The Naismith Hall of Fame announces their class every year, and every year when it’s announced Eddie Sutton’s name is not called. Oklahoma State fans, rightfully so, are infuriated with the result.
There’s another hall of fame discussion that receives little attention and may be similarly deserving of the criticism the hoop hall receives for its snub of Sutton.
Neither John Smith or Ed Gallagher are in the Oklahoma Hall of Fame. In fact, there’s not one wrestler in the Oklahoma Hall of Fame.
Athletes like Kevin Durant, Wayman Tisdale, and Russell Westbrook, coaches Barry Switzer, Henry Iba, and Darrell Royal, gymnasts Bart Conner and Shannon Miller, rodeo star Jim Shoulders, administrator Bill Hancock, and many others have made the Oklahoma Hall of Fame. Even David Boren (cringe) is a member. And last Thursday, when they announced the 2019 class, they added two more football players, and continued their 92-year tradition of not inducting any of the states’ best sports athletes or coaches.
With all the history of the sport in this state there is not one wrestler in the Oklahoma Hall of Fame. That includes the greatest American to ever lace them up in John Smith and the father of modern wrestling Edward Gallagher. My initial dive into this topic started simply with wondering why John Smith wasn’t a member? He’s the GOAT, he’s won more World Titles than any American ever. He’s also an elite coach. But after digging further you see that there’s not a single wrestler at all that’s a member of the Oklahoma Hall of Fame.
Ed Gallagher is not a member, no Yojiro Uetake, no Kenny Monday. Even OU legends Danny Hodge, who the wrestling award equivalent of the Heisman trophy is named after, and Olympic gold medalist Dave Schultz are not included.
The stated mission of the Oklahoma Hall of Fame is this.
Founded in 1927, the Oklahoma Hall of Fame was created to honor Oklahomans who had given outstanding service to the state during their lifetime and to provide educational programming for students of all ages. Being inducted to the Oklahoma Hall of Fame is Oklahoma’s Highest Honor. Through exhibits and experiences at the Gaylord-Pickens Museum, the Oklahoma Hall of Fame stands to preserve Oklahoma’s unique history while promoting pride in our great state.
Wrestling in Oklahoma has accounted for 41 D1 NCAA championships between OSU and OU, countless All-Americans and individual NCAA champions. There have been 12 Olympic Gold Medals won by Oklahomans and numerous bronze and silver medals — again, the equivalent of the wrestling Heisman is named after an Oklahoman — and none of those individuals are in the state’s hall of fame.
Wrestling allows Oklahoma to lay claim to more Olympic Gold Medals than over 100 countries and allows the state to claim more NCAA championships than any state that’s even remotely comparable in population.
Is that not something that promotes “pride in our great state?” Is that not a unique piece of history? Is it not “an outstanding service to the state” for a citizen to go win an Olympic Gold Medal while representing the state and country?
As a person that covers wrestling, I’m fully aware of the sports popularity pecking order when compared to basketball, football, and baseball, and that John Smith or Ed Gallagher certainly don’t have the public notoriety of a Michael Jordan or James Naismith. But for a state Hall of Fame to not recognize one single athlete or coach from what’s without a doubt their best sport? It’s shocking.