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September 18, 2007

Dan Gable Interview

In this section, I would like to provide you with some insight on my coaching, wrestling and training theories. Please click on the links above for more information.

I am also involved in a regular Q & A column with WIN Magazine discussing a variety of topics. The most recent column is posted below:


Editor’s Note: Mike Finn visited with Dan Gable during and after the 2006 NCAA Div. I tournament in Oklahoma City.

Q Oklahoma State just won its fourth straight team championship after it appeared that Minnesota might end the Cowboys’ streak this year. Did Oklahoma State win this championship or did Minnesota lose it?

A If I had to give an explicit answer, I would say that Oklahoma State held up better than Minnesota, just by looking at guys like Matt Nagel and C.P. Schlatter, who were pretty high seeds but did not score many points for Minnesota. But I think it’s more than that. If you look what took place beyond Oklahoma State, the next 20 teams, hardly any of those teams were able to pull ahead or do better than what they potentially could do. Those next 20 to 30 teams kind of decimated each other.

There wasn’t anyone strong enough at this particular time to just make a major move. Going into it, it looked like Minnesota and bunch of teams had a chance to step forward. No one jumped forward. The only team that jumped forward was Oklahoma. That’s why Jack Spates was named Coach of the Year. Iowa showed a little bit of that ability, compared to what they did at the Big Tens. They still have guys who need to go beyond what they did at the NCAAs.

I’m sure there are a few coaches who could walk away pretty proud, but beyond Oklahoma State, nobody put in a major challenge. But you have to look at that and turn it into a positive effect for your program. Minnesota had the ability and they were on a mission but something just fell apart at the end.

Q Of the coaches whose teams failed to live up to pre-tournament expectation, should they leave with doubt in the way they are running their programs.

A You have to believe in your system, but you have to keep tweaking it to make it better all the time. If it happens year in and year out, you have to throw the whole system out and revamp it. You just can’t stop learning. If you seem to have the same problems, then you have to look at them real close. You have to find new answers, new solutions.

Q Oklahoma State coach John Smith talked about how tough it is to get a defending champion to repeat. In fact, he had two previous champs — Zack Esposito and Steve Mocco — who failed to repeat. Why do you think that is so hard?

A If you won last year, a lot of people think you can do it again. But you have to be better next year than you were this year. However good you were to win one, you have to be better because other people are driven to get to the top. Winning breeds a lot of success and motivation, but sometimes that pain of defeat can overshadow that victory and drive you to even more extremes to make gains.

That’s why you need to work on people who win even greater. Those are the guys who really need to dig deep to get to a higher level. There is pain involved in a lot of training; not just from the fact that you are working hard. A lot of times you have to go back to that pain where you suffered some kind of loss or injury; whatever it is that can drive you to some more work. But for those who experience too much of that pain, they become used to it and don’t understand it. The pain of losing has to be few and far between.

Q On the other hand, fifth-year senior Joe Dubuque defeated a true freshman Troy Nickerson in the 125-pound final. Was it the Hoosier’s experience that overcame the Cornell wrestler’s youthful potential?

A It’s a big factor but occasionally, you have cases where it goes the other way as well. Joe Dubuque didn’t doubt himself at all. A lot of his confidence came from being the defending national champion. I watched Nickerson quite a bit. He seemed to lose the edge that got him to that championship match. Yet, a guy like (Dustin) Schlatter at 149 proved that differently. He had been so strong all year and was probably more dominant in his thinking than Nickerson.

Q Lehigh’s three-time All-American Troy Letters saw his career come to a sad ending when a neck injury forced him to withdraw after two matches. Was this a good example of how much wear and tear wrestlers go through in college careers?

A In our sport, there is that possibility of getting some kind of injury. If it’s not season ending, it can season-ending in terms of effectiveness. You can’t think about that. It’s just part of the game. We don’t have high-impact collisions or major trauma, but rather concussions or minor bruises or cuts. I have to credit (Letters’) courage just to say that he was able to come back and see if he could do it. (Former Iowa wrestler) Randy Lewis (who broke his arm his senior season and finished seventh) had a similar thing. It was amazing that he even came back. That shows the effectiveness of the coach and his athlete, just wanting to compete … because once it is gone, it’s gone.

Q There were many top-ranked wrestlers from smaller programs, like Central Michigan’s Wynn Michalak at 197 and American’s Josh Glenn at 184 who failed to win championships. Were they not prepared for this event?

A This tournament is this tournament. There is nothing like it. I’m amazed that you can wrestle well all year but you come here and fall apart. It didn’t just happen to one or two wrestlers. It happened to a lot of people. There is something about this national tournament that drains you. That is something a coach should prepare for so it doesn’t happen.

You have the same athlete out there, but he isn’t in the same frame of mind. You have to develop that frame of mind during the year. When you can do that, you are going to have a major advantage because so many others are falling apart.

Q Missouri’s Ben Askren has been named the recipient of the Dan Hodge Trophy. How would you compare him to past winners?

A Askren has similar traits to past winners; he fits that mold, mainly they believe in themselves a lot. The Hodge winners have all been confident in their abilities. That doesn’t mean that they are automatics but I do believe it gives them an edge on their opponent.

Q Askren has been called funky in his style. Would you agree with that?

A He has stuff that is extraordinary; stuff that others cannot use. But I saw some real basic skills, too. Maybe that’s the difference between him now and the Askren of the last two years. He was good the last two years, but I think his go-to stuff now is more basic skills stuff. Even though he relies in certain situations on his “funk? and it works well, I still think he’s developed some go-to basic skills, which makes his wrestling that much more capable of winning under tough circumstances. That might be the difference between first place and second place. You don’t take the funk away you want to add to your wrestling some good basic scoring moves.

Q Another wrestler who caught fan’s attention in Oklahoma City was 165-pound champion Johny Hendricks. What did you think of his antics?

A I just started turkey hunting last year and Hendricks looks like one of those big Toms out their strutting. When he scores, he’s proud and powerful. People can boo him, but I think his personality comes natural to him. There is an entertainment factor in that. When you have people act like that normally, you try to tame them a little bit, but you can’t tame them too much because that’s why they are good.

Even though there was controversy in the 165-pound match, based on some of the calls along the edge of the mat and based on an athlete who is cocky, that’s the kind of match that wrestling needs. There was action from the beginning to the end. There wasn’t a lot of dancing, where wrestlers are just going through the motions and not trying to score, wasting time in a match. For our sport to get to a new level, you have to have matches where at least one athlete is forcing the action.

Q You got a chance to spend some time with former 1972 Olympic teammates at the W.I.N. Memorabilia Show, where you guys spent over two hours signing autographs. What was that experience like being with former teammates?

A People keep going back to the 1972 team because the people on this team have been such a big influence to so many in our sport; whether it was Wayne Wells or Bill Farrell, our coach, or myself or the Peterson brothers. It goes back to the point where we were pretty much major impactors on the sport of wrestling.

September 13, 2007

College Wrestling Results

NCAA Wrestling is a major past time at the University of Minnesota. Coach J Robinson has instilled a work ethic in his wrestlers that most people cannot even imagine. J sees these results because he is excellent at managing athletes.