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Gable: New Alliance should be open minded to other ideas and groups
Editor’s Note: As Dan Gable, the successful NCAA and Olympic champion wrestler and coach, steps down from his responsibilities with the University of Iowa, he remains focused on building the sport around the country. One of his recent involvements was bringing together the organizations of USA Wrestling, the National Wrestling Coaches Association and the National Hall of Fame to form an official Alliance. Gable met with WIN editor Mike Finn during the Cadet and Junior Nationals in Fargo, where he spent three hours signing autographs with fans and speaking about the future of the Alliance.
WIN: What should be the Alliance’s goals for the future?
GABLE: First of all, the Alliance is now in a one-page form, a mission statement form signed by three leaders (USA Wrestling’s Rich Bender, NWCA’s Mike Moyer and Hall of Fame director LeRoy Smith) of different organizations in wrestling. I believe the mission statement is pretty strong. It took about three or four months and a lot of time and effort and resources just to get that mission statement. It’s not like we can afford to take a big break but each of these organizations have their own business to do. They can’t focus full time on the Alliance.
Once that mission statement got signed, sealed and delivered, people had to catch up a little bit because there was not an Alliance in their plans. For several reasons, including people wanting to get the sport to a higher level, they have agreed to work together more.
They will go back to their own business, but not very long. I’ve seen correspondence from these organizations that they want to move forward. What will happen is that at the next meeting each organization will specify what they think is the next movement. So far, I have liked what I’ve seen from them.
What I haven’t seen is that maybe it’s time to form more of a board structure. Or is it time to pin point what is the most-needed effort in the sport right now and focus on that; whether it is an issue or finances, which they did not get into (in forming the Alliance). They don’t ever want to battle with finances from each organization.
An Alliance was already formed once before from a monetary point of view and it didn’t hold up very well. This time it’s more of a mission point of view. They will have to create a fund for if there is a crisis where they need resources or people. That will be the next conversation. They need to pen and pencil a structure that is beyond these organizations.
For example, there is the organization, NUWAY, which is out there working for the sport, but how can it fit within the Alliance’s mission. The Alliance has used a (professional) firm to help put this together. Now it’s time to get another firm or stay with the same firm and get them to use their expertise to put a structure like this together.
WIN: Regarding organizations like NUWAY, should the Alliance be open-armed to any other groups wanting to join the Alliance?
GABLE: I think everyone should be able to fit into this, but how they fit in is the hard part. That is going to take some time and effort and someone with a skill that does this for a living. We need someone who can take an arrow from the top and keep going with this whole structure of wrestling and to do it where no one is getting shunned.
In forming this Alliance, I don’t feel that any of our leaders have that kind of attitude. These leaders have the best interest in our sport (at heart). I don’t hear any of them say I want to be the leader or control the power.
WIN: Should the common theme of the Alliance simply be: Save Wrestling?
GABLE: The thing that has driven them together is that you have some people who have been nicked a little bit or knocked down a little — some of them harder than others — and that we have to do something better or bigger and that we need to be more organized than we ever have. I feel like there are some threatening things out there for them and they want to have these threats under control. For example, for the NWCA, there remains the threat to Division I wrestling. From USA Wrestling, there is the need for Olympic medals.
WIN: Division I wrestling has historically been a recruiting ground for future Olympic and World champs. Is that a big reason that USA Wrestling needs to work with the NWCA and save Division I wrestling?
GABLE: They want to enhance Division I wrestling. If you look at U.S. Gymnastics, they are in a club system now and about 14 colleges. They may do well but it’s not in the education system, which I believe is a real drawback as an automatic way of being introduced to the sport in society.
The Division I level is where we are getting most of our prestigious athletes and we need more than 75 schools. We need every state to have Division I wrestling and a rivalry for those schools. We need a minimum of a 100 programs just if each state had two. We need to keep what we have and fill voids that are out there.
WIN: What can USA Wrestling do to help save wrestling?
GABLE: They are already in the process to help that by being part of this Alliance. They have always been involved but the level of involvement probably has not been enough. They need to increase that level.
WIN: Next year, 2012, could be a banner year for wrestling. Penn State, Iowa and Oklahoma State will be favorites at the NCAA Championships in March in St. Louis. The Olympic Trials then will be less than a month later in Iowa City…and three months later the Olympics where past champs Cael Sanderson, Henry Cejudo and Rulon Gardner could compete again. What do you think of next year?
GABLE: Those are the three guys who are getting ink right now. And the one thing we have not done well is keeping our best guys in the sport long enough. Even though I just competed in one Olympic cycle, I stayed in the sport as a college and Olympic coach and was able to continue making national and international news. Bruce Baumgartner, John Smith and the late Dave Schultz were in the sport for a long time. We need to get our athletes to remain competitive longer. We need people who are more committed to that high level of success for longer periods of time.
WIN: Regarding Cael Sanderson, he has not committed to the 2012 Olympics. It seems wrestling could benefit from him competing again far beyond what he’s already accomplished as a coach at PSU. What do you think?
GABLE: You have to realize that everyone is unique. If Cael tries to be someone he is not (by allowing additional media coverage), it could affect him in ways and areas that he is successful in. This is his personality and he does it in another way. Eventually, if he keeps having the success he is having as an athlete and coach, he will have that impact and pick up better communication skills to help him later on. Not everyone is an ideal person for everything. Could he do more for overall wrestling? Yes, but would that affect his Penn State team or his wrestling as an individual? He’s got to feel comfortable with it. Over time, I believe he will develop some of these other traits.
Right now, he has his own excitement and that’s enough for him and I believe that will help the sport. We have got to respect the big contributors to our sport. Just the fact that Cael came out of retirement with success has done more for wrestling than anything else.
WIN: ASICS has sponsored his involvement with the Junior and Cadet Nationals and underwrite the event. Should more corporations like ASICS do more to help grow the sport and be part of the Alliance?
GABLE: ASICS has restructured and has all new people for wrestling and we are trying to work closer with them. I would say there are more business individuals and not the corporate world who are getting involved. Once we get them on board, I think we can do a better job of getting the corporate world involved.
There is passion in people within the corporate world, but (they) may not have assigned their corporation to this yet. We have got to become more of a stronger and proven entity first. That’s why we need a good World Championships, a good NCAA Championships, a good Olympic Trials and a good Olympics in 2012.
(Past Q&As with Dan Gable can be found at WIN-magazine.com.)