WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump presented the nation’s highest civilian honor to Dan Gable, a renowned wrestler and coach from Iowa who won a gold medal at the 1972 Summer Olympics.
Trump used an October campaign rally to announce the selection of Gable for the Presidential Medal of Freedom, bringing him on stage to the delight of the crowd as he sought to win over Iowa voters. The ceremony on Monday at the White House fulfills that commitment.
Gable is one of several sports figures to be presented the award during Trump’s time in office. Gable was a champion wrestler at Iowa State University, compiling a 117-1 record and winning two NCAA titles. During his six matches at the Munich Olympics, he went unscored upon.
"No one has done more to promote wrestling in America than Dan Gable. He's an athletic giant who conquered one of the most difficult and ancient sports in the world," Trump said during the ceremony. "He's the greatest wrestler, probably, ever. We've never had anybody like him. He's made our country very proud. And he's a true GOAT. You know what GOAT is? GOAT? Greatest Of All Time."
The ceremony marked the second time in one week that the President bestowed the medal among an audience where many were not social distancing or wearing masks.
Those in the Oval for Gable’s ceremony included Iowa Republican Sens. Joni Ernst and Chuck Grassley, who returned to his Senate office last week after testing positive for the coronavirus.
"I thank you very much for giving this kid here the opportunity to reach this level of the highest award a civilian can get, the Presidential Medal of Freedom. ... And to the sport of wrestling, being the first to win this award becomes a higher challenge to all that participate," Gable said when accepting the medal.
Gable would go on to an incredibly successful coaching career at the University of Iowa, where his teams won 15 NCAA titles.
The White House said in announcing the ceremony that Gable has “inspired thousands of athletes in Iowa, the United States, and the world.”
The Presidential Medal of Freedom is awarded to people who have made exceptional contributions to the security or national interests of America, to its culture or to other significant endeavors.
Last week, Trump presented the medal to college football Hall of Famer and political ally Lou Holtz, whose 34-year coaching career included the 1988 national title at the University of Notre Dame.