|Sexton's Corner, Vol 15 (Part 2)
f a poker player looks through a looking glass at the rest of the world, he will see
teams and individual athletes that excel in their respective sports, thus finding
themselves in that winning rare territory we refer to as being…in the zone! Look at
Tiger Woods in golf, Michael Jordan in his prime, Tom Brady of the New England
Patriots, and so many other great athletes. One athlete you may not have heard of
is a great wrestler named Dan Gable. He never lost a match in junior high school.
He never lost a match in high school. He went to Iowa State, where he was three-
time NCAA and Big Eight champion. He was undefeated his senior year, and was
once again in the NCAA Finals wrestling for his fourth NCAA Title No human had
ever beat Gable.
(Right) Dan Gable was wrestling's greatest legend. At left, is Dan as NCAA
Champ and Big Eight Champ at Iowa State; Center is Dan as 1972 Olympic
Champion; At right, Dan as the coach at University of Iowa. His whole
career from competitor to coach was "In The Zone"!
|(Left) Watch The 1970 NCCA 142 lb. finals. Larry Owings was a
sophmor ewith a 32-2 record and was the only human on the
planet to ever defeat the legend, Dan Gable, who was 181-0
entering his last match in his collegiate career. Dan went on to
win the Olympics and World title never to lose again!
His last match in college would be against a sophmore named Larry Owings from the University of Washington. Amazingly, the NCAA wrestling
championships were held that year (1970) at the University Of Washington, with a wild home crowd rooting for their guy to find a miracle and
somehow defeat this living icon. This match was so exciting, ABC's Wide World Of Sports dedicated their whole show to it. The final score was
13 to 11, and Larry Owings did it… he won! He is on record as the only human being to ever defeat Dan Gable, who had never lost a match
at 181-0 entering his last match his senior year in the 1970 NCAA finals! Was Larry Owings in the zone that one night? Oh, yeah…
Interesting side note to this story: When Dan Gable lost that one match, he re-dedicated his life to never lose again. He never did, as he won
World International Titles and a Gold Medal at the 1972 Munich Olympics. At the Olympics, he did what no other human being ever did: he
won every match without one of his opponents scoring even one point. In freestyle wrestling, this is unheard of; it's like pitching six no-hitters
in a row. He was voted the outstanding wrestler of the Olympics. Gable then made the transfer into coaching, at the University Of Iowa, where
his teams went on to win 11 NCAA team championships. Before he arrived, University of Iowa never scored a point at the NCAA Wrestling
Championships. Many great athletes don't have the patience to coach or teach, and can't make the transition. Dan Gable was the best
wrestler and best wrestling coach of all time. It is fair to say, his whole career has definitely been in the zone!
In poker, there are great players like Doyle Brunson, Johnny Chan, and Phil Hellmuth who have had incredible careers, all of them being
in the zone throughout their careers, winning 31 gold bracelets combined at the WSOP, among many other championships too numerous to
mention. The beauty of poker is, on any given day, any amateur could win and beat the very best player by simply getting in the zone.
So, there is still hope for all of us.
As promised, I wanted to share an amazing scene in a classic movie filmed 46 years ago, that was nominated for eight Academy Awards,
and should have won twelve! In life a person can be great at anything, such as bricklaying, poker, shooting pool, or anything else,
if he does it well. This movie from 1961, starring Paul Newman, Jackie Gleason, George C. Scott, and Piper Laurie, of course, is called The
Hustler. Paul Newman plays Fast Eddie Felson, who over-hustles some punk in a dive poolhall on the waterfront. As a result, he gets both of
his thumbs broken by a big guy named Turk Baker. Fast Eddie is on the mend and nurtured back to health by his girlfriend, Sarah. The two of
them head to Central Park in New York for a picnic, with Fast Eddie's thumbs still in the casts. This scene says it all about being in the zone.
This dialogue is between Fast Eddie (E) and Sarah (S):
E: Sarah, do you think I'm a loser?
S: A loser?
E: Yeah - I met this guy, Bert Gordon. He said I was a born loser.
S: Would he know?
E: He knows a lot.
S: Why would he tell you?
E: I'm not sure. He said there are people who want to lose, that are always looking for an excuse to lose.
S: What does he do, this Bert Gordon?
E: He's a gambler.
S: Is he a winner?
E: Well, he owns things.
S: Is that what makes a winner?
E: Well, what else does?
S: Does it bother you what he said?
E: Yeah… yeah… it bothers me a lot! Cause, ya see, twice, Sarah... once at Ames with Minnesota Fats and then again at Arthur's, in that
cheap, crummy poolroom, now why'd I do it, Sarah? Why'd I do it? I coulda beat that guy, coulda beat 'im cold, he never woulda known. But I
just hadda show 'im. Just hadda show those creeps and those punks what the game is like when it's great, when it's really great. You know,
like anything can be great, anything can be great. I don't care, bricklaying can be great, if a guy knows. If he knows what he's doing and why
and if he can make it come off. When I'm goin', I mean, when I'm really goin' I feel like a... like a jockey must feel. He's sittin' on his horse, he's
got all that speed and that power underneath him... he's comin' into the stretch, the pressure's on 'im, and he knows... just feels... when to let
it go and how much. Cause he's got everything workin' for 'im: timing, touch. It's a great feeling, boy, it's a real great feeling when you're right
and you know you're right. It's like all of a sudden I got oil in my arm. The pool cue's part of me. You know, it's uh - pool cue, it's got nerves in
it. It's a piece of wood, it's got nerves in it. Feel the roll of those balls, you don't have to look, you just know. You make shots that nobody's
ever made before. I can play that game the way... nobody's ever played it before.
S: You're not a loser, Eddie - you're a winner. Some men in life never get to feel that way about anything! I love you, Eddy.
Robert Rossen's production of The Hustler is a dazzling cinematic triumph that aptly underscores what it is like to be in the zone. For the
poker players - if you haven't seen this classic movie, filmed 46 years ago, be sure and go rent it!
The Cab is Parked,
Larry Owings who defeated the machine, Dan Gable, in the 1970 NCAA finals at 142 lbs was one of Univ. of Washington's
greatest wrestlers. He had an 87-4 record with a 52-1 dual meet record in college. He was NCAA champ in 1970 and NCAA
runner-up in 1971 and 1972. The year he beat Gable he was 29-1, as the only loss he had that year was to a friend of mine at
the University of Oklahoma, named Mike Grant. Mike was a two time NCAA and three time Big Eight wrestling champion at 150
lbs. He used to come to most of the gymnastic's meets I performed in, and I always watched him in OU's home wrestling meets.
I was from Dayton, Ohio and Mike Grant was from Grant's Pass, Oregon.