Gable gives back to Florida YMCA

By Greg Knight

When Dan Gable stepped away from competition as one of the best collegiate and amateur wrestlers in history – and into the position of head wrestling coach at the University of Iowa in 1976 – little did he know he would become one of the greatest mentors in the history of athletics and an inspiration to generations of athletes to follow.

Gable’s tenure at Iowa between 1976 and 1997 led him to become the most successful coach in NCAA Division I history and was another step toward his immortality in the wrestling world.

Anyone who follows Gable’s accomplishments knows that his Hawkeye teams won 21 straight Big 10 team championships and compiled a dual meet record of 355–21–5. They also know that from 1978 to 1986 the Hawkeyes won the NCAA title each year, a record nine in succession, out a total of 15 NCAA titles Gable earned during his career at Iowa.

In his retirement from coaching, Gable made a home for himself and his wife in Naples, Fla., a city of just more than 20,000 residents where he has continued to be active in the sports community.

Little do people know that Gable's love for sport and wrestling first began as a young kid enrolled in sports programs at the YMCA in Waterloo, Iowa. Today, Gable is heavily involved with the Greater Naples YMCA – where a new training facility for wrestlers now bears his name.

Gable, along with his wife Kathy, recently attended an event in Naples to unveil the Dan Gable Development and Training Center.

The facility became a reality after fellow Olympic gold medalist Mark Schultz first became involved with the effort to create a sustainable wrestling facility at the YMCA in Naples. Gable, who coached Mark Schulze in the 1984 Olympic Games, read about his involvement with the Y in the local media and took it upon himself reach out to Paul Thein, the CEO of the Naples Y.

“Gable called my office and told me his Y story from Waterloo,” Thein said. “It was awesome hearing how the YMCA shaped his life and started him in sports. How cool is it to have both Mark Schultz and Dan Gable backing your Y in order to start a wrestling program? These athletes reached the highest level in the sport and understand the importance of giving back so others can have a similar opportunity to learn life lessons from. That’s the sign of a true champion.”

It is Gable’s continued involvement with the YMCA that will reap benefits for the young wrestlers in Naples now that a wrestling and mixed martial arts training facility has been named in his honor.
At the dedication, Gable met with fans and made an impassioned speech about his continuing support for wrestling to the nearly 200 people in attendance.

The facility, Gable said, is a way of giving back to the organization that first taught him how to wrestle, the YMCA.

“A facility like this is very needed and it will offer more opportunities for wrestlers at a young age,” Gable said. “It is a facility like this that will help get wrestlers to the next level. That is what we are doing here.”
Gable added that the sport of wrestling, in general, also contributes the freedom Americans share and can serve as an impetus for a productive lifestyle.

For more information on the Dan Gable Development and Training Center or to donate to the second phase of the facility’s development, go to

Photo by Greg Knight

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