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A Season on the Mat: Dan Gable and the Pursuit of Perfection Hardcover – March 12, 1998


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster (March 12, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0684847876
  • ISBN-13: 978-0684847870
  • Product Dimensions: 8.8 x 5.8 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #660,671 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Had Dan Gable played baseball or basketball instead of wrestled, not only would ad campaigns have been built around him, but also a wing in the hall of fame. Gable, a true athletic icon, dominated his sport--a virtually obscure one by American standards--as no one has before or since. An Olympic champion, Gable was virtually unbeatable. As a coach, he's been dauntingly invincible. His Iowa Hawkeyes have won 10 straight national championships--15 altogether--and every Big 10 title in the sport since Gable took over the program in the mid-1970s. A Season on the Mat is the engrossing narrative of Iowa's 1996-97 Cinderella season, Gable's finale as coach, and the intriguing hold wrestling has on its participants. Still, Gable is the clear star here. With drama and pathos, author Nolan Zavoral profiles him as a fiercely driven and competitive man, wracked by physical and emotional pain as he grapples with the life-altering decisions that he knows it's time to make.

Review

"One of the year's best sports books and the finest wrestling title to hit the mat in a long time" -- The Library Journal

"Finally, wrestling has a classic to call its own." -- The Patriot-News (Harrisburg, Pennsylvania)

"The ring of truth is unmistakable. . . . Some of the best writing on wrestling since John Irving wrote about 'Gorgeous Dan' for Esquire magazine." -- Des Moines Sunday Register --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

This book is a must for the hardcore wrestling fan.
"marksuefitz5"
If you want a day-to-day look at how Dan Gable worked, motivated and helped Iowa wrestlers become the best in the country, this is the book for you.
Cosmo Kramer
I think it would have been a lot better if a wrestler wrote it (Nolan Zavoral is obviously not).
patrick mosher

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By patrick mosher on January 2, 2000
Format: Hardcover
I'm a high school wrestler and avid Dan Gable fan. I could not have been more thrilled to get this book. It was a good book if you're an avid wrestling fan. The only problem was, like many people said, it was shallow and neglected to convey the emotion and the blood, sweat, and tears all these wrestlers have put in their whole lifes for this sport. It also neglected to talk much about Gable's wrestling career, just giving quick stats here and there. I think it would have been a lot better if a wrestler wrote it (Nolan Zavoral is obviously not). Other, than that it was a page turner and I finished it in about 4 days. Pretty good for a guy who had never previously read a book all the way through.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 27, 1999
Format: Hardcover
I enjoyed this book because I am a die hard wrestling fan. It is so hard to find any book about the REAL sport of amateur wrestling, and so I devoured every word. However, I agree with others who write that "something" was missing. I think that that is because the author must not really grasp the nature of the sport as he certainly did not capture nor convey its essence, intensity or the spirit of the legendary coach. The writers lack of ardor coupled with lack of understanding for the passion involved within the wrestling family is what led , I believe, to the "flatness" of his account. I could have done better!!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By CPT Trainer/Behaviorist on April 11, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
A Season on the Mat is a story with three main characters: 1) Dan Gable, 2) The University of Iowa wrestling team, and 3) The team's varsity starters. The book is written in a compelling manner with excellent character development. I found myself cheering (sometimes almost out loud) when reading of the success of the team and the team's key athletes. Similarly, I found myself sorrowful when reading about their rare moments of failure.

Nevertheless, the key character within the book is wrestling icon Dan Gable. Zavoral does an excellent job of providing an objective portrayal of Gable that should satisfy both the amateur wrestling aficionado and the uninitiated. I enjoyed reading about the life of Dan Gable; his relationship with his parents, his wife, his children, the state of Iowa, the University of Iowa administration, his assistant coaches, and his wrestlers; and the two key life moments that motivated him to worker harder than anyone else to reach the pinnacle as a wrestler and coach. Moreover, whereas most Gable biographies are written by sycophants who communicate only Gable's venerable qualities, Zavoral is equitable in also discussing Gable's eccentricities.

Most reviewers have written favorably (and I would say accurately) regarding A Season on the Mat. Yet, a minority of reviewers have stated that the book lacks "justice," is "cheerless," and is "shallow." To this specious minority I say, "We must not have been reading the same book." The book provides justice in its balanced and detailed depiction of Dan Gable. Furthermore, I found myself almost cheering out loud when Gable's athletes overcame adversity via sweat and hard work to finally reach the podium at the culmination of a long and arduous season.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By f. dupp on March 15, 2007
Format: Paperback
...but you can't help but be taken in by the story of Dan Gable. The lessons that he preaches, and embodies, go way beyond the mat--perserverance, hard work, dedication, and perhaps most importantly, leading by example.

For that reason, I enjoyed the book, and got through it pretty quickly. I would have no reservations about recommending this book based on that alone.

But, I'll admit, it gets bogged down quite a bit as it becomes a point-by-point recap of the season. Starts to feel like the same things over and over again. I'll agree with other posters who say that it may have lacked some of the intensity and emotion that it could have had. For that, I would recommend "Four days to Glory." An awesome book on high-school wrestling that seems to be to do a better job of making you feel the drama of what wrestlers go through and why they do what they do.

I'd say buy both of these books for a pretty complete picture of Iowa wrestling "from cradle to grave." The afterword in the paperback version of "A season on the mat" does a good job of bringing closure to both books (hard to explain, but you'll see what I mean).
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 12, 1999
Format: Hardcover
I grew a Dan Gable fan (as did any other Iowa kid who touched the mat in the last 30 years). I have studied much about him. This author did a great job in two areas: 1)analyzing the murder of his sister and the implications for the Gable family. Very detailed (such as Dan told his father who probably (and Dan was right)killed his sister on the ride back to Waterloo and that his father struck him for not telling him sooner. 2) Dan's only collegiate loss to Larry Owings. In depth and probing. You feel some of the pain Dan was bearing.
However, the author was very weak on his ability to convey the wrestling spirit during the Hawks tremendous season. At times it was liking reading a $2 romance novel.
Overall, this would have been a better book if it was just a Dan Gable biograghy.
It should be noted that Dan was not happy about a lot that was in the book. It exposed alot of his (and his Parents)flaws. Dan has an enormous ego and has been treated with kid gloves by reporters and authors up until this point. I doubt the author would have been given this much access if Dan knew that the dirty laundry was going to get mixed in.
Anyway, with the lack of books on Dan Gable/wrestling - this is a must read.
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