Updated: April 9, 2014

                  Editor’s Note: No NCAA Division I wrestling coach won more national team titles than Dan Gable, who led the Iowa program to 15 titles in 20 years, including leading the Hawkeyes to nine straight championships between 1978 and ’86. Gable recently spoke to WIN editor Mike Finn about this year’s national championship in Oklahoma City, where Penn State became just the third program to capture at least four straight NCAA team titles.

WIN: Penn State trailed in the team race before the finals. What separated the Nittany Lions from the other top schools?

GABLE: Not a lot separated the top teams, but (champions David) Taylor and (Ed) Ruth absolutely separated Penn State from everyone else. Those two made it very difficult for everyone else to win.

There was also a pretty good attitude among the rest of the team, including their 149-pounder James English who was not seeded and ended up becoming an All-American. When you have the top guys who are the strong links, they make weak links in the line-up stronger.

But as impressive as Taylor and Ruth were, I think they can get to another level of intensity beyond just takedowns and escapes. There is also being physically tough on top. It’s keeping (opponents) down and working them hard and not just riding them. For (Taylor and Ruth) to go to the next level, they need to add a little bit.


WIN: Taylor and Ruth are such different personalities. And while Sanderson knew quite a bit about Taylor growing up, he knew little about Ruth and actually inherited him when he got to Penn State. But yet Sanderson was able to bring the best out of them. Why?

GABLE: You have two completely different guys. Good coaches know how to figure out what works for each one of them. There is an overall way of doing things, but then there are deviations.

Sanderson was able to create exciting skills for each one to improve them and make them dominant wrestlers; so they wouldn’t get bored. For them to become Olympic and/or World champions, they are going to have to get an even more versatile offense. They are not going to get it done by the way they are wrestling now.


WIN: You used to say the one reason your teams were able to win so many championships was because of your system. Will we now learn more about Sanderson’s system next year when Taylor and Ruth are gone?

GABLE: The system also brought along Nico Megaludis and Matt Brown and now Zain Retheford. When the highest-rated wrestlers are gone, that’s when the coach has to step up more than ever.


WIN: Of the wrestlers who won championships, was it more because they were better wrestlers or physically stronger?

GABLE: The best wrestlers were those who could be most technical and most physical. Ruth beat a tough kid (Jimmy Sheptock), but there is something about Ruth. He may not look physical, but he’s got that different build, where he’s just as physical. Then again, Taylor is the same way.

(NC State’s heavyweight champion) Nick Gwiazdowski showed that he really knows a good wrestling position and looked like he could also be pretty physical. He missed a couple takedowns in the first period because of Nelson’s size, but he stayed with it.


(To read the rest of the Gable Q&A, subscribe to WIN magazine by calling 888-305-0606 or go to