FEB. 6 HOME STRETCH COLUMN — PETE TEMPLE, SPORTS EDITOR
Two things stuck with me from Dan Gable’s visit to the Jones County Youth Development Center Jan. 30.
First of all, even though he stepped down as Iowa Hawkeye wrestling coach 15 years ago, the man is still coaching.
In his speech at the Monticello Chamber of Commerce Banquet, Gable talked about athletes he coached who have gone on to successful private and business lives. Others have been less successful.
“I’m still working on a couple of them,” Gable told the audience.
For some of these guys, it has probably been 20 years since they’ve donned a singlet and swaggered out to the mat, and yet, Gable is still guiding them, still leading them, still coaching them.
The second thing is his undying, never-ending, overwhelming support of the sport he loves.
After his speech, I went up to Gable and asked him if he had any advice for a media person covering wrestling and other sports.
I expected a cliché or two that I had heard before, maybe “be accurate” or “be thorough” or something similar.
Instead, he took the question to mean, “How can I, as a media person, support wrestling?” And he proceeded to tell me.
He said that the great thing about wrestling is that in a small town, there might only be one outstanding wrestler, but that one wrestler can take himself, his school, and his town all the way to the finals.
Gable suggested that if you promote that one wrestler, it might inspire another one. And another one. And so on.
There is no questioning his love for his sport.
Duals vs. individuals
While we’re on the subject of wrestling, I’d like to weigh in (sorry) on the current controversy regarding the Iowa state wrestling individual and dual state tournaments.
As you may know, the duals tournament used to be held the Saturday following the individual tournament. Last year, they moved the individual tournament from a Wednesday through Saturday event to Thursday-Saturday, and put the duals tournament on Wednesday.
The idea was to attract a larger crowd to the duals tournament by attaching it to the main event. It worked in a way, but backfired in another way.
Some coaches, worried about fatigue in their state qualifying individuals, benched some of them for the duals state tournament. This did not sit well with the Iowa High School Athletic Association (IHSAA), which recently urged coaches to use their best lineups if they make this year’s duals tournament.
If I were a coach, I’d rest my best guys too. The problem isn’t with the coaches, it’s with the schedule.
It reminds me of that scenario in last summer’s Olympics, when a Chinese women’s badminton team was purposely throwing matches. The tournament was set up so that the team could wind up with a more favorable draw with fewer wins, so the Chinese team purposely missed shots, served into the net, etc.
It was horrible for the live audience, the TV audience, and for the integrity of the Olympics. And I didn’t blame the Chinese team in the least.
Those athletes were not the problem. The format was the problem. Any format that makes it advantageous to lose once in a while is flawed, and needs to be changed.
There is another precedent coming from the wrestling situation that is undesirable at best: the idea that the IHSAA can dictate to coaches how to arrange their lineups. I understand the idea of making matches more attractive for fans, but again, it’s the system that is at fault.
If coaches think their chances are better for success in the individual tournament by resting guys in the state duals, they are likely going to rest them.
And the scheduling of the duals tournament needs to be re-examined.