Iowa wrestling legend Dan Gable has been named the 2014 recipient of the Robert D. Ray Pillar of Character Award. Amy Smit, spokeswoman for Character Counts in Iowa, says the annual award is given to a public figure with Iowa ties who has demonstrated the six pillars of character: caring, citizenship, fairness, respect, responsibility and trustworthiness.

“Every year we present an award to someone who has not only shown good character but has done so as a public role model,” Smit says. “Past recipients of the award include Shawn Johnson, Norman Borlaug and Governor Ray.”

Gable is a Waterloo native who wrestled at Iowa State University, won a gold medal in the 1972 Olympics, and coached wrestling at the University of Iowa and for the U.S. Olympic team. He only lost one match during his entire college career. Smit says Gable is an excellent choice for this honor. “I don’t think you get to have a record like he has and a coaching career and so many young athletes that look up to him without having perseverance and diligence and determination.”

Despite his already-distinguished career, Smit says Gable was taken off-guard when he heard he would be receiving this award. “We’ve done this for eight years now so we’ve had eight different winners and they all are very surprised that we thought of them,” Smit says, “which is funny because they’re always usually the people that are on top of everyone’s mind.” Gable will receive the Pillar of Character Award at Character Counts’ annual banquet in Des Moines next April.

(Reporting by, Jesse Gavin, KCNZ, Cedar Falls)