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Icemeister

The Man Who Beat Dan Gable -- Larry Owings Documentary

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Not sure if this has been posted before, but great documentary on Larry Owings, which includes his own commentary of his NCAA finals match upset over Gable, and events in his life leading up to it.  (By the way, even though Owing's start in wrestling was very inauspicious -- he was fat as a youth and winless as a high school freshman, he was a very good and accomplished wrestler by the time he met Gable in the NCAA finals in 1970, suggesting that perhaps Owing's upset wasn't as great as some might think.)  However, what strikes me the most from the well-done documentary is that Owings is just a good, humble guy, who disliked the spotlight, and who is now selflessly giving back to the sport as an assistant wrestling coach for a local Oregon high school wrestling program.  It's definitely worth watching if you haven't seen it.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=9&v=AHuD161zOBU&feature=emb_logo

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1 hour ago, jackwebster said:

One thing that surprised me was that he had wrestled Gable before. IIRC, Gable said he had never seen or heard of him until Owings started talking smack to the papers in the lead up to the NCAA tournament 

Seems like there may have been a bit of misinformation that developed in the wake of the upset, and as the upset grew in magnitude with Gable's continued accomplishments and subsequent fame. 

After watching the documentary, I can't really see Owings (who obviously was uncomfortable in the spotlight) talking smack.  When asked immediately following the match if he dropped down in weight so he could wrestle and beat Gable, he said no, but that it was just the weight that best suited him and Gable just happened to be in it.  In the documentary, Owings talked about his prior match with Gable, which was not a blow-out loss, and how they had each done against a tough common opponent earlier in the season (Gable winning by 2 and Owings losing by 2). 

I think had Gable not gone on to a dominating performance in the 1972 olympics or had Owings won the NCAA championships the next two years (instead of finishing second in both), the greatest upset in the history of NCAA wrestling would not be seen as such.

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17 minutes ago, Icemeister said:

Seems like there may have been a bit of misinformation that developed in the wake of the upset, and as the upset grew in magnitude with Gable's continued accomplishments and subsequent fame. 

After watching the documentary, I can't really see Owings (who obviously was uncomfortable in the spotlight) talking smack. 

I agree. I only knew what I watched on the espn sportscentury doc. The folks interviewed and the editing makes it seem like Owings was a brash nobody who only won because he psyched out Gable, Ali style. 

 

From 17:45 to 24:00

 

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The first inaugural , 1969 USWF (now USA Wrestling) tournament was held at Northwestern's McGaw Hall, Evanston. Owings won both Greco and Freestyle @ 149 lbs. Right after the individual champions photo in the middle of the mat, Larry came up to me pointing and said, " I'm gonna beat Gable." That was April, 1969. Eleven months later, in the very same place, he did it. It was not a light afterthought he made during the 1970 season. He was angling for revenge. I awarded the medals to the six AAs and watched, as everybody did, Gable openly weeping on the podium.

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4 hours ago, Icemeister said:

Seems like there may have been a bit of misinformation that developed in the wake of the upset, and as the upset grew in magnitude with Gable's continued accomplishments and subsequent fame. 

After watching the documentary, I can't really see Owings (who obviously was uncomfortable in the spotlight) talking smack.  When asked immediately following the match if he dropped down in weight so he could wrestle and beat Gable, he said no, but that it was just the weight that best suited him and Gable just happened to be in it.  In the documentary, Owings talked about his prior match with Gable, which was not a blow-out loss, and how they had each done against a tough common opponent earlier in the season (Gable winning by 2 and Owings losing by 2). 

I think had Gable not gone on to a dominating performance in the 1972 olympics or had Owings won the NCAA championships the next two years (instead of finishing second in both), the greatest upset in the history of NCAA wrestling would not be seen as such.

But if you watch the coverage of the match itself (from that time, not in retrospect) all the talk was of Gable being undefeated in both HS and college. Sure, his stature grew after he won the Olympics, but he was deemed to be pretty unbeatable at the time.

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3 hours ago, Cooch1 said:

The first inaugural , 1969 USWF (now USA Wrestling) tournament was held at Northwestern's McGaw Hall, Evanston. Owings won both Greco and Freestyle @ 149 lbs. Right after the individual champions photo in the middle of the mat, Larry came up to me pointing and said, " I'm gonna beat Gable." That was April, 1969. Eleven months later, in the very same place, he did it. It was not a light afterthought he made during the 1970 season. He was angling for revenge. I awarded the medals to the six AAs and watched, as everybody did, Gable openly weeping on the podium.

Really cool story and what a neat perspective you have!  Sounds like maybe Owings did talk a little smack afterall -- or at least was confident enough to express his lofty expectations to others.  The comments he made in his post match interview, however, seemed respectful and tame compared to the brashness that comes out in many of today's post championship match interviews.

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13 hours ago, Icemeister said:

Really cool story and what a neat perspective you have!  Sounds like maybe Owings did talk a little smack afterall -- or at least was confident enough to express his lofty expectations to others.  The comments he made in his post match interview, however, seemed respectful and tame compared to the brashness that comes out in many of today's post championship match interviews.

That brashness today comes from the fact that today's wrestlers have trained and competed more before they ever enter HS than guys like Owings did in his entire career.

Owings then and now still calls periods "rounds".  It really was a different sport then.

 

Edited by Boompa

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as someone that was in the room occasionally the year Owings beat Gable it wasn't smack talk or brashness on Owings part. It was simply he refused to let ANY negative thought enter his mind. It was all "beat Gable" that he wanted in his mind. Larry was very soft spoken and was hard to get him to say much. I always thought  he was "one of the good guys" of the world.

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34 minutes ago, AKHUNTER said:

I always thought  he was "one of the good guys" of the world.

Hard to come away with anything other than this opinion based on the documentary.  It sounds like he has been selflessly donating his time and talent for many years at the high school level at a program which, at least based on initial appearances, would not often have someone at his level being part of their program.

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I wanted to weigh in on an LIMarty obsession: Could those dudes from ye olde times hang with today's wrestlers who train year-round in regional magnet clubs with the most up to date technique and conditioning methods?

The first takedown that Owings scores against Gable, an "under-arm spin through" (that you see alot in middle scholl but also at higher levels -- eg DeSanto uses it) to a roll-through (a combination of a trap-arm gut and a Tulsa  ride that was a staple of Batirov's brutal top game), is a super-sophisticated technique that he is able to do from both sides. On top, he uses a "blanket ride," a ride Schalles inovated and that has seen a resurgence lately (Penn State's guys still use it extensively, but Ed Ruth was the best at it. Gross uses it. Schopp used it. Moore Bro's) In the second period both guys battle through and far-ankle scramble situation; both wrestlers use Askren's fundamentals here: inside hip down and try to pressure back over the other guy's hips ... comeback era Cael burned Herbert with it. 

The only really awkward looking technique in that match was the winning takedown: sorta a half-assed Dresser dump to crack down. Both wrestlers looked gassed and uncoordinated, but no more so than, say, Alton vs Grajales or Metcalf stumbling around vs Caldwell.

Obviously, it's hard to argue for the old timers considering that all sports with measurable results (eg 100m time or clean-n-jerk weights) show that today's athletes are objectively stronger, quicker, faster, etc. But I think we short change the tech of old timers because they look weird: weird headgears, weird singlets, weird haircuts, weird shoes, weird emotional reactions.

Edited by jackwebster

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On 4/6/2020 at 1:58 PM, Icemeister said:

Seems like there may have been a bit of misinformation that developed in the wake of the upset, and as the upset grew in magnitude with Gable's continued accomplishments and subsequent fame. 

After watching the documentary, I can't really see Owings (who obviously was uncomfortable in the spotlight) talking smack.  When asked immediately following the match if he dropped down in weight so he could wrestle and beat Gable, he said no, but that it was just the weight that best suited him and Gable just happened to be in it.  In the documentary, Owings talked about his prior match with Gable, which was not a blow-out loss, and how they had each done against a tough common opponent earlier in the season (Gable winning by 2 and Owings losing by 2). 

I think had Gable not gone on to a dominating performance in the 1972 olympics or had Owings won the NCAA championships the next two years (instead of finishing second in both), the greatest upset in the history of NCAA wrestling would not be seen as such.

Owings was excellent in his own right. He made it to the quarterfinals at NCAAs his first trip to NCAA, but the guy who beat him lost in the semifinals so that was it, Owings was out. If it was double elimination at NCAAs like today he'd have probably placed by coming back through consolations. The year after he beat Gable in the finals he lost in the finals (can't remember to whom, but I think it was Keller?? ).

Gable was the better of the two, but Owings at his best was better than Gable was that day. To Gable's credit I've never heard any excuses from him on the loss.

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24 minutes ago, TobusRex said:

Owings was excellent in his own right. He made it to the quarterfinals at NCAAs his first trip to NCAA, but the guy who beat him lost in the semifinals so that was it, Owings was out. If it was double elimination at NCAAs like today he'd have probably placed by coming back through consolations. The year after he beat Gable in the finals he lost in the finals (can't remember to whom, but I think it was Keller?? ).

Gable was the better of the two, but Owings at his best was better than Gable was that day. To Gable's credit I've never heard any excuses from him on the loss.

D Keller and T Milkovich

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Tobus Rex -- your last sentence is right on the mark, good analysis. BTW, I  have known Gable for 50 years and have never heard him offer an excuse. I have known Owings for several years and have never heard him brag about the match.

 

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