GILBERTVILLE — An intense summer of training and cross-country travel has allowed Don Bosco’s Gable Fox to enter his junior season of high school wrestling faster, stronger and mentally tougher.

Fox’s increased confidence was supported last week by a series of impressive season-opening wins. It started with a 7-6 victory over last year’s state champion at his weight class, Donny Schmit of Wapsie Valley, and continued with decisions over Denver-Tripoli’s Riley Wright (5-2) and West Des Moines Valley’s Spencer Hutchinson (7-6) in the semifinals and championship of the Keith Young Invitational 126-pound division.

“He’s put in a ton of work,” Don Bosco coach Tom Hogan said. “Right after he came off the mat at the Keith Young I looked at him and said, ‘That’s a pretty darn good week of wrestling to beat the returning champ and then two guys that you had never beaten before.’”

Hogan has been most impressed with the will to win that Fox displayed in prevailing through those three tight matches against opponents ranked among the top five in their class.

“It was kind of like a redemption week just going out there and getting my revenge, knowing I can check those guys off my list,” Fox said.

Fox’s competitive fire has been stoked by a family that has played a large role in Don Bosco’s tradition of wresting success. His dad, Ray, was the school’s first state champion and his older brother, Cole, made multiple trips to the state tournament.

Despite being named after a wrestling icon, Gable Fox embraced the sport on his own terms.

“My dad never really pushed me to wrestle,” said Gable, who can recall getting his start by age five. “He always said it was my choice. I just figured it was a sport that my family was good at so maybe I should try it. I just fell in love with it and grew that passion for it.”

The youngest member of the Fox family credits his father as a coach who would always encourage him to do more reps and take the extra steps to improve, while his older brother taught him big things can be accomplished by competing with heart.

Ray Fox has worked within Don Bosco’s wrestling program as a coach from the pee-wee through high school levels for more than 30 years.

“To have him around and have his kids in the program has been fun to see,” Hogan said. “From coaching with Ray for so many years now — the stinginess, sometimes downright stubbornness, the willingness to put in the extra time to really be a student of the sport of wrestling are all things the kids have gotten from Ray.”

After what Gable Fox characterized as successful regular-season campaigns followed by seventh- and third-place finishes at the state meet, he entered this past offseason more driven than ever. Fox worked out at the Elite Takedown Wrestling Club in Waverly and traveled to major summer tournaments in Pennsylvania, Ohio and North Dakota.

“It’s pretty intense,” Fox said of the culture inside that training room. “We do a lot of hard workouts. Training with Michael Millage and Keaton Geerts, some state champs, I’ve got guys to look up to and wrestle with.”

At the end of the summer, Fox toured some colleges in California with his club teammates to unwind and pick their brains.

“Confidence is key,” he said. “They don’t really walk around thinking there’s guys out there that are better than them. Then when it comes to training, we train like there are guys out there better than us. We need to train harder than those guys.”

Growing from a 106-pounder as a freshman and sophomore, Fox competed at 126 over the summer with a 5-2 finish at Preseason Nationals showing he could handle the jump in weight classes. The 120-weight class is still an option for him this season.

With just two seniors on this year’s Don Bosco team, Fox has shown comfort in taking on a larger leadership role. Multiple members of the Fox family are offering guidance for this year’s team.

“At our meet on Thursday, I have the seniors take the flip for me, and Gable was out there with those two seniors,” Hogan related. “He’s taken on a little extra leadership. He’s not a real vocal kid in the wrestling room, but he works hard and other kids notice it.”

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