Gable: ‘How good can I be?’

Legend speaks to Dodger wrestlers before book signing, autograph session

Messenger photo by Britt Kudla Wrestling legend Dan Gable signs Fort Dodge senior Damond Lockner’s book on Friday at Fort Dodge Senior High. For more photos, please visit

Dan Gable has heard about the Fort Dodge wrestling team’s recent run of success.

Instead of showering the top-ranked Dodgers with praise for their prior accomplishments or current standing, the sport’s Hall of Fame paragon challenged the team to keep getting better.

”It’s not just how good you are — you have to ask yourself, ‘how good can I be?”’ the 69-year-old Gable said in a motivational speech to the squad at FDSH on Friday. ”And good compared to what? You know, I went through my high school career and my sophomore season (at Iowa State; freshmen weren’t allowed to compete at the varsity level) without a loss. But that didn’t tell me anything. I didn’t really start to get good until my junior year (with the Cyclones).

”You may be enjoying success. You may be winning matches and have a great record. You may be getting attention. But are you getting better? It’s important to do so, in whatever sport you (compete in) and in life. Challenge yourself, and instead of saying, ‘I’m good,’ follow that up by asking, ‘good compared to what?’ You better be (measuring up) against the very best, because if you aren’t, you’re not reaching your full potential as an athlete or as a person.”

The former Olympic champion encouraged the 30 Dodgers in attendance to focus on the moment, rather than dwelling on the past or looking ahead.

”It’s all about what you’re doing right now,” said Gable, who coached the University of Iowa to 15 national titles. ”That’s very important. You’re currently wrestling and going to school. So make a difference there. And when that’s over, keep making a difference in whatever you do. Too many times, we get caught not living in the present.”

Gable emphasized the importance of mental toughness.

”It’s not just about being physically strong. You have to be mentally strong in all of your matches,” Gable said. ”You can’t let an opponent get inside your head. You have to be the one to get inside theirs. If you stay aggressive and believe in yourself, you’ll rise to the occasion.

”I won on attitude and conditioning, but (as the years passed), I also won because of my reputation that I had earned through hard work and sacrifice. And the bigger the match, the more you have to have to (possess) the right mindset. Wrestling is all about being independent; you’re out there alone, battling your opponent but also, battling yourself. You have to prove you can do it on your own. You ultimately make the difference.”

Gable visited town for a book signing and autograph session in conjunction with the Fort Dodge youth wrestling tournament, which attracted nearly 400 participants to the Dodger gym on Friday. Adam Fellers, a 2001 FDSH graduate and former Iowa Hawkeye wrestler, helped organize the trip, along with Gable’s long-time partner, former Fort Dodger Mike Doughty.

Doughty is the National Wrestling Hall of Fame Dan Gable Museum Development Officer in Waterloo. Former St. Edmond and Iowa Central standout Justin McClintock, currently a volunteer assistant with the Tritons, is also involved in the museum’s technological growth and development.

Gable continues to serve as both a national and international ambassador for the sport.

”I’ve been very fortunate to have a loving, supportive wife and family at home,” Gable said. ”Between my wife, my daughters, their husbands and their kids, I have a family of 22, and they all love wrestling. They understand my passion and encourage me to promote the sport as best I can.

”Always pay your respects to the people you love.”