Owings-Gable event at Fan Fest: New date, new details

The much-anticipated first-of-its-kind public meeting between two rivals of nearly 50 years ago -- Dan Gable and Larry Owings -- slated for the 2018 NCAA Fan Fest now has a new date ... along with some new details.

The new date

The 2018 Gable-Owings event will now take place on Saturday, March 17 at 3 p.m., after Session V of the 2018 NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships. The location remains the same: Fan Fest in Hall A of the Huntington Convention Center at 300 Lakeside Avenue in downtown Cleveland, a short walk from Quicken Loans Arena, the venue for the Division I Nationals.

As event organizer WIN Magazine pointed out in its press release issued Friday, "Wrestling fans attending the 2018 NCAA Wrestling Championships in Cleveland, Ohio, March 15-17, will have the chance to relive arguably the most talked about wrestling match of all time -- the Larry Owings' upset of undefeated two-time NCAA champion Dan Gable in the 1970 NCAA finals. For the first time in history, the two living legends will make a public appearance together ... Match video of the historic bout will be played, and there will be a question-and-answer time with Gable and Owings, followed by autographs."

Now, some new details

Historical perspective: College wrestling fans from eight to 88 have undoubtedly heard of Owings-Gable ... but may not have realized the significance of this match in collegiate mat history.

"In the long and storied history of the NCAA Wrestling Championships, dating back to 1928, there have been hundreds of important matches but only a few have reached legendary status -- contests that fans have discussed over and over for decades," according to WIN Magazine. "And topping the list in the latter category is the showdown that occurred on March 28, 1970 in the 142-pound class. That bout, between Dan Gable of Iowa State and Larry Owings of the University of Washington, is without question the most talked-about match in NCAA wrestling history."

The late Jay Hammond, noted wrestling historian and author of the 2005 book "The History of Collegiate Wrestling", has labeled Gable-Owings the greatest upset in NCAA finals history. And, in 2005, a panel of historians concurred, naming the Owings-Gable title bout at the 1970 NCAAs as the single biggest upset in Nationals history.

Meet the wrestlers: In its announcement of the date change for the Gable-Owings Fan Fest event, WIN Magazine also provided portraits of the two grapplers battling for the 142-pound title in front of a packed McGaw Hall (now Welsh-Ryan Arena) at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill. just outside Chicago.

Dan Gable, a senior from Iowa State, was a two-time NCAA champ, about to wrestle his last collegiate match. He brought a winning streak of 180 consecutive wins dating back to his sophomore year in high school. In addition, he had earned a reputation as one of the greatest pinners ever. To most fans, the thought of Gable losing was out of the question, according to WIN.

Larry Owings had tremendous credentials of his own. As WIN points out, while Gable's record that season was 31-0, with five straight pins in the 1970 NCAA tourney, Owings was 32-1, and had four pins entering the finals. In addition, the Washington Husky sophomore had made headlines by telling reporters he had come to McGaw Hall with one purpose -- to defeat Dan Gable. This was in an era long before Twitter taunts and video call-outs on Instagram ... and a time when it was rare for any athlete to make bold predictions about an event's outcome, especially in the world of amateur wrestling.

The match: Thanks to Gable's undefeated stature -- and Owings' statements to the press -- the match got tremendous advance build-up. According to WIN, ABC televised the match live. (Long before today's live ESPN coverage, NCAA wrestling finals were shown on tape-delay, in highly edited form.)

Owings took a quick 7-2 lead but Gable fought back to pull even at 8-8 early in the third period. Owings escaped for a 9-8 edge and then scored on a brilliant flurry-style takedown and even gained crucial back points for a 13-8 lead. Gable escaped and received two points for riding time, making the final score 13-11. (There's the iconic photo of the two wrestlers facing each other at the end of the match, with Owings' hand being raised.)

"The match sent shock waves through the arena and across the nation, and has become part of wrestling folklore," WIN stated. "Even people who didn't normally follow wrestling were amazed when they heard wrestling's superstar had lost. Gable received a long and emotional standing ovation as he stood on the awards platform to accept a second-place medal for the first time in his career."

Want to know more about Gable-Owings? Check out this InterMat Rewind feature on this epic match.


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vietvet (1) about 1 year ago
This match has been beat to death. Most people have zero interest in seeing two 70 year old men sitting at a card table.
cradleman (2) about 1 year ago
It's guys like you, Vietvet, that lack an appreciation for the great history of this sport. Imagine if a kid said I'm tired of hearing about the Viet Nam era? I love the old with the new. The old gives us something to look back upon to see where we are at. Our kids today need , but don't get enough, history of why we are where we are. As I tell kids today that even though it seems like it's new, it's been done before in some other shape and form. We are just adding our little tweaks. Scrambling, cradles, switches, high crotches all worked back in the 60's. They were just referred to differently. I for one, and I'm sure I speak for many, am looking forward to seeing them together. You can stay away if you want but that will be your loss.