.’’

Contact Don Cogger at (515) 573-2141 or at

Article Photos

-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen
Dan Gable, top, speaks Friday during a seminar at the Best Western Starlite Village in Fort Dodge.



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