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Iowa wrestling legend Dan Gable joins Trump onstage during a rally, calls the president 'a champion'


Tony Leys   | Des Moines Register
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Iowa wrestling legend Dan Gable joined President Donald Trump onstage at a Des Moines rally Wednesday evening, accepting the president’s praise and telling several thousand cheering fans that Trump is "a champion" who deserves re-election.

Trump announced to the crowd at his airport rally that he will award the former Iowa State University wrestler and University of Iowa coach the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

In explaining his decision, which had become public earlier Wednesday, Trump called Gable “the pride of Iowa.”

Trump recounted how Gable amassed a 181-1 record in college at Iowa State, then won an Olympic gold medal in 1972.

“To do that, he had to wrestle against the six greatest wrestlers in that weight class in the world,” the president said. “And he did something never done before: He didn’t yield one point throughout the whole thing.”

The two men stood several feet apart most of the time they were together onstage. Trump, who recently was hospitalized for COVID-19, jokingly urged Gable to get closer to him.

“Hey Dan, I’m immune and I can’t give it to you,” he said.

Gable, using a separate microphone, said he appreciated Trump's decision to give him the award.

“That’s the highest honor. I’m used to winning, having to do it on the mat,” he said.

More: A son-in-law's letter to a senator leads to president awarding wrestling icon Dan Gable the Medal of Freedom

The retired coach praised the president as a dedicated winner, like the wrestlers on his University of Iowa teams.

“This guy’s already a one-time champion,” Gable said of Trump. “But because he’s open for learning and he’s already very competent, he’s going to be a multi-champion president of the United States of America.”

The coach’s prediction drew applause from the crowd, and chants of “Four more years! Four more years!”

More: Watch replay: President Trump's campaign rally in Des Moines, plus find full coverage

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Tony Leys covers health care for the Register. Reach him at tleys@registermedia.com or 515-284-8449. 

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