By Pat Harty
IOWA CITY, Iowa – Something can be glaringly obvious from a political standpoint, but also deserving at the same time.
That was my response after hearing that Dan Gable has been invited to the White House to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor.
Former college football coach Lou Holtz also has been given the same honor, and he and Gable will be the 10th and 11th sports figures honored by President Donald Trump.
And while nothing against Holtz, but if he is considered worthy of the nation’s highest civilian honor as a sports figure, then Gable is a no-brainer.
Over three dozen sports figures have received the award since its inception in 1963, and Gable, as a wrestling legend, certainly deserves to be in this select group.
The timing of this news probably isn’t a coincidence with the presidential election less than three weeks away, and with Trump in a tight race with Joe Biden for Iowa’s electoral votes.
Gable is idolized by many Iowans, so it’s reasonable to think that Trump could gain some late support by giving Gable our nation’s highest civilian honor in the days leading up to the Nov. 3rd election.
Gable’s nephew, former Iowa football long snapper Daniel Olszta, addressed that point in an 0article published Wednesday in the Cedar Rapids Gazette.
“There are obviously political ramifications, I’m sure, for Trump,” Olszta said to the Gazette. “But what I say is it’s not the President Donald Trump Medal of Freedom, it’s the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
“Trump gave that to him, but nobody can argue that Dan Gabled does not embody that.”
Trump sees this as an opportunity to help his cause with voters in Iowa, and that is certainly within his right as the election draws near.
There is no date set for Gable to receive the honor, according to the Gazette. But when it does happen, it will be the first ever given to a wrestler.
In August, the Congressional Wrestling Caucus sent Trump a letter urging him to consider Gable for the honor.
“To date, no wrestler has received the Presidential Medal of Freedom,” the letter said. “Your selection of Coach Gable would cement his stature and cap his career in a way no one else in the sport has previously achieved. Our entire wrestling community, young and old, athletes and fans, would embrace his recognition across our great nation.”
The Congressional Wrestling Caucus is a group of members of Congress who were wrestlers and/or have a strong interest and involvement in the sport.
The letter supporting Gable was signed by five U.S. Congressmen, including David Loebsack and Steve King of Iowa, according to the Gazette.
It would seem fitting for Gable to be the first wrestler to be honored because he is arguably the greatest performer in the sport, and its greatest coach.
Gable grew up in Waterloo and wrestled for Iowa State where he compiled a 117-1 record. He then started to achieve legendary status with his dominance at the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich when he won the Gold Medal by winning all six of his matches without giving up a point.
Gable’s dominance carried over to coaching where he led the Iowa wrestling team to 15 national champions.
Gable is to wrestling what Babe Ruth is to baseball and what Tiger Woods is to golf.
And guess what?
Ruth and Woods have both received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from Trump.
So put the politics aside and just be happy that Dan Gable is being recognized for his extraordinary achievements.
In addition to his dominance in wrestling, Gable also has shown incredible resolve and courage.
Gable was only 15 years old when his 19-year old sister was murdered in Waterloo.
Gable was devastated by what he called his biggest loss, but he also used his sister’s death as motivation to train with even more determination.
Gable’s talent as a wrestler can’t be understated, but his work ethic is what helped to make him the total package, and deserving of our nation’s highest civilian honor.