IOWA CITY, Iowa (BVM) – Gabe Arnold began the new year by announcing his verbal commitment to wrestle at the University of Iowa in 2023.
“I wouldn’t say excitement is the word,” Arnold said. “I think for me right now I think it’s surreal but of course I’m still excited to be able to wrestle at such a great program as Iowa but I think for me it’s just such a surreal experience to be able to commit and be able to wrestle at the No. 1 school in the NCAA for wrestling.”
The Wyoming Seminary junior is currently the No. 1-ranked wrestler in the nation at 170 pounds and is the No. 6 wrestler in the Class of 2023. His decision and announcement gave him a chance to reflect how far he has come.
“Coming up from how I started wrestling in a small town of Albany, Georgia and being at the point I am now,” Arnold said. “Being one of the top wrestlers in the nation, not only in my weight class but pound-for-pound as well, so I think surreal is a better word to use than excited.”
His announcement puts to end a recruiting process that involved some of the best wrestling programs in the nation. It’s a process that Arnold enjoyed, but isn’t upset to be done with.
“The recruiting process, it’s super fun but it’s super stressful at the same time. It’s just a lot of information, a lot of calls, a lot of texts, it’s just a lot,” Arnold said.
“It’s definitely a weight off of my shoulders. Now I think I’m able to compete a lot more freely. Just having the decision made is just great.”
Along with Iowa, Arnold was considering offers from North Carolina, Missouri, Virginia Tech, Maryland and Penn State. However, Iowa Hawkeye wrestling quickly won him over and it wasn’t just their reputation as one of the best wrestling programs in the nation. It was their love for the sport of wrestling that was a big factor in Arnold’s decision because the Hawkeyes’ love for wrestling matched his own.
“Iowa is a wrestling state,” Arnold said. “They absolutely love the sport out there. That’s what mostly drew me into the program. The fans love for the sport, the school’s love for the sport, the coaches love for the sport, the team’s love for the sport and the absolute want and drive to get better at this art everyday.”
Everything about Iowa from his conversation with Hawkeye coaches Tom and Terry Brands to his conversation with Iowa fans made him feel like this would be the perfect home for him following his senior year.
“I think for me that’s what really drove me to want to be a Hawkeye,” Arnold said. “The love for the sport there it’s completely unmatched.”
It’s love that Arnold knows all too well because it’s the same love he has for the sport.
Arnold originally tried wrestling out when he was in kindergarten. His brother wrestled so that first got him interested but then he stopped wrestling until he was in fourth grade. It was then that he got back into the sport and after a brief stint of playing soccer around that same time, wrestling became his only sport.
Along with his brother, his father, Phillip, had wrestled at the University of Missouri and was a state champion in Missouri. Gabe’s cousin, J’den Cox also wrestled at Missouri where he won three national championships and later won a Bronze medal in the 2016 Rio Olympics. It was during Gabe’s time watching Cox prepare for the Olympics that he started down the path that has led him to where he is today.
“I was able to go to the Olympic training center and train out there for a week,” Gabe said. “I think for me that was an eye-opening thing… Seeing someone in my family do it I was kind of like, ‘Why can’t I do it?’”
Gabe was in seventh grade at the time and although he was young, he set a goal for himself that he has been working towards ever since.
“I’m going to be the best in the sport by the time I’m done,” Gabe said. “That’s the end goal and that’s what’s going to happen because I believe it’s going to happen, I have people around me that believe it’s going to happen.”
Along with setting that goal came a new appreciation for the sport. While working with his wrestling coach, Coach Donovan, Gabe developed the love for wrestling that has guided him ever since then.
“I don’t know what clicked for me but I just developed a deeper love for the sport,” Gabe said.
That love helped him choose where he wanted to go to college and helps motivate him every day to be better. It’s a sport that demands so much from those that strive to be great at it and it’s through those struggles that Gabe finds joy.
“You kind of have to have this sickly wired mind to love those bad days,” Gabe said. “You have to love when things get tough and I think that’s purely out of love for the sport.”
Through this love, Gabe quickly began to make jumps in his wrestling that led to the decision to go from Georgia to Pennsylvania to attend Wyoming Seminary.
“I wanted to wrestle great guys every weekend,” Gabe said. “I wanted to wrestle the No. 1 guy at a big tournament. I wanted those things and I wanted to be able to showcase my skills at the highest level I possibly could at the high school level and what I’m doing now is exactly that.”
Gabe has won two national prep championships at Wyoming and recently won FloWrestling’s Who’s Number One as well as a 16U freestyle national championship.
It’s impressive and something to be proud of but Gabe will also be the first to say he isn’t close to the end goal. There is still a lot of work to do but for him, that’s another reason to love the sport.
“That’s also what continues to keep my drive is that I always know there’s more to give and more to be,” Gabe said.
For now he is happy with where he is at. There is room for improvement but he is already one of the top wrestlers in the nation. He has an amazing support group of family teammates and coaches as well as a plan for the rest of his high school career.
“I think for me it’s getting better, it’s learning, it’s opening my mind up to new things,” Gabe said. “I think it’s continuing to love the sport at the end of the day. That’s what’s gotten me to this level now so why should I stop that?”