Dan Gable talks new book, return to Ames


Courtesy of University of Iowa Press

Dan Gable’s new book, “A Wrestling Life,” was ranked No. 7 on the New York Times’ Bestseller’s list for sports. He visited Ames on May 27 for a book signing at Books A Million. 

Luke Manderfeld

Dan Gable’s new book, “A Wrestling Life,” isn’t like other things he’s done in his life. 

He’s released books before, but they were written by other authors and once a book on wrestling techniques. This one is different. It’s all him — his stories, his family, his feelings and his words. 

Attending the Olympic trials for wrestling in Iowa City in 2012, writer Scott Schulte approached Gable after one of Iowa’s wrestlers lost a close match.

Gable was in one of his moods, upset that one of his wrestlers lost. It was an emotional two days of trials for Gable. 

Schulte asked if he could do a story on Gable’s sister, Diane, who was killed when Gable was a teenager. He thought he would never hear from him again.

Shortly after, Schulte came back to ask for an interview for the story. Gable accepted, and Schulte wrote a piece with the stamp of approval from the Gable family. 

Schulte came back once again and asked to take it one step further — a collection of stories in a book.

Three years and many interviews later with Gable and people in Gable’s stories, the book released March 1. The book includes 26 short stories, and was a hit. 

Gable claims he is still learning as an author, so when the book reached No. 7 on the New York Time’s bestseller’s list for sports, it sent a cool feeling down Gable’s spine — the familiar feeling of success. But it still wasn’t up to his high standards.

“Was I ever happy with a No. 7 in wrestling? No, of course not,” he said. “I don’t want to say that this is where I want to end. For me, I’m still learning how to be an author right now, just like it took me a long time to be a good wrestler. … I think the book can go further than it has. I’m not happy with seventh.”

The message the book sends is universal, not just for wrestlers. It can be used for all facets in life, Gable said. 

But it takes one’s mind to absorb the real information.

“There’s a lot of thought in-between the lines that readers have to be able to pick up and use their own brains,” Gable said. “There’s a lot of philosophy in there, or I should say a lot of reasons why this guy was successful.”

Gable compared this book to a similar book he had during his sophomore year in high school, “The Heart of a Champion”, by Bob Richards. It provided Gable with advice when he needed it most. 

He said his book can act in similar ways — it can improve a person’s life to achieve their life goals. 

“In life, if you stay the same way, and you don’t improve and don’t get better, you level off,” Gable said. “There’s a lot of things to pick up from this book that people can take from the individual and family level.”

His family is another focal point in the stories, explaining why family is one of the most important parts of his life. 

Writing the book has helped him improve relationships with his family and has helped himself. 

“I’m one of these guys who thrives on success,” Gable said. “So when the book did well, it gave me more motivation. I have more motivation after it came out than before it came out.”

For ISU fans, the book has no shortage of stories of his days as a Cyclone, and devotes seven chapters to his stories at Iowa State.

Gable returned to Ames to hold a book signing at Books A Million on May 27. But when he reentered the city where he spent a portion of his life, a familiar feeling that he gained from being a longtime Iowa wrestling coach returned.

“When I enter Ames, I’m nervous,” Gable said. “I wasn’t nervous as an athlete, but when I became a rival coach it changed. It’s just something, like when I came into town the other night, I’m not looking over my shoulder, but I’m cautious. That’s the way I am, and that’s what brings out the competitiveness in me.”

The attendance wasn’t as large as he wanted it to be, and that disappointed him.

“It’s not like I wrestled like ‘meh’ when I was [at Iowa State],” Gable said. “It was a place I was at six years. I loved Iowa State University, so I’m surprised that a few more people didn’t show up. It was a good turn out, but you know me, I’m talking about really good things right now. It’s ingrained in me to be better.”

Gable hinted at a return to Iowa State at the Memorial Union Bookstore sometime in the fall, but said it depends on his schedule. 

His book can be found on the University of Iowa Press website for $23 along with a quick summary.