Dan Gable talks about what makes Kevin Dresser successful


Iowa State wrestling head coach Kevin Dresser yells during a meet on Nov. 5, 2016. 

Ben Visser

Every time new Iowa State wrestling coach Kevin Dresser has gotten an opportunity — he’s capitalized on it.

Dresser wrestled at the University of Iowa for five years under legendary coach Dan Gable, who wrestled collegiately at Iowa State. Dresser didn’t crack the starting lineup until his fourth year.

But when he finally got his shot, he made the most of it by placing fourth at the NCAA Championships. A year later, in his fifth and final year, Dresser became an NCAA Champion.

RELATED CONTENT: Past, future wrestlers weigh in on Kevin Dresser hire

After his collegiate wrestling career he was an assistant under Gable for two years before accepting his first high school coaching position in 1988.

“He gets hired as a coach and he just dominated,” Gable said. “Every year almost he was winning a state championship.”

Dresser won five consecutive Virginia state titles with Christiansburg High School.

In 2006, Dresser got his first shot at coaching a collegiate program. He turned Virginia Tech into a national power in a short amount of time. In the 2006-07 season, the Hokies went 6-12. Two seasons later, they went 20-2.

And in 2016, Dresser was named the National Wrestling Coaches Association Coach of the Year.

“He got a chance to move into the bigger leagues and I don’t think Virginia Tech’s ever — I think they’ve had good teams, but I don’t think they’ve ever brought a trophy home until last year,” Gable said. “He brought them right in there.

“Iowa State is expecting him to keep doing what he’s been doing his whole life.  He’ll raise the profile, but it’s not automatic.”

Iowa State officially announced Dresser as its wrestling coach Monday. The Cyclones are in the midst of a 1-12 season, but Gable believes Dresser is the person to turn it around.

“That’s one year in 100 years,” Gable said. “That’s not going to happen again, and I think a guy like Kevin Dresser will make sure that doesn’t happen again. It’s really important for Iowa State to be good.”

Iowa is one of the biggest wrestling states in America. Gable called its fans “rabid” — in the best way possible. And in order for the sport of wrestling to keep growing in the state, it’s important to have Iowa State firing on all cylinders.

There are three Division I teams in Iowa, but only two need to be competing for national titles.

“Everybody at the D-I level [in Iowa] kind of feeds off each other, and the better each one is the more you’re going to buckle down,” Gable said. “When all three institutions are thriving that’s when we’re at our best. Especially if two of those three are going [strong].

“I think when you have Iowa State in the hunt, Iowa in the hunt and UNI is chipping away there, I think you’re always going to have one of these two programs looking for a national title. You want to show that we’re going to win national titles in Iowa.”

Winning national championships is something Gable knows well. He won 15 of them when he coached at Iowa from 1976-1997.

Dresser is considered a “Dan Gable disciple,” which is someone who coached under Gable as an assistant and uses his blueprint and system in their own coaching.

But Gable said the key to success for any one coach in his vast coaching tree is “tweaks.” Each coach needs to make their own tweak to fit their style.

“He actually brought me to Virginia Tech [to mentor Dresser] — especially at the beginning of his career,” Gable said. “Once they got solid, I was less likely to go out there.”

Gable said Dresser’s biggest “tweak” was in his ability to understand what elements are needed and going after those elements in the people, the program and the parts.

Dresser diagnoses the system and what’s taking place, and he makes sure that the right people are doing the right jobs.

He runs it almost like a company, Gable said.

“This is another challenge and people think he’s going to come in and change it right away,” Gable said. “Well, yeah, he’s going to change it right away, but whether the results can change — you hope it does.

“You have to have excitement — you have to be an idealist, but you have to have some realism. And somewhere it comes and mixes together and wow, it mixes pretty good.”

Dresser is bringing years of success and experience to Ames. And Gable thinks it’ll work out well for him.

“Based on his career it looks like he’ll do OK,” Gable said. “In fact he’ll do more than that — he’ll create a lot of excitement.”