Gable: College wrestling can learn a lot from the struggle to save Olympic wrestling

Wrestling with a Legend Dan Gable

(from Volume 19, Issue 10 / July 5, 2013)

            Editor’s Note: Dan Gable has succeeded as both a wrestler and coach on both the college and international wrestling level. In this Q&A with WIN editor Mike Finn, Gable looks at the comparisons of both levels of wrestling are heading into a transition period.

V11I2 BW, master (Page 8)

WIN: International wrestling got good news in May that the sport still has a chance to be considered an Olympic sport after 2016. What are thoughts on the process and where wrestling stands in saving the sport?

GABLE: We are slipping right now. We are not scoring as many points as we did at first and that’s the rule of our sport right now. The rules of our sport don’t force you to score.


WIN: What the next step with two months to get before a final decision is made in September?

  GABLE: It’s time to kick it in the butt right now. There are peaking and timing factors that will help us win the vote and eventually become a core sport again.

I noticed that we are starting to get a little cocky. We just had these good four months and feel like we’ve won. We haven’t yet. As a leader, I know we can’t just coast of the last four months. There needs to be more initiatives, more money


WIN: What should college wrestling learn from what has happened on the international level the past four months?

GABLE: College coaches should take a look at what has been happening. Both levels are similar in terms of their future. In the upper realm of Olympic wrestling, coaches don’t have a vote. On the college level, they still have that vote and can control their future.

Over time, instead of getting more stubborn, these coaches should make the move, but sometimes it’s just not there in your vision. What has happened internationally now is that coaches should create a vision of what will happen. In international wrestling, the Olympic wrestling problems showed us that FILA was dealing with “after the fact” in that it had to make changes are the facts were learned of what changes needed to be made. Regarding college wrestling, let’s not be after the fact.

WIN: When and how should these coaches get together?

GABLE: Coaches have events like the upcoming coaches convention in August where they can discuss and talk, present and upgrade and it’s important for all the coaches to be there to make sure they get the correct information.

When you don’t get first-hand knowledge at the convention, it comes back second-hand information, which may be misinterpreted, incorrect. There is nothing like being there.

For example, we just had the Olympic Trials. We should be there, but we have the ability to stay home and watch these matches now and think we are getting the same experience watching them at home as we would be at the event. It’s not the same.  When you are competing in the same arena, there is a chill for an athlete that is going to make the difference to how well they compete. It’s the chill of competition that brings the vision out.

Regarding the coaches convention, it’s the competition that is in the room, where people have to have to be able to work together. Otherwise, it’s just separate, especially if you think you are on the right track and don’t have to do anything

In any sport, you have a division in the different levels of competition, but you do not want a division of what it takes to make you move forward. You do not want that division of ideas where you end up becoming stagnant.


WIN: What can college wrestling accomplish if it is on the same page?

GABLE: There are the different aspects, including the rules of the sport, which can determine how exciting your sport is. The more exciting the sport is, the better chance of it going more mainstream. Wrestling is not a mainstream sport.  I think there is a chance that we could upgrade everything in our sport.


WIN: FILA made a point of bringing passivity or stalling back into their rules. Is this something that should be examined more closely on the college level?

GABLE: The rules during regulation should be the same rules in overtime.  Let’s use the current FILA rule and take a look at the Kyle Dake–Andrew Howe match that went to overtime. Once they got to overtime, officials took out the passivity rule and both wrestlers immediately went into a slower pace. They went for six minutes and there were probably only abort three moves between them.

It’s no different in college wrestling where in the last 15 seconds of regulation, where many officials call stalling different. It should be the same as what it is in regulation. If it’s stalling in the first second, it should be stalling in the last second.

What it does is clean up your sport and makes it simple for fans. Think about the NBA where they have the 24-second shot clock. Fans know what they want to see and that’s mostly offense. What’s going on in football right now? Teams are going to no-huddle offenses because you get more plays, more action, more scoring.

In wrestling you can score any time, any second because you are supposed to be engaged. When you don’t make them get engaged, then they are standing around.


WIN: Regarding FILA, one of the problems is that there is a difference in cultures of those on the board. In a sense, isn’t that the same with college wrestling where not every culture of competition is the same?

GABLE: To get things done, we have to change culture. Do you get new people or do you slowly change their views? That’s a better transition than knocking them over the head. We are heading in a good direction of improving Olympic and collegiate wrestling.


WIN: One of the notable things about the fight to save Olympic wrestling was getting the United States, Russia and Iran on the same page. Why did that happen and what can do to bring differing views on the college level together.

GABLE: On the international level, wrestling had a heart attack but did not die. We finally hit a thread or an artery or vein that goes to the heart that got cut off. The bottom line is that we have to improve circulation.

Whoever is not on the Olympic page right now or has not been following what has been going on, then you are not on the same page for wrestling. They need to know that that changes also have to be made in college wrestling.


WIN: What are your thoughts about the NCAA possibly merging the National Duals and traditional NCAA tournament.

GABLE: They are doing it to enhance our sport, not to keep an organization like the National Wrestling Coaches Association alive. (Executive director) Mike Moyer has to understand there is a perception out there that this National Duals idea is self-drive by the NWCA. I know that’s not the case.


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