Remarks by President Trump at the Presentation of the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Dan Gable
Oval Office Washington, DC December 7, 2020 12:38 P.M. EST
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much. And today it's my privilege to present our nation's highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, to one of the greatest wrestlers in American history: Iowa legend, Dan Gable. He has been an incredible inspiration to so many people.
We're joined today by Dan's wonderful wife, Kathy, and their incredible and large family, including 13 grandchildren. Thank you very much. Thank you, Kathy, very much. It's a great honor for us too. Thank you for being here.
We're also joined by Iowa senators Chuck Grassley - where's Chuck? Chuck? Congratulations on everything, Chuck. And Joni Ernst, who just had a big victory. Thank you, Joni. What a job. What a job. They had you down a couple of points, and you won by a lot. So, you know -
SENATOR ERNST: Thank you.
THE PRESIDENT: - it's one of those things that you really - you should be very proud of yourself. You campaigned hard, and it was a tremendous victory. Thank you very much.
And also, Representatives Jim Jordan - where's Jim? A great wrestler, a really great wrestler. I won't go over the record because the only way you're not great is compared to this guy, perhaps. (Laughter.) But he's a warrior in every way, and we appreciate you being here.
And, Markwayne Mullin, thank you very much for being here. And I'm glad your son is doing well and setting records also. So these two guys are great. They're really, really fantastic people.
Dan was born and raised in the working-class town of Waterloo, Iowa. His mother said she knew Dan would be a wrestler the day they brought him home from the hospital. Even as an infant, Dan refused to let his back even touch the ground. That's sort of an interesting statement. (Laughter.) Probably so.
At four years old, his parents sent him to the local YMCA where he learned to swim, wrestle, and play football. When he reached high school, Dan decided to commit himself entirely to wrestling. His coach quickly saw his unmatched intensity and gave Dan the keys to the gym so he could come first thing in the morning to practice. At first, Dan was alone, but as he achieved one victory after another, the rest of the team followed his lead. He worked hard, but he was also born with something very special. It's called talent. And talent, you either have it or you don't.
During his time in high school, Dan's beloved sister, Diane - toughest time in his life - was murdered. Afterwards, Dan poured even more of his energy into wrestling, and his exceptional success brought happiness and pride to his family, especially in overcoming this incredible heartbreak that they had with what happened to Diane.
As a high school wrestler, Dan went 64 and 0, not losing a single match. And I have to say Jim Jordan told me all about - I knew all about Dan, but he told me things that are pretty amazing. Right, Jim? Pretty amazing.
Dan then attended Iowa State, where he secured two NCAA wrestling championships - national wrestling championships; three Big Eight titles; and became a three-time All-American. He won 117 consecutive matches and lost only one. Well, you know, in politics, I won two, so I'm two and oh. And that's pretty good, too. But we'll see how that turns out.
After that lone defeat, Dan vowed that it wasn't going to happen again. He couldn't stand the feeling of losing a match. He rededicated himself to mastering the sport and soon adapted his wrestling style to reach new heights of greatness. Sports Illustrated labeled Dan the hardest-working athlete in the world by far, and detailed his rigorous routine of working out two to three times a day, every single day of the week. They estimated that Dan produced 60 pounds of sweat every seven days. That's a lot. I'm not sure I want to hear about it, but that's a lot. (Laughter.) That's a lot of work.
In his pursuit of perfection, Dan suffered multiple injuries: his nose, multiple fingers were broken, and his feet. Very tough stuff. He pushed every single muscle to the absolute limit. Nobody has ever done it like him. But his unwavering grit and focus - it propelled him forward through all of that adversity. Tremendous adversity.
Before matches, Dan would repeat the words "cakes, carries, ducks, picks, shucks, sweeps" over and over again. I'll have to ask Dan why. Why, Dan? (Laughs.)
MR. GABLE: Because they're all moves that end the match -
THE PRESIDENT: Oh.
MR. GABLE - and you get your hand raised.
THE PRESIDENT: Oh. Wow.
MR. GABLE: So I - that's - that was going through my head.
THE PRESIDENT: That's pretty good.
MR. GABLE: I wasn't worried about his moves; I was only worrying about my moves.
THE PRESIDENT: Wow. Well, you did the - whatever it was, you did the right thing. (Laughter.)
He had only two things in mind: scoring and dominating. In the midst of the Cold War, he was selected to represent Team USA at the 1972 Munich Olympics. The leader of the Soviet wrestling team proclaimed that he would search the USSR and find a wrestler that would defeat Dan Gable. That was his big ambition. And they found somebody that was considered one of the greatest anywhere in the world. But they failed. Dan won every match and did not give up a single point.
How many matches in the Olympics, Dan?
MR. GABLE: Six.
THE PRESIDENT: So you won every match, and you didn't give up a point.
MR. GABLE: Right.
THE PRESIDENT: And that's a record. It's a record, I think, that still stands.
To do that, did the - the Russian in the final did not get a point?
MR. GABLE: The Russian did not get a point.
THE PRESIDENT: And what did you win that one by?
MR. GABLE: Only won it three-oh, but -
THE PRESIDENT: That's okay. (Laughter.) That's pretty good. What do you think, Jim? Have you ever heard of where you go six matches and don't give up a point against great talent?
REPRESENTATIVE JORDAN: I watched - yeah, I watched -
THE PRESIDENT: You watched it, right?
REPRESENTATIVE JORDAN: I watched his final match against the Russian, yes.
THE PRESIDENT: No, it's amazing. It's really - to me, that's amazing. Not - not giving up a single point.
He toppled Soviet preeminence in the sport. At that time, Russia's - they had the greatest wrestlers in the world, they thought, except for Dan, and they sort of felt they couldn't beat him. Defeated their wrestler in that final match and took home the Olympic Gold Medal.
As a wrestler, Dan set a pin streak record of 25 consecutive pins. Now, I'm larger than you, a little bit. Do you think I could take you in wrestling? Would I have a big advantage?
MR. GABLE: No, you would have no chance. (Laughter.)
THE PRESIDENT: What do you think? I agree. Do you agree with that, John? I do.
Q He's the expert.
THE PRESIDENT: He is the expert. That is held to this day - 25 consecutive pins. He was also the first American to win consecutive World and Olympic titles.
Dan went on to coach at the University of Iowa, where he secured 355 victories and 15 NCAA team titles. And Jim Jordan told me that he was the greatest wrestler ever, but he may have been a better coach. Right, Jim?
REPRESENTATIVE JORDAN: Mm-hmm.
THE PRESIDENT: Now, has any team, in any sport, ever won 15 NCAA team titles? Because I don't know. I mean, I think that's a lot. That's more than UCLA in basketball, right?
MR. GABLE: Yes.
THE PRESIDENT: So, I don't know of any - has any - Jim? I don't think so.
REPRESENTATIVE JORDAN: I don't know. I think that may be (inaudible).
THE PRESIDENT: I think it's incredible.
His team scored an average of 17 victories for every loss, and he was named the University of Iowa's all-time winningest coach. And I think, probably, you look all over the country, you'd be the all-time winningest coach. So that's incredible. Fifteen NCAA titles.
As a coach, Dan has trained, guided, and mentored 152 All-American athletes, 106 Big Ten champions, 45 national champions, and 12 Olympians. He was also the head coach of three U.S. Olympic teams. Dan has said, quote, "I never jumped for joy as a player, but I always jump for joy as a coach." In other words, he did his job, but he was really rooting for those other people to do theirs. That's great, Dan. That's a great statement.
Dan has been inducted into the USA Wrestling Hall of Fame, the United States Olympic Hall of Fame, the National Wrestling Hall of Fame, and the United World Wrestling Hall of Fame. In 2013, he helped ensure that wrestling remained a very important top Olympic sport.
The National Wrestling Hall of Fame has built a Dan Gable Museum in Dan's hometown - a permanent reminder of the incredible journey that started in the great state of Iowa.
I love Iowa. I love Iowa, and I knew those polls were wrong. They had me losing Iowa, Dan, and we won Iowa by a lot. There were a lot of polls that were wrong. I love that state.
No one has done more to promote wrestling in America than Dan Gable. He is an athletic giant who conquered one of the most difficult and ancient sports in the world. He is the greatest wrestler, probably, ever. We've never had anybody like him. He has made our country very proud, and he is a true "GOAT." Do you know what "GOAT" is? GOAT. "Greatest of all time," right? He is the greatest of all time.
Today, in recognition of his really exceptional achievements, Dan will become the first wrestler in history to receive this, our most important award, along with the Congressional Medal of Honor.
I would now like to ask the military aide to step forward to present Coach Dan Gable with the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
But before doing that, I'd like to have Dan say a few words. Please. Thank you. Dan, please.
MR. GABLE: Wrestlers are all sizes and shapes, so. (Laughter.) I asked how much time I had up here because I'm not used to a short talk, and they said I had three minutes. And I'm used to speaking to groups for 45 minutes and so on. And I had one company actually bring me in for four hours straight, talking. And I did it, and they brought me back four more years after that. So I must've did a good job.