Dan Gable "Commitment to Excellence" Wrestling Endowment
Several years ago the UW Oshkosh wrestling program, a part of campus life since 1962, was facing the very real possibility of being discontinued due to budget constraints. It was a situation all too familiar to the wrestling community, which has seen 290 collegiate wrestling programs fold since 1972, including five in Wisconsin.
The Wisconsin wrestling community rallied and they had a powerful ally: Dan Gable. Gable’s contribution to wrestling has been compared to “what Michael Jordan is to basketball.” His wrestling records are unmatched. His prep and college record as a wrestler was 182-1. His only loss was in the NCAA finals in his senior year. He won the Gold Medal in the 1972 Summer Olympics without surrendering a point to an opponent, despite the fact that the main goal of the Cold War rival-Soviet Union team was to defeat Gable. As coach, Gable led Iowa to 17 NCAA titles and compiled a 21-year coaching record of 355-21-5. His record as a coach in the Big Ten was 131-2-1.
He was named by Gannett News Service as the top wrestler of the 20th century; ESPN listed him as one of the top coaches in the 20th century; he was named Iowa's top "sports figure" in the past 100 years and in 1996, Gable was named one of the "100 Golden Olympians," an honor bestowed to the top 100 U.S. Olympians of all time.
UW Oshkosh Wrestling Administrator Larry Marchionda described his initial reaction to the program’s threatened demise: “We really thought we were going to be pinned there at first; then Dan Gable called and asked what he could do to help.” Letters were sent to wrestling alumni, clubs and coaches, asking for financial support and inviting them to attend a special rally, held at UW Oshkosh in March 2003. Gable, a noted speaker on topics such as motivation and overcoming adversity, spoke on a “Commitment to Excellence,” appearing at no charge. All proceeds from the event and from a private reception held earlier that evening supported the wrestling program.
Dan Gable lent his name to the endowment that has since preserved and fortified UWO wrestling. The first annual Dan Gable Open was held in 2004. The tournament’s proceeds benefit the Dan Gable “Commitment to Excellence” Endowment. In addition to making personal financial contributions, Dan Gable has remained committed to the success of the Titan wrestling program. In a letter sent to wrestling coaches inviting them to participate in the 2007 Dan Gable Open he said, “I am challenging you to make an effort to attend this event. In doing so, you are showing your support of maintaining wrestling at the college level and providing an opportunity for young wrestlers of the future to participate in the sport we love.”