Growing up a pro wrestling fan in Minnesota -- a state known for its rich wrestling history on all levels -- Chad Gable accomplished two major wrestling goals.
As amateur wrestler Chas Betts, he made the 2012 U.S. Olympic team.
As pro wrestler Chad Gable, he made the 2016 WWE main roster.
Two difficult tasks to say the least.
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For the amateur portion, Dan Chandler was one who helped him along the way.
Chandler, the state coach for Minnesota USA Wrestling and head coach for the prestigious Minnesota Storm club team, leads the youth and adult levels. He is a three-time Olympic wrestler for Team USA (1976, 1980, 1984), and he also coached in seven Olympics (1988, 1992, 1996, 2000, 2004, 2008, 2012).
“I began working with Chas when he was a sophomore in high school,” said Chandler, a mulit-time USA Wrestling Greco-Roman Coach of the Year.
Gable attended St. Michael-Albertville High School, which has an outstanding wrestling program in Minnesota. He started four years on varsity, beginning his freshman year.
“Typically, you’ll see a lot of guys there who start wrestling varsity in seventh grade,” Gable noted. “[St. Michael-Albertville High School] is a wrestling powerhouse; so it’s not easy to crack the line-up there as a young kid as compared to other places.”
Once he started, he didn’t stop.
A 135-140-pound wrestler as a freshman, Gable decided to wrestle his natural weight 150-160 as a junior and senior, amassing 138 wins in four seasons.
“I decided to get away from the weight cutting,” Gable said. “It made training more fun. It made competing more fun. It made the whole experience more enjoyable.”
Especially his senior season.
“It culminated my senior year in a magical senior season,” he said. “It worked out so great. I won a state individual championship, and as a team we were undefeated and also won the state team championship. We had lost a few times in the state finals at the state tournament as a team in the years leading up to my senior year; so it was kind of a storybook ending to where we lost and lost and my senior year we pull it all together, and we all won to end on this great note. That was the beginning of what was this great rise of St. Michael, and they’re still great.”
Chandler added: “He also came from a good club, the Hi-Flyers Wrestling Club, so when I first met him he was pretty advanced,” Chandler recalled. “He wound up winning the national championships, when he was in high school, and then he went on to Northern Michigan University and competed there and for my club, the Minnesota Storm.”
The Storm, which features many of the best Greco-Roman athletes in the nation, is among the most successful club teams on the national level. Northern Michigan University in Marquette, Mich. is a United States Olympic Training Site. It is the second-largest Olympic training center in the United States, in terms of residents, behind Colorado Springs.
“It was a very unique situation,” Gable said. “At the time, it was very new. What they had there was the United States Olympic Education Center. It was the only place where you could go to college on scholarship -- which was a true full scholarship, something unique -- and also train for the Olympics at the same time. So we weren’t wrestling for Northern Michigan. We were training for the Olympics. We would go to classes, just like a normal student, but at 6 in the morning, we would go to practice, before school, and at 3:30 in the afternoon, we would go to practice again. It was the most unique and awesome environment. I look back at those times very fondly. I spent six years there training so hard and becoming a brotherhood with members of that team. It was one of the greatest periods of my life, so far.”
Off the mat, Gable earned an arts design degree in electronic imaging, which includes computer animation, motion graphics, graphic design and more. On it...Chandler said: “He was fierce. He was a very, very good competitor. He always seemed to rise to the occasion for a big match. He knew what he was going to do and how he was going to do it...and usually got it done. He made the 2012 [U.S.] Olympic team and won a lot of international medals.”
Gable said: “Dan Chandler was an incredible Greco [Roman] wrestler with such a passion for it, and he initially inspired me to chase that Olympic dream,” Gable said. “When I was a kid in my kids’ club, one of my coaches, Brandon Paulson, was an Olympic silver medalist in Greco-Roman wrestling...I’ve kind of always been surrounded by these guys who’ve aspired so high and achieved so much in Greco wrestling; so it’s hard not to be inspired by them.”
What was Gable like on the mat, off it.
“He was very coachable and very humble and a very respectful individual, when I was working with him,” Chandler said. “In situations where there’s a lot of stress, he was always pretty calm. He found a way to manage the emotional side of the sport, the nervousness, and that’s not an easy thing to do. A lot of guys are really good athletes, but they can’t overcome that part of the sport. It’s a very intense sport. Just like a kid when you get in a fight on a playground, you get those butterflies before every match. He conquered that, and it helped him to be as successful as he was...and still is.”
When Gable made the U.S. Olympic team in 2012, Chandler breathed a sigh of relief.
“It’s very meaningful to me, because it’s the pinnacle of an amateur career,” Chandler said. “Our club [Minnesota Storm] was founded in the mid-60s, and we’ve had at least one wrestler -- and as many as six -- on every [U.S.] Olympic team going back to 1968. It took a lot of pressure off of me, because when he made it to the finals of the  Olympic Trials, he was going against another Minnesotan; so the good thing was one was going to make it, and we were assured of keeping that string going.”
Gable said: “After I graduated and started training for the Olympics, I was Blessed with some of the greatest coaches on the planet, including Ivan Ivanov, a Bulgarian who really instilled a lot of training values and mentality stuff that I still use today. Momir Petkovic from Serbia, a Yugoslovian Olympic champion. Those guys have a different mentality than a normal person [quick chuckle], and it can seem a little crazy at times, but once you start to understand it and get it, it changed my life. Both those guys I owe a lot to for the rest of my life.”
Following the 2012 Olympics, Gable opted for pro wrestling, instead of MMA or graphic design.
“I know quite a few guys who became professional wrestlers,” said Chandler. “I wrestled in the Olympics with Brad Rheingans.”
Rheingans, another Minnesota native who made the U.S. Olympic team in 1976 and 1980, is a former pro wrestler and pro wrestling trainer.
“Brad had a very successful professional wrestling school [World Wide School of Professional Wrestling in Hamel, Minn.] and was a booking agent for New Japan [Pro Wrestling],” Chandler recalled. “So when Chas told me he wanted to get into professional wrestling, I got him in contact with Brad, and Brad talked to him a little bit, and I also hooked him up with Jim Raschke, the Baron, who is a friend of mine.”
Baron Von Raschke is a pro wrestling legend.
Chandler added: “I gave the same advice to Brock Lesnar [another accomplished amateur wrestler who transitioned successfully into pro wrestling]. I wanted Brock to try out for the Olympics, and he said, ‘Dan, I want to go into the ring and do professional wrestling;’ so I hooked him up with Brad Rheingans.”
Gable, 30, signed with WWE in late 2013, assigned to the state-of-the-art WWE Performance Center in Orlando. He won NXT tag team gold with Jason Jordan as American Alpha, and they made the WWE main roster in 2016.
“I’m not surprised that Chas is successful [in WWE],” Chandler said. “He’s got that personality, and I know he has a passion for doing it. When he was in eighth or ninth grade, he won a contest and got to go to a camp where kids learned how to do pro wrestling, learned pro wrestling skills. So even back when he was in middle school, he was into professional wrestling, and even back then, he knew he wanted to try it.”
- Amateur Accomplishments
Minnesota State Wrestling Champion (2004)
World University Games silver medal (2006)
Pan-American Championships gold medal (2012)
Gedza International silver medal (2012)
Pan-American Olympic Qualifier silver medal (2012)
Granma Cup bronze medal (2012)
Dave Schultz Memorial International gold medal (2012)
U.S. Olympic Trials Champion (2012)
- In good company
Andy Bisek, also of the Minnesota Storm, has known Gable for a long time. He has done very well, too, during his amateur wrestling career.
Bisek is a 2016 U.S. Olympic Team member, a two-time World bronze medalist (2014-15), four-time U.S. World Team member, 2015 Pan American Games champion, two-time U.S. Open champion (2014, 2015) and two-time Pan American Championships champion (2012, 2014).
“My best friend in the world is Andy Bisek,” Gable said. “We’ve been friends for a long, long time, since middle school and in high school. Right before I moved up to Northern Michigan for college, I was talking with him at a wrestling tournament over that summer. He was going to go to Mankato, a college in Minnesota. He loved Greco-Roman wrestling, too, and I said, ‘Bisek, you can go with me to Northern Michigan, and we can do this Greco-Roman wrestling together.
“So about a week before [college] started, he switched schools to go to Northern Michigan with me. We trained along side each other for eight years. We traveled the world together. We moved to Colorado together to train at the Olympic Training Center there, and he ended up making the [U.S.] Olympic team in 2016 in Rio.
“It was kind of funny how he was going to do this completely opposite thing and go to Mankato, but then last minute -- spur of the moment deal -- he decided to go to Northern Michigan with me...and made the Olympic team...and about three weeks ago, he actually took the coaching job at Northern Michigan.”
- WWE SmackDown in Miami
WWE returns to Miami for the holidays with a super SmackDown house show (no TV) on Friday, Dec. 30 at the AmericanAirlines Arena, home of the three-time NBA champion Miami Heat. American Alpha (Chad Gable and Jason Jordan) will be there.
“It’s going to be great,” Gable said. “The live events are incredible. They are a super intimate experience -- something you wouldn’t normally get from being at a SmackDown TV or Monday Night Raw TV [show]. With TV, everything is going so fast. These [house] shows [no TV] give fans more of a chance to interact with the superstars. It’s a lot of fun. You get up-close and personal. Everybody puts their 100 percent effort in...leaves it all out there every night...especially on this holiday tour, which is really fun. The crowds are so into it.”
WWE World Champ AJ Styles vs. Dean Ambrose vs. John Cena in a triple threat match main event for the title. Guest timekeeper James Ellsworth.
Also scheduled to appear: SmackDown Women’s Champ Alexa Bliss, Randy Orton, Kane, Bray Wyatt, Luke Harper, Dolph Ziggler, The Miz w/Maryse, and more.
“We’re all looking forward to it,” Gable said. “I’m putting my best foot forward for sure, because my wife and daughter are going to be in Miami for that show, and we’re going to take a little vacation after that. So they’re gonna be there to pump me up, so I might throw a little bit extra out there that night.”
Talent subject to change.
Get your tickets and your holiday popcorn tin.
Ticket Prices: $119, $94; $69, $49, $34, $24 (additional fees apply). Save when purchasing a Me+3 bundle.
This show offers a WWE VIP Experience ticket which includes meeting WWE Superstars.
Tickets available at the AmericanAirlines Arena Ticket Office, www.ticketmaster.com; or charge-by-phone 800-745-3000.
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