Gabe Dean Joins Vermont Wrestler; Coming To Castleton University
Join Us As Gabe Talks About Family, Faith, Purpose and Wrestling
NCAA Champion (2015, 2016)
NCAA All-American (2014, 2015, 2016, 2017)
NCAA Qualifier (2014, 2015, 2016, 2017)
EIWA Wrestler of the Year (2015, 2017)
EIWA Coaches Trophy (2015, 2017)
EIWA Sheridan Award (2016)
EIWA Rookie of the Year (2014)
EIWA Champion (2014, 2015, 2016, 2017)
Ivy League Wrestler of the Year (2015, 2017)
Ivy League Rookie of the Year (2014)
First-Team All-Ivy League (2014, 2015, 2016, 2017)
New York State Wrestler of the Year (2015)
New York State Freshman of the Year (2014)
New York State Champion (2014, 2015, 2016, 2017)
Michigan High School Football Association
Coaches Hall of Fame
You’ve got a camp coming up with Coach Legacy at Castleton. Talk about the camp and what wrestlers can expect to see there and what type of training they’ll get.
Coach Legacy has done a great job in his career with the sport of wrestling. The camp that he runs puts a real emphasis on development, creates that fun atmosphere that you need and his success shows that. It’s a lot of fun for me as a technician and a clinician to come in and work with a guy that has the same values sport wise as mine. I have a lot of respect for Coach Legacy and I’m really looking forward to working with him again. It will be a very fun, development focus camp. Kids will work hard but they’ll enjoy doing it and that’s the kind of culture it will be. I’ll be there on the 18th. GALLERY ADDED BELOW
How old were you when you first started wrestling and how did you get started… was it a friend…was it family?
It’s actually a pretty funny story, my dad was a good wrestler, he was a national finalist, three-time All-American for Minnesota under Jay Robertson and took a job as the assistant wrestling coach at Michigan State University. When I was 9 years old he tossed me into a Youth Tournament (he was starting a Youth Tournament business which is grown into a large company today, NUWAY) I didn’t know what I was doing and my first match I had to wrestle a girl. I got on the mat and the total match time lasted about 30 seconds. I got headlocked, put on my back and pinned.
What a normal kid would probably do is get up, shake the refs hand and walk off the mat but my pride was so hurt I proceeded to act like I was paralyzed on the mat and I started screaming I had no legs and I couldn’t feel my legs and I was Army crawling around the middle of the mat and my dad looked at my mom and said to her, “You’ve got to take this one! I’ve got to take a step outside for a second.” It was in front of all of his new colleagues and coworkers. My mom said, “Gabe, you know they’re going to call an ambulance and take you to the hospital?” and I could suddenly feel my legs again. I guess the whole point of the story is that miracles happen everyday and that that’s my first wrestling experience ever.
So obviously your dad played a fairly large role in your beginnings as a wrestler. Did he push you along or did you pretty much decide you wanted to do it yourself?
I think the thing that I appreciate the most about my parents was that they didn’t push me into anything. My dad put me around the sport and maybe did manipulate that a little bit when I was young but there was plenty of times when I wanted to quit wrestling and he let me. He’d always try to find ways to get me back into it but he never forced anything on me. He always wanted me to have my own path whether it was tennis or golf or basketball or wrestling or anything, he just supported it. I always wanted to be a football player when I was a kid and going into my senior year I was dead set on playing football in college and some things happened and I ended up wrestling
Talk about what it takes to get to the next level.
I think you really have to have a pure purpose in why you’re doing it because wrestling is not a glamorous sport by any means. It’s not like you get a ton of attention and fame for it. In my opinion it’s the hardest sport there is but then, I’m biased, so your purpose can’t be from a place where you trying to get attention or accolades, but it has to be from a place of pure love for the sport and about developing in the sport, not only as a wrestler but as a human being as well.
Wrestling became so much more clear to me when I realized that all the setbacks and adversity that I was experiencing along my journey we’re helping prepare me for the rest of my life, for the more important things like being a husband, father, and taking care of my family and the challenges that come with that. You have to have a purpose, you have to have faith. There’s so much adversity that comes with wrestling because it’s such a personal sport; there’s so many times when you’re beat down that you have to have faith that it’s always part of a big picture.
In my advice to younger wrestlers, try to find that purpose that will be sustainable, that drives you and I speak from experience, that if you’re driven to win things for accolades and for superficial things, I promise your motivation will run out. But if you’re driven for a larger picture and by your faith, someday you’re going to get there and that’s going to help you become a better person. That’s something that’s very sustainable.
Most athletes at some point in their life have an epiphany, you know that ‘aha’ moment that say, “Hey, I’m actually pretty good at this, I can do this!” When did you have that moment?
Probably going into my second year of college. My goal coming into my freshman year at Cornell was to just make the lineup, The first year I took a gap year and I took a lot of beatings and I didn’t win any tournaments or just placed in a few. A quarter of the way into my second year of college I jumped another level, I beat some of the best guys in the country and I felt I could make All-American. Halfway through the year I was down at the Southern Scuffle and I beat the best guy in the country who was Ed Ruth at the time, just an incredible athlete and wrestler, Okay, now I think I can actually be a National Champion.
When did you decide that Cornell was for you? Did you get recruited by Cornell?
Going into my senior year in high school I was dead set on playing football in college and I had a bad experience with recruiting that turned me off to the sport. So I took that experience and I decided I wanted to wrestle. My dad had a business relationship with coach Koll who was the head coach of Cornell. They were at a meeting one day and coach said, “Hey I heard your son wants to play football in college.” My dad said, “No, I think he wants to wrestle.”
Immediately after my dad said that to him, Coach set up a time to come and visit me at my home with Coach Hahn as well, They connected with my family so well and they were so gracious and family is huge for me…..my family love them. Then I took a visit out there after a football game, I literally had my shoulder pads on when I get into the car we drove to Ithaca and it was beautiful. I fell in love with the campus, the guys, the facilities and the program that they were running and that was it for me. I made my decision and I committed on the spot
How were you as a student in school in high school?
I had a 3.9 GPA
Did you think you could wrestle for Cornell?
I didn’t know; it’s one of the best programs in the country on a pretty consistent basis. I just knew that I definitely didn’t want to have any regrets, I just knew that keeping my nose down and going to work every day and working as hard as I could and paying close attention to details…I knew that, that’s all I could control. I couldn’t control whether I’d ever make the lineup or if I’d ever be any good but I just focused on the things I could control and it ended up working out for me.
How many moves would you suggest that young kids should perfect?
To be good you have to be able to get off bottom. It’s not necessarily how many moves you can do but how many different setups and combinations you can have for each different attack and knowing how to go about those based on your opponent’s reaction. As a clinician at a camp, I’m not going to show 10 different moves today I’m going to show one move and four different ways to hit it.
What was your favorite tournament as a kid?
It was a holiday Christmas tournament in Michigan and their trophies were huge. My brother and I loved those and we always loved going there and trying to win them. College, however, my favorite tournament was the Southern Scuffle right after New Year’s. It was a lot of fun, Chattanooga Tennessee was a great place, nice area.
How do you explain the attrition from the Youth Level where we get a lot of kids and we lose wrestlers as they get older
I say the issue is much bigger than the kid just not liking wrestling, there’s always a reason why. It’s probably because the kid has been pushed too hard and winning has been too much of an emphasis and focus and especially at a young age. It really comes down to the kind of culture and mood you’re setting in your room. If you’re putting an emphasis on winning all the time and that’s the only value that you have, then the kids feel pressured and they feel uncomfortable.
For them they’re wrestling for their parents egos and all the wrong things. If you change that culture and you change that mindset to a fun learning atmosphere and developing is the most important thing not winning and losing. And at the same time you build strong relationships with the parents so they not only trust you with their child, they trust you with your system and they keep bringing kids to you because you’re more of a teacher than you are just a coach. That’s how you keep the kid in the sport, kids are getting better, they don’t feel pressured and they’re focused on learning and enjoying the sport and enjoying the process.
How do you feel about having more dual tournaments and possibly a little bit less traveling and shorter days and then making the duals a little bit more exciting?
I think duals are important because there’s a team chemistry that comes along with that too, kids wrestling on the same team and going after a title together. Because the sports very individualized, there definitely has to be some traveling. It’s good to travel because it’s good for kids to see the country and compete all over the place but at the same time duals are important.
How do you feel about cutting weight?
Don’t do it until you get into college.
What would you recommend to a kid who’s trying to get into a college?
I would suggest wrestling some national tournaments, some high-level tournaments that you know coaches are going to be recruiting at, that’s the most important thing! Also, feel free to reach out to coaches, most of their contact information is public and it never hurts to reach out to coaches
What do you think about the new uniform changes in regulations? Do you think it will help the numbers at all?
I think it’s totally fine, who really knows. I’m kind of curious. I think it should be optional whether you should wear a singlet or compression outfit if you’re a kid, It will help some kids feel more comfortable. After wrestling for this many years I personally prefer a singlet, but I think it’s a good move and it shouldn’t be absolutely mandatory to wear a singlet.
Talk to me about specializing in one particular sport.
I would say don’t focus on one sport until you get to college. I played football all the way through high school and I had great experiences, a lot of great memories, connected with a lot of great people that I wouldn’t have otherwise, and it was a fun way to stay active and have a break away from wrestling. You have to have balance in your life, if you start that (specialization) at a young age and I’ve seen it plenty of times you will burn out, therefore I’m very on board with being a multi-sport athlete.
What was your wrestling calendar like when you were in high school?
I probably wrestled 5 months of the year and played football 7 I did a couple of tournaments out of season but mostly I was working on football skills out of season.
Anything you would like to say to kids in addition…
I would say that it’s important to remember what your purpose is and have faith. If you live your life the right way and do the right things I can promise that whether it’s in wrestling or whatever you want to do you will definitely find your Niche and you’ll definitely find yourself. Don’t let adversity ruin the enjoyment of it because there’s a silver lining to everything!