IOWA CITY, Iowa (KWWL) - Athletes like Tiger Woods and Roger Staubach have been given the Presidential Medal of Freedom for their contributions to the sporting world but until Wednesday, it'd never happened to a wrestler.
Olympic gold-medalist, collegiate superstar and Waterloo native Dan Gable will soon be the first man of the mat to earn the honor.
'This award hit me by a pretty good surprise, even though I had known some people that were working on it," Gable said Thursday.
The award is given to Americans who make a significant contribution to national security, world peace or culture. It is the highest honor a civilian can earn.
Gable believes the work he did to grow the game worldwide helped him earn the medal.
"There's common pieces that countries use when they try to get along and wrestling has been one of those pieces," Gable said. "I'm glad to have been a part of that."
During the 1972 Munich Olympics and his tenure as a coach for USA Wrestling, he's seen countries like Iran and Russia pour a significant amount of resources into wrestling. Whether out of competition or respect, he thinks it brought different nationalities together.
"I think our good relationship in the sport of wrestling has helped actually keep some of the peace nationally," Gable said.
Gable says he thinks other wrestlers will follow in his footsteps and keep earning the presidential distinction.
Details for the awards ceremony have not been shared yet.