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A Look Back at OSU’s First Wrestling Conference Title

Going back in time to 1917 and Ed Gallagher’s first conference title



One of the more common themes of feedback I receive from readers is they like to see historical looks at OSU wrestling. With the Big 12 conference tournament coming up next weekend and OSU going for their 52nd conference title, I thought I’d dig back and take a look at their very first one.

In 1917 the then “Aggies” were led by second-year coach Ed Gallagher. He took over for A.M. Colville who was the coach in their first season of wrestling in 1914-15.

The Aggies wrestled in the Southwestern Conference in 1917. Their entire season consisted of three duals, with two against Southwestern Conference programs. The first was a win over “Kansas State Normal” which is now known as Emporia State, the next a tie with Arkansas, and the final dual a 20-5 win over Texas.

Southwestern Conference Champions Wrestling

At the time duals only consisted of five weight classes: 125, 135, 150, 165, and heavyweight. Another unique thing from that time is Conference titles were determined by dual meet wins vs. the current tournament format we see.

The first dual of the season with Kansas State Normal was not a conference meet. According to a 1917 article from “The Orange and Black” the Aggies wrestled at Emporia, Kansas and won two matches by fall, lost one by fall, and had two draws.

Kansas State Normal Dual

This set up the two conference meets with Arkansas and Texas to determine the Southwestern Conference Champion. The Orange and Black broke down the first two weights in the draw with Arkansas as follows.

Smith the little 125 pound Scuffler who has never lost a match since he’s been on the team threw his man in 17 minutes. 

Reichman in the 135 pound class lost on a very close decision. He and his opponent were only on the mat about 20 seconds during the en time thirty minutes, and as Reichman was on the defensive during this period the referee decided against him.

This is incredible to read about comparative to wrestling in 2020. A match is now seven minutes with three separate periods and a wide variety of ways to score. In 1917 there were two ways to win…1. Pin the other guy or 2. Win by referees’ decision. That referees’ decision was determined simply based on who they felt had control for the majority of the match. So in these two matches one guy got a fall after seventeen minutes of wrestling and another wrestled for a full thirty minutes before it came down to the ref deciding the bout!

The rest of the dual is described here. Including a 160-pound match where both men “drew blood and broke considerable furniture around the mat.”

Arkansas Dual 1917


Arkansas Dual 1917 Cont'd page

Just a few days later the Aggies wrestled Texas to decide the Southwestern Conference Champion and the hero of the dual turned out to be a lightweight that shares the last name of six-time World/Olympic champ and current head coach John Smith.

In what truly sounds like incredible heroics by W.C. Smith, he started out the dual as he always did at 125. He dominated his first match and picked up a fall in about two minutes.

Cliff Gallagher, who was Ed Gallagher’s brother and the usual starter at 150 pounds for the Aggies, was called out of town due to the death of his sister. So A&M did not have a wrestler at 150. Smith who weighed in at 125 that day and had wrestled just minutes earlier, stepped up to fill the 150 pound slot. He went on to win his bout by a decision over McDaniels of Texas. This locked down the dual and the first ever wrestling conference title for Oklahoma A&M.

Cliff Gallagher being head coach Ed Gallagher’s brother, and out of town due to the death of his sister, ultimately means that coach Gallagher led his team to their first conference title while also dealing with the tragic death of a family member.

Texas Dual1 Texas Dual2

All three schools that OSU competed with here no longer sponsor wrestling programs.

The Cowboys will go for conference title No. 52 next weekend in Tulsa at the Big 12 tournament.

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