Wrestling loses a legend with passing of Dan McCool

By Matt Levins For The Predicament

2017 Iowa Coaches Convention
Dan McCool Media Award
Dave Ewing, Dan McCool, Larry Hayes

“Dan McCool is an institution for the sport of wrestling.”

That is the way former Iowa head wrestling coach Dan Gable describes Dan McCool, the former sports writer for The Predicament, the Des Moines Register and author of numerous wrestling books.

McCool, who spent the last decade writing wrestling books and traveling the state watching wrestling of all sorts, died on Monday at the age of 60. No cause of death has been determined.

McCool, who got his start in writing about wrestling at The Predicament and spent parts of three decades covering high school and college wrestling at the Des Moines Register.

His passing leaves a huge void in the wrestling world in Iowa.

“That’s a lot of wrestling knowledge going with him,” Fort Madison head coach Ryan Smith said. “Dan was an encyclopedia of wrestling knowledge. He definitely had a wealth of information. I always looked forward to running into him. I think the last time I saw him was last year at the freestyle state tournament. He was the kind of guy that you always wanted to say hello to and share a story or two with him. He was a gentle giant, very soft-hearted. He was a great story teller.”

“He always had a huge presence, with that big mustache,” New London head coach Mark Chiri said. “He was always in a good mood. I learned something new about wrestling every time I talked to him. He was a really good guy. He always seemed like he was in your corner as a coach and your program. He knew everything about the sport in Iowa.”

“Dan had a way of always making you feel good about yourself no matter what,” said Lisbon head coach Brad Smith, a Hall of Famer and the winningest high school wrestling coach in Iowa history. “He is one of the top wrestling writers ever that I’ve been in contact with. He was always very prepared for his interviews. He always made an effort to come and see me and we would talk about former wrestlers and what I had coming up and the future. He always seemed to come around at the right time. He would make you feel good about yourself as a person and as a coach.

“Dan McCool is a true legend in the sport in Iowa.”

McCool was a fixture at all the big meets, including at the college level.

“Dan McCool is an institution for the sport of wrestling,” former Iowa coach Dan Gable said. “He’s lived the sport of wrestling his whole life. Even after being a sports writer he kept writing about the sport of wrestling through his books. He will be missed, but his good past work will carry him forward.“

“Dan was the best of the best. He told stories to keep the legacies of native Iowa wrestlers alive,” Iowa head coach Tom Brands said. “ It was important to him that Iowa's best wrestlers were never forgotten. He had relationships that he was proud of and he guarded them fiercely. In the end he is the one who will never be forgotten. The Iowa Hawkeyes will miss him.“

Ryan Smith had a special relationship with McCool. When McCool grew up in Clarion, the same town where Smith’s wife, Jill, grew up. Jill’s father, Sam Moser, taught McCool at Clarion before Moser went on to finish a Hall of Fame coaching career in football and track at Fort Dodge.

In fact, McCool used to babysit Jill Moser and her sister back in those days.

“When I would see Dan he would always tell me stories about Sam as a teacher,” Smith said. “That always made me chuckle.”
Dan Cummings, who started coaching at Mediapolis in the late 1970s, built a relationship with McCool that lasted even past Cummings’ coaching career.

“When I first got to know Dan he was doing the rankings for the Des Moines Register,” Cummings said. “He used to call all the coaches and we would put up the kids we thought should be ranked. He was very knowledgeable. His rankings were almost always close to spot-on. If there was a wrestling event, Dan was there. He was very thorough with what he did.”

McCool’s passing leaves a void that can never be filled. Wrestling was in his blood. He left his mark on the sport and the thousands of lives he touched through the sport over the course of over 40 years.

Several years ago, McCool came to Morning Sun for a celebration of 50 years of wrestling in that community. He also made an appearance with Hall of Fame coach Bob Darrah, promoting a book they co-authored.

“Dan always had a special place in his heart for Morning Sun,” said Morning Sun native Tim Johnson, who announces wrestling on the Big Ten Network and ESPN. “Whether it was the history, tradition or passion for wrestling, Dan always loved Morning Sun. Every book he wrote included something about Tiger wrestling. They were all a part of Iowa history.”

"McCool was one of kind, there will be no other,“ Iowa State head coach Kevin Dresser said. ”We grew up together in the North Central Conference. He believed in me and I believed in him. He was truly old school to the core. He only cared about wrestling, not clicks, reviews, or self promotion. He was one of the few guys who wrote a book because he wanted to report the facts. I'm not really sure if he cared about any sales. He just cared about wrestling in the state of Iowa. I will miss him."

McCool was the authority when it comes to wrestling in Iowa. When a wrestler of a coach got interviewed by McCool, they knew they had made the big time. It was a moment they strove for.

“Sometimes I forget that I am in my 60s,” Chiri said. “Sometimes I think I’m still in my 20s and he is going to be around forever and then all of a sudden the legends of the sport start to disappear. It really snaps you back into reality that you are never going to see him again.”

“Dan McCool was Iowa wrestling,” University of Northern Iowa head coach Doug Schwab said. “I saw him growing up because my brothers went through before me. I remember the first time getting in the rankings and how exciting that was. Dan covered wrestling to the highest level. Back in high school you couldn’t wait to be interviewed by Dan McCool. You knew if you got interviewed by Dan McCool you had done something really well, something really special.

“I don’t think you will ever find a man more dedicated to the sport than Dan. Dan McCool was Iowa wrestling.”

“Look at what Dan left us — the legacy in wrestling he left us. We will always have something of the best of Dan with us, and that makes me happy,” Johnson said. “I’m saddened, but I’m also happy for Dan because he lived life the way he wanted to live it, especially in the sport of wrestling. He never left any stone unturned.”