The final category of the Cyclone Nation.com Hall of Fame is "Athletes." Taking a look at the tremendous athletes who have shown their greatness while representing Iowa State University, it certainly says a LOT about the three men who are inducted today.
The first three inductees into the Athletes category are…
- Cael Sanderson
- Dan Gable
- Gary Thompson
This was a very close race among the top three athletes for our "panel of experts," but the next choices (Troy Davis and Danny Harris) were actually a distant fourth. The nominations for the Cyclone Nation.com Hall of Fame were submitted by Cyclone Nation.com readers.
Here are my thoughts and some of the comments made by voters regarding the top three athletes in Iowa State history:
1) Cael Sanderson. 159 victories. No defeats. A perfect record at Iowa State makes Sanderson a perfect choice for our Hall of Fame.
159-0. Four straight NCAA titles. Only one other wrestler in NCAA history won four straight national titles…Pat Smith of Oklahoma State, who had five losses in his career.
Only FOUR of Sanderson's 40 matches during his senior season lasted the entire seven minutes.
In the spring of 2002, Sports Illustrated named its Top 10 "most impressive college sports feats ever." The top-ranked feat was when Jesse Owens set four world records on one day in 1935.
The second-greatest collegiate feat of all-time was Sanderson's perfect wrestling record. It may have been the only time the Cyclone wrestler finished second in ANYTHING in the past four years.
The Heber City, Utah native was also the first wrestler to be named the NCAA Championship's Most Outstanding Wrestler four times.
Comments from other voters:
"159-0, four national championships and a Wheaties box. Any questions?"
"The record speaks for itself."
"Simple. He had THE BEST college wrestling career of any athlete in the history of the sport. I think that has to put him at the top of the list."
2) Dan Gable. Where do you start? Gable's list of accomplishments as a wrestler is so long, there is simply no way to do it justice.
In 1972, he won a gold medal at the Summer Olympics…without surrendering a single point to ANY of his six opponents! Has there ever been a more DOMINANT performance by any one athlete in the Olympics?
As a prep and collegiate wrestler, Gable compiled a record of 182-1. His only loss came in his last match for Iowa State…in the NCAA finals. He won 99 straight matches for the Cyclones and had an NCAA record 25 consecutive pins.
The Waterloo native was a three-time All-American at ISU and a three-time Big 8 champion. He added titles at the Olympics, the Pan Am Games and the World Championships. He won six Midlands Open titles and was voted that meet's most outstanding wrestler five times.
You name it and Gable won it. And most likely, it was in dominating fashion.
Comments from other voters:
"I know that some in the Cyclone Nation will not consider him because of what he has accomplished at the University of Iowa, but his accomplishments as an athlete came under the cardinal and gold, not the black and gold. Clearly the finest athlete to ever participate in Ames."
"Olympic gold medalist, redefined his sport to the world and a Wheaties box. Any questions? By the way, I can't believe I am voting for two wrestlers! Crack doesn't just kill, it also causes dementia, apparently."
3) Gary Thompson. Imagine how athletic someone has to be to become a multi-sport All-American. Now consider if that person is only 5-9 and wants to accomplish that feat in men's basketball and baseball. Impossible? Not for Gary Thompson, the "Roland Rocket."
Thompson became the first two-sport All-American in Iowa State history. He also finished his collegiate career in 1957 as the first 1,000-point scorer in Cyclone history. Keep in mind that he achieved that total in three seasons, as freshmen weren't eligible to participate back then. On top of that, he was the shortstop for the ISU team that made it to the College World Series in 1957.
In three meetings against Wilt Chamberlain and Kansas during Thompson's senior season, the "Roland Rocket" outscored "The Stilt" each game. I don't think anybody—at any level—can say that they outscored Wilt Chamberlain every time they played against him.
Thompson's Iowa State basketball jersey #20 is retired. And with good reason. There will never be another one like him.
Comments from other voters:
"Perhaps Iowa State's best overall athlete…guiding the ISU men's basketball team past Wilt Chamberlain in the winter and leading the baseball team to a third-place finish in Omaha in the College World Series as a shortstop."
"All-around great athlete and All-American."
"All-American in two sports. His name has been synonymous with Iowa State athletics since the first day he walked on campus."
Breakdown of the voting…
Each member of the panel voted for three athlete candidates (1st gets 3 points, 2nd gets 2 points, 3rd gets 1 point). The panel includes some very knowledgeable sports personalities…
- Steve Deace … Popular radio personality on KXNO and Publisher of Cyclone Nation.com and "CN" magazine.
- Bob Helmers … Producer/Director for ESPN and ESPN+Plus.
- B.J. Schaben … Sports Director, Iowa Radio Network.
- John Walters … Sports Director at WOI-TV and play-by-play voice of the Cyclones.
- Eric Heft … Former ISU basketball standout and long-time Cyclone Radio Network color analyst.
- Larry Cotlar … Weekday morning host on KXNO 1460-AM.
- Marty Gallagher … Me.
- Cael Sanderson (17)
- Dan Gable (16)
- Gary Thompson (16)
- Troy Davis (3)
- Danny Harris (3)
- Jeff Grayer (2)
- Mike Busch (2)
- Seneca Wallace (1)
- Marcus Fizer (1)
- George Amundson (1)
(Marty Gallagher founded the popular web site IowaSportsOpinions.com and now publishes IowaPrepsToday.com. E-mail him at Marty@IowaSportsOpinions.com.)