Persistence helped Brian Anderson bring one of the biggest names in national wrestling to the Wabash College campus.
Anderson is in his fifth year running the Wabash Wrestling Camp. During that time, Anderson has brought in recognizable national names and Olympic gold medalists. From the inception of the camp, Anderson always had a goal of bringing in former Iowa head coach and Olympic gold medalist Dan Gable.
Anderson’s persistence paid off, as Wednesday Gable helped instruct 320 youth campers at Knowling Fieldhouse.
“They just kind of went out and got me, and so far I’ve been very impressed,” Gable said in between Wednesday’s morning and afternoon sessions. “I have learned a lot about Crawfordsville and I will look at it with a different eye when I hear about Wabash College. I will never forget this institution.”
Gable said he doesn’t go out and do many camps anymore. He gets invited to plenty, but rarely accepts the invitation. The only camp he regularly attends is the Camp of Champs in northern Wisconsin, which is based on faith, ministry and wrestling. He also helps at some of the University of Iowa camps. Something told him, however, that he should finally accept the invitation to attend Wabash’s camp, which has grown every year.
“When I walked in and saw that they had 10 or 12 mats going, I was like ‘Wow, they really do a good job here,’ ” Gable said. “I know that Indiana is known for its basketball, but this shows that wrestling is coming around in this state. We just really have to continue this and boost this to take it to the next level.”
Anderson said the wrestlers might have had a grasp of how influential Gable was to the sport. Gable has coached wrestling teams at the NCAA, World and Olympic levels. As a wrestler, he went 118-1 and won two national titles at Iowa State. He won the gold medal in the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich while not giving up a single point. Gable later turned his attention to coaching. He coached Iowa to 15 NCAA championships and 21 Big Ten Championships. He coached the US Olympic Wrestling team at the 1980, 1984 and 2000 Olympic Games.
“Some of the kids just don’t grasp who he is just because they are not exposed to the sport enough,” Anderson said. “The sport is not on TV enough, so there are not a lot of common names. Kids watch a lot of TV these days, so they are not exposed to the sport of wrestling because they haven’t seen it enough.”
Crawfordsville incoming senior Dylan McBride was one of the wrestlers who knew of Gable and what he did for the sport. “He was one of the really big reasons why I came here,” McBride said. “When I went to the museum in Iowa that was named after him, that just made me more excited to come to this camp.”
Mini-video recorders were rolling and cameras were flashing as Gable stood and talked while campers formed circle around him. With Wabash also having a dual-meet camp this week, Gable didn’t get too much into live drills. Instead, Gable instructed more about the essentials of wrestling and basic fundamentals.
During the afternoon, Gable got more into drills and ended the session by teaching the wrestlers a whip over move.
“A lot of these wrestlers know wrestling holds, but holds can be broken down into about 20 steps,” Gable said. “I talk to the kids more about the concept of each step and essentials such as getting in the proper position and philosophy.”
With Title IX taking away some college wrestling programs, Gable also talked to the campers about the importance of keeping the sport entertaining. He said at times both college and Olympic wrestling can get boring because wrestlers do too much standing around.
“Our sport at the college level continually has to fight money issues and whatever other issues,” Gable said. “With colleges doing cutbacks, the cutbacks usually come at the sports that are the easiest to cut. So if we continue to put out a good product and do a good job of entertaining, it’s harder for wrestling to be in the extinction type of group.”
Matt Wilson is the sports editor for the Journal Review.