When it comes to wrestling, I am myself a Pennsylvania guy (best high school wrestling in America, baby) through and through. One of my proudest moments as a fan of the sport came this year when my fellow Biglerville native Laike Gardner of Lehigh beat Spisak of UVA in the first round of the tourney at 141 lbs. This was awesome because Spisak came from Boiling Springs, just a few miles up the road from Biglerville. It has been remarkably fun watching Penn State take four titles in a row, because for us in Pennsylvania, it's frankly about time that a program in our state started winning at the highest levels of amateur wrestling. Even if it was Pitt or Lehigh, we'd be happy.
However, there is no question that Penn State is nowhere near Iowa's historic levels of wrestling dominance. Unless I see years of evidence to the contrary, Gable would kick Sanderson's butt. We're talking about a program that once had nine out of ten individual Big Ten champions at one tournament in the 1980s. All of this to say that Dan Gable is so prominent, so awesome, so completely incomparable as a figure in the sport, that even here in central Pennsylvania, even from the perspective of a "Pennsylvania first, second, and last" person, Dan Gable is the greatest figure I can think of in American wrestling. The man somehow slides into this zone between truth and Chuck Norris meme-territory. In short, Gable is truly a huge, towering figure to people outside of the Hawkeye state.
With all of that as a preface, there was some poster over at Black Shoe Diaries who had never heard of Dan Gable. Please don't think I'm calling the guy out, because if one is Canadian and one is not a wrestling fan, then it's perfectly understandable for one to be unaware of Dan Gable. But where things got really weird was when he mentioned that he had a friend, also Canadian, who had been a four year varsity track athlete at Iowa. Said friend had also never heard of Gable. At this point, someone else asked the question that I put as the title of this post.
Initially, I was taking all of this in in a humorous tone, but I'm starting to get really baffled. There are people at Iowa who don't know about Dan Gable? This man is certainly one of the greatest athletes ever in America, and from my knowledge of Iowa sports, his legacy is rivaled only there by that of Nile Kinnick.
So I suppose my question is actually pretty serious, because my appreciation for Gable borders on the mythical. How much of a legend is Gable at Iowa? How much does he matter to those fans who are outside the wrestling lore?