Growing up in Iowa, wrestling was a part of the culture, and Iowa’s favorite wrestling ‘son’ was Dan Gable. During his prep days and college career at Iowa State, he compiled an unbelievable record of 182 wins and 1 loss. His only defeat came in the NCAA finals his senior year. Gable was a three-time all-American and three-time Big Eight champion.
After college, he added titles at the 1971 Pan American Games, the 1972 Tbilisi Tournament and the 1971 World Championships. He won an unprecedented six Midlands Open championships and was that meet’s outstanding wrestler five times. In 1972, in Munich, Germany, he won a gold medal at the Summer Olympics without surrendering a point to any of his opponents. The Soviets came to the Olympics with only one goal in mind: to defeat Gable. They were unsuccessful.
His coaching career, reflected the same intensity and skill. As the University of Iowa’s all-time winningest wrestling coach from 1977 to 1997, Gable compiled a career record of 355-21-5, all at Iowa. He coached 152 All-Americans, 45 National Champions, 106 Big Ten Champions and 12 Olympians, including four gold, one silver and three bronze medalists. The Hawkeyes won 25 consecutive Big Ten championships, 21 under Gable as head coach and four while he was an assistant coach and administrator. An amazing record, compiled by a man who knew a little something about wrestling!
The concept of ‘wrestling’ was not unfamiliar to early believers. Attempting to describe the continual battle that believers face, Paul used a Greek word, often translated ‘wrestle’. He wanted us to understand the nature of the battle. That we don’t wrestle with human beings, but with spiritual beings. And not just any spiritual beings, but principalities, powers, and rulers! Demonic angels of every rank and description, who are not to be approached casually, or half-heartedly.
As we wrestle in prayer for our nation, our families, and our congregations, perhaps we can learn something from Dan Gable’s philosophy. In his own words, he said, “I’m a big believer in starting with high standards and raising them. We make progress only when we push ourselves to the highest level. If we don’t progress, we backslide into bad habits, laziness and poor attitude.”