Schulte tells story of collecting Dan Gable’s stories

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Journalist Scott Schulte, a Connecticut native who now lives in Monona, worked with Iowa icon and Olympic wrestling gold medalist Dan Gable on “A Wrestling Life.” (Submitted photo)

By Audrey Posten, North Iowa Times Editor

When journalist Scott Schulte walked into the wrestling Olympic trials at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City in 2012, his main objective was to take in some good wrestling action. He got more than that, walking away with an interview with Iowa icon and Olympic wrestling gold medalist Dan Gable—an interview that eventually turned into a book deal.

Schulte, a Connecticut native who now lives in Monona, said the idea to interview Gable struck as he watched a video interview with Gable at the fan fest held between sessions at the trials. 

“He was talking about the murder of his sister, and I immediately thought it would be a good magazine story,” Schulte said. 

Later that day, Schulte spoke with Gary Abbott, the director of communications for U.S.A. wrestling, hoping to arrange a meeting with Gable for a future date. He never thought he’d get to speak with Gable right then, but was ushered over to meet the man who is one of his heroes.

Schulte said pitching the story idea was nerve-wracking.

“I told him my thought and he looked at the ground,” Schulte recalled. “My thought was, when he looked up, he was either going to think it was a really nice idea or punch me in the face.”

Gable thought it was a good idea, coming at a good time, as his sister’s murderer had recently passed away. 

The article ran on an online publication, but the story didn’t end there. Schulte thought Gable had too much to tell and suggested they write a book. Gable agreed.

Schulte said the original intent of the book was “20 stories with Dan Gable,” feeling a collection of stories would make for a more interesting biography.

“Everyone has a story to tell,” Schulte said. “The problem was, [Gable] had too many stories.”

With the aid of James McCoy, the director of University of Iowa Press, which published the book, the title was changed to a “A Wrestling Life: The Inspiring Stories of Dan Gable.”

Schulte said he flew to Iowa from Connecticut to interview Gable. Recorder in hand, he simply asked Gable to tell him stories.

“He was good at expressing himself and telling things you’d want to know,” Schulte said.

Back on the east coast, Schulte listened to the audio and wrote chapters, which his father, Linwood, and former teacher and coach, Charlie Phillips, then read. Schulte said his father was especially helpful throughout the process, supporting his writing and giving him a place to work.

After the initial proofing, the chapters were sent to Gable, who made suggestions.

“It was very important that the way I spoke was how he spoke,” Schulte said of the book’s writing style, noting that one memorable change was removing the word ruckus, used to describe a match at Hofstra University. “Dan said, ‘I would never use that word.’”

After making Gable’s changes, Schulte sent the material on to the team at University of Iowa Press, who he credited for easily guiding him through the process.

“They have done a phenomenal job of editing, packaging and marketing the book,” he said of McCoy, acquisitions editor Elizabeth Chretien and marketing manager Allison Means. “I had total confidence in what they wanted to do because I knew they knew what they were doing.”

While details of Gable’s wrestling career undoubtedly make the book attractive to fans around the state and country, Schulte said “A Wrestling Life” features stories, including chapter’s from Gable’s wife and daughters, that appeal to everyone.

“Some stories are funny and inspiring, while others are sad,” Schulte said. “It was important to pull on emotions. Different chapters bring up different emotions in people’s lives.”

“Dan’s the ultimate teacher—a teacher of life,” Schulte continued, adding that life lessons are a big part of the book. “It was important to us that it was more than wrestling, to know his situations and experiences will help people through tough times.”

Schulte recalled taking a life lesson from Gable when he was 14, listening to Gable at a wrestling camp in Connecticut. Gable detailed the importance of practicing moves, so they could be recalled if they were ever needed. Schulte said he practiced one move in particular for several years, never using it until the state wrestling finals, during his senior year of high school. 

“It was the third round, tied 2-2,” Schulte recollected. “The move he taught me at 14 was one you do to get out of a sit out. I won because of the move and taking what he talked about.”

This spring, Schulte took a big life step and moved to Iowa. Although living away from his sons and grandkids, Schulte said people in Monona and the surrounding area have made him feel welcome. He said he’s especially enjoyed getting to know the MFL MarMac wrestling staff, including Chet Bachman, Tracy Decker and Collin Stubbs, as well as superintendent Dale Crozier and teacher and athletic director Tom Oppelt.

“I’m impressed with the wrestling program, the dedication and work that’s put in,” he said. “I’ve met some incredible people who make me a better person by spending time with them.”

Schulte said Larry and Diane Geisler have also become like surrogate parents to him after he was introduced by their daughter, Allison Fuller, whose son has a rare deficiency that prevents the body from converting certain fats to energy, similar to one Schulte’s son Doug has. Schulte and Fuller connected through a support group before he moved to the area.

With “A Wrestling Life” now on the New York Times best-seller list, Schulte is working on another book and continues to enjoy his time in Monona.

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