Dan Gable and Larry Owings, first-ever public appearance together at NCAA’s Fan Fest

Updated: March 9, 2018

Wrestling fans attending the 2018 NCAA Wrestling Championships in Cleveland, Ohio, March 15-17, will have the chance to relive arguably the most talked about wrestling match of all time — the Larry Owings’ upset of undefeated two-time NCAA champion Dan Gable in the 1970 NCAA finals. For the first time in history, the two living legends will make a public appearance together.

Fan will have a chance to meet Owings and Gable at the NCAA’s Fan Fest at 3 pm on Saturday, March 17, at the Huntington Convention Center in Cleveland. Match video of the historic bout will be played and there will be a question and answer time with Gable and Owings, followed by autographs.

In the long and storied history of the NCAA Wrestling Championships, dating back to 1928, there have been hundreds of important matches but only a few have reached legendary status – contests that fans have discussed over and over for decades. And topping the list in the latter category is the showdown that occurred on March 28, 1970 in the 142-pound class. That bout, between Dan Gable of Iowa State and Larry Owings of the University of Washington, is without question the most talked about match in NCAA wrestling history.

According to wrestling historian Mike Chapman, Gable entered the tournament at McGaw Hall on the campus of Northwestern University as a two-time champion and had perhaps the most glowing reputation in amateur wrestling history. His winning streak of 180 consecutive victories had lasted seven years, dating back to his sophomore year in high school. In addition, he had earned a reputation as one of the greatest pinners ever. To most fans, the thought of Gable losing was out of the question.

But Larry Owings had tremendous credentials of his own. While Gable’s record that season was 31-0, with five straight pins in the 1970 NCAA tourney, Owings was 32-1, and had four pins entering the finals. In addition, he had made headline news by telling reporters he had come to McGaw Hall with one purpose – to defeat Dan Gable.

ABC televised the match live and the buildup was stupendous. The arena was completely sold out and reporters from all over the country were on hand to witness the epic battle. Owings took a quick 7-2 lead but Gable fought back to pull even at 8-8 early in the third period. Owings escaped for a 9-8 edge and then scored on a brilliant flurry-style takedown and even gained crucial back points for a 13-8 lead. Gable escaped and received two points for riding time, making the final score 13-11. The two gladiators faced each other with solemn expressions as Owings’ hand was raised.

The match sent shock waves through the arena and across the nation, and has become part of wrestling folklore. Even people who didn’t normally follow wrestling were amazed when they heard wrestling’s superstar had lost. Gable received a long and emotional standing ovation as he stood on the awards platform to accept a second-place medal for the first time in his career.

Nine months later, the two almost met again in the same arena at the Midlands Championships, also held at McGaw Hall. Owings flew in from Seattle to enter the prestigious tournament and Gable was there to defend his title at 142 pounds. But the climactic showdown failed to take place when Clyde Smith of Northwestern upset Owings, 6-3. Gable then defeated Smith by a 14-2 score in the finals.

Owings and Gable were destined to tangle one more time. In the 1972 Olympic Trials in Anoka, Minnesota, Gable scored a 7-1 triumph and went on to win the Olympic gold medal without surrendering a single point, thereby giving Owings the satisfaction of scoring the only point against Gable in his 21 matches through the Trials and the Olympics itself.

Gable ended his college career with a record of 117-1 while Owings wound up 87-4.

Huntington Convention Center in Cleveland


In addition to the Gable-Owings session, Fan Fest will once again be the place to be in between sessions of the Championships each of the three days during the Championships, both for the event’s fans and those in wrestling-crazed Northeast Ohio. Fan Fest hours are as follows:

  • Thursday, 3-7 pm
  • Friday, 2:00-7:30 pm
  • Saturday, 1:00-7:30 pm

As usual, food and drinks will be available for fans. Team USA will be having practices each of the three afternoons and there will be exhibition matches and autograph sessions. In addition, the National Wrestling Hall of Fame and Pro Football Hall of Fame will have a presentation and autograph session at 5:15 Thursday, March 15.

The 28th annual WIN Magazine Memorabilia Show will also be at Fan Fest and features over 50 exhibitors spots for fans to visit from wrestling companies and organizations from all of the United States. Exhibitors will have wrestling apparel for sale, memorabilia showcasing the sport, and new product innovations for fans to see.

Participating 2018 exhibitors at the WIN Show include: Adidas, Amateur Athletic Union, All-In Sports Journal, BATS TOI, Battle Skin, Blue Chip, Cliff Keen Athletic, Compound Clothing, Camp of Champs, Catch Wrestling, Culture House Books, Danmar, Davids Gold Medal Sports, EZ Flex, FCA Wrestling, Go Earn It, MyHouse, Midwest Nationals, Nike Wrestling, Pure & Clean Sports, Rudis, Suples, Takedown Sportswear, Theraworx, Tiffin Mats, Titan Mercury Wrestling Club, Tyrone Snowden Foundation, Scrap Life, WIN Magazine, Wrestling Life 2 – Dan Gable Book, and Wrestling Mindset.

For more detailed times and information of the NCAA’s Fan Fest, visit: www.ncaa.com/championships/wrestling/d1/fan-fest