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How Ed Gallagher’s Wrestling Teams Changed Oklahoma State From the Aggies to the Cowboys

The “uniform” the early wrestling teams wore helped decide OSU’s nickname.



A while back on Twitter I decided to solicit some feedback from readers on my work here. I reached out in hopes of getting a better idea of what I was doing wrong, what I was doing right, and what people were interested in reading about.

The biggest piece of feedback I received was people wanted to read more historical stories about OSU wrestling. With that I’ve started to spend some time in the O’Colly Archives¬†reading up on different topics.

In the process I came across this 1926 Saturday morning edition that featured a story on “Aggie Rassling” and the signature cowboy hats they wore everywhere they wrestled.

Cowboy Hat

A few years before the NCAA officially started sanctioning NCAA wrestling championships, the Oklahoma A&M “Aggies” were winning unofficial titles. In 1925 and 1926 on their trips to those tournaments they donned “O” sweaters, corduroys and boots, topped by the famous hat.

Though at the time they were officially known as the A&M “Aggies,” the dominant team of that era had such a swagger about themselves that they traveled everywhere in their custom cowboy costume.

Over time that gained momentum. As writers saw these wrestlers walking around in cowboy hats, that’s what they called them, “Cowboys.” And the teams at Oklahoma A&M that had long been called “Aggies” were now getting a new name.

In a February 1931 edition the headline read “Wrestlers in Final Home Match Against Kansas” (Kansas hasn’t had a wrestling program since the 1960s) and had a half page ad for Chesterfield Cigarettes. NCAA champion wrestler LeRoy McGuirk wrote this on the new nickname for Oklahoma A&M.

Aggies to CowboysAggies to Cowboys-2














McGuirk was actually the sports editor for the O’Colly and ran a routine opinion piece titled Between You-Me. In it he basically just gave his opinion on various Oklahoma State sports topics. Here he explains how the transition to “Cowboys” occurred.

According to this, the original name was actually the “Wildcats”, then they transitioned to the “Aggies” and eventually became the “Cowboys” as writers coined that term after seeing Gallagher’s wrestlers. An interesting note: Even though McGuirk mentions them as the Wildcats, it’s the only place we’ve ever seen it. More broadly, you see their initial nickname as the Tigers. Anyway, after some joking about the pros and cons associated with each name, McGuirk settles on the opinion that “Cowboys” is the best one to go with.

McGuirk’s opinion must have matched the rest of the fanbase and university at the time. In 1957 when Oklahoma A&M transitioned to Oklahoma State University the Cowboy moniker became official.


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