Published on Monday, May 21, 2018
In this his latest Time Out blog, Brendan Unkrich talks farming, family, and, of course, wrestling with legendary wrestling coach Dan Gable. During his wrestling career, Dan earned two national titles and won an Olympic gold medal. As a coach, he won 15 team titles. Coach Gable is now retired from coaching, but he remains active in the sport by promoting it regularly. Check out this blog to learn how Coach Gable continued to set high goals throughout his career and then used them as motivation to excel in everything he did.
How has retirement been so far and how much do you stay involved in wrestling?
For me, 48 or 49 was when I stepped down from coaching. And coaching really was my profession even though I did it for 25 years. But at around 48 or 49, I wasn't really ready to just hang it up, especially when you have a work ethic like a wrestler. You get up and find things that need to be done, whether that be for your family or other people. I've basically been in the promotion of the sport and so that's where I'm at today. And I probably will keep that promotion type of a label until I die.
Credit: University of Iowa Athletics
Who were your sports icons growing up?
The first TV came out when I was about four years old, and I was able to start watching pro sports. I was hooked on the Yankees right away and hooked onto a guy named Mickey Mantle in the fifties. I just love the guy; he hit left handed and could hit a homer or beat out an infield single. He could catch unbelievably! He was kind of my hero.
What were your goals as a wrestler?
I just didn't have goals like I want to be this or I want to be that. I wanted to get better, you know, like when somebody would grab a hold of me and spar with me, I would just want to dominate them. My improvement rate was way higher than everybody else just because I thought that was what it was all about. We're going to practice to learn and get better and come up with new moves, come up with new ways to dominate. I tried to do those same things as a coach to help my wrestlers be the best.
How have farm boys impacted your wrestling teams?
I love farm kids. There's probably not going to be a finer place to get a kid than right off the farm. If you have created some independence with your children, and they have a work ethic, and they have a lot of physical and mental abilities, they will make great wrestlers. They make great people! Those kids come in tough and have great work ethic to get better. Farm kids are willing to pay the price and do everything that's necessary to be successful.
If you were the head of the NCAA, what would you do to promote and/or change college wrestling?
I'd say if you went to the NCAA’s this year, there wasn't a whole lot that they weren't doing to up the sport. I mean, it was a great environment! I would keep doing that kind of stuff.
You grew up next to Northern Iowa, were a two-time national champion at Iowa State, and you coached 15 NCAA titles at Iowa. Do you consider yourself a Panther, a Cyclone, a Hawkeye, or just an Iowan who supports all three schools?
In wrestling I consider myself a worldwide ambassador. I grew up in Waterloo, Iowa, right next to the University of Northern Iowa. I love the Panthers. Then I went to Iowa State and had some of the best years of my life. Then I came to the University of Iowa, that's where I spent most of my life. Even though my hometown is Waterloo and I had great times in Ames, my current family, the one that I've helped create with my wife, our daughters and grandkids, would consider Iowa City home. I would call myself an Iowan.
I am going to ask you a few rapid-fire questions. Are you ready?
What is a sport that you follow or play outside of wrestling?
I love to fish. I really enjoy taking my grandkids fishing.
Favorite team you liked to win against as a wrestler?
It was Oklahoma state. When I even got near the state of Oklahoma, I started sweating. So then as I started wrestling internationally, on my wall it said beat the Russians, beat the Russians.
Favorite team you liked to win against as a coach?
Any team that we wrestled against, I wanted to beat.
Best wrestler you ever coached against and wished you had a chance to coach?
I really never thought about the wrestlers I was coaching against. I only was coaching my wrestlers and I wanted my wrestlers to be the winner.
What are your plans and goals professionally and personally moving forward?
Professionally, I want to keep on promoting wrestling. Helping in any way I can. Personally, I was born into a family of four, three have passed on and now between me and my wife and daughters and their family, I just want to spend as much time as I can with them. I just pray the best for all of them.
How has American agricultural influenced your life?
I lived on a farm when I was two years old, but that only lasted six months because all the animals died. They caught a disease, and we were right on a river. The river flooded all the crops, and we were done being farmers. But you just don't jump into farming and think you're going to be a great farmer. My uncle, my mom’s brother, was a farmer. I got to spend a lot of summers on their farm and really enjoyed it. Farmers produce the food and without the food we can’t survive. That shows the great importance of farmers.
Thanks for your time Coach Gable. Best of luck on and off the mat!
Author: Brendan Unkrich
Categories: Sports and Lifestyle
Tags: Time Out, Sports and Leisure, Baseball, DAN GABLE, Wrestling, Coach
Brendan grew up on his family's farm outside of Swedesburg, Iowa. During high school, he played basketball, baseball, and golf. After high school, Brendan attended Iowa State University where he ran the scout team for the ISU women’s basketball team. Brendan graduated in 2001 with a bachelor in
Brendan grew up on his family's farm outside of Swedesburg, Iowa. During high school, he played basketball, baseball, and golf. After high school, Brendan attended Iowa State University where he ran the scout team for the ISU women’s basketball team. Brendan graduated in 2001 with a bachelor in agricultural business and accepted an internship with the Indiana Pacers in the video scouting department. After a year away, Brendan decided to rejoin his father on the family farm and take a part-time college basketball scouting position covering the Midwest, allowing him to pursue both his passions. Today, farming and family take up most of his time, but he still follows sports, especially basketball, constantly. Brendan and his wife have a three-year-old son and one-year-old daughter who are full of energy and laughter, and growing entirely too fast. Brendan also enjoys a round of golf and caddies for his brother in-law in a couple of tournaments each year.