Connect with us


OSU Wrestling: How ‘The Greatest Rivalry in College Wrestling’ Between the Cowboys and Iowa Has Lasted

‘We’ve been committed to each other.’



[Jackson Lavarnway/PFB]

In a climate where college rivalries are melting away throughout the country, even within the state of Oklahoma, there seems to be no end for “The Greatest Rivalry in College Wrestling” between storied programs Oklahoma State and Iowa. There’s been excuse after excuse on why rivalries can’t live on as college sports change, yet, even without conference ties and proximity, OSU coach John Smith made it simple on how this one has continued: it’s wanted.

“We’ve been committed to each other,” Smith said. “Going back to coach Tommy Chesbro in the 70s, late 70s, and Dan Gable made a commitment to wrestle when they were the two best teams in the country and there’s been a commitment to doing it ever since. We don’t have to wrestle this dual meet. We could be done. They don’t have to wrestle it. There’s been years that, probably, you prefer not to wrestle it because your position for the national tournament, but it’s been a bigger meet than, I’m not gonna say the national tournament, but one of those meets that people look forward to and people want to watch it and it’s a long-standing rivalry that has sustained the time — over time. That’s gotta be a commitment from both wrestling programs that we’re wrestling since, I don’t know when, I wanna say ’78, ’79 — it’s been a long time.”

The rivalry will continue when the No. 2 Cowboys host fourth-ranked Iowa at 2 p.m. Sunday in a sold-out Gallagher-Iba Arena. It’s the first time GIA has been sold out since, of course, the last time the Hawkeyes were in town Feb. 24, 2019. OSU won that meeting 27-12 but has lost three straight to Iowa since.

“We’re heading into Stillwater, Oklahoma,” Iowa coach Tom Brands said Tuesday at his press conference. “It’s a historic place. It’s a historic coach, historic arena. It’s a historic rivalry and it’s a fun environment. But we have a chance to catapult ourselves into the postseason. …

“You gotta know wrestling history [to understand the rivalry]. And I’m talking about going back to they have the most team titles, Iowa has the second-most. [Dan] Gable, Randy Lewis, Lee Roy Smith, 1984 — you can keep going. And those are things that are real. They’re real. And enough time has gone by where maybe, ‘Hey, let’s let bygones be bygones,’ but, yeah, I’m not really sure it works that way. I think that those pains run deep. They run deep.”

Meetups between the Cowboys and Hawkeyes have been in front of larger crowds that couldn’t even cram into GIA. It’s been hosted by much more unique venues than historic Gallagher-Iba, too. Instead of being in Stillwater during the 2021-22 season, the dual was hosted at Globe Life Field in Arlington, as mats were placed on the field where the MLB’s Texas Rangers usually play.

The trend of moving college wrestling duals to odd environments to increase attention was somewhat prompted by OSU and Iowa. In 2015, the teams competed in Kinnick Stadium, Iowa’s football stadium. The event drew 42,287 fans, the highest attendance ever at a wrestling dual. Since, duals have been moved to different countries, theater stages, baseball stadiums and parking lots.

Although this meeting won’t be at a different setting, other than maybe an elevated stage, the event will still reach more fans as a rare college dual being nationally televised on FS1.

“Historically, it’s been big,” Smith said. “Our sport, the growth in the last year has been good with women being added and in the state our numbers have been really good. I think you’re always trying to continue to grow your sport and present it in a way that people enjoy watching it.”

Through the unique venues and sellout crowds at both locations, OSU holds a narrow 29-25-2 all-time series lead in 56 meetings since the first in 1954. There was a gap in the series between 1963 and 1977 before it became more an annual tradition. Iowa, though, has somewhat dominated the rivalry this decade, winning seven of nine since 2014.

“[The rivalry is] valuable to your program, both programs,” Smith said. “I’ve been coaching 30-plus years, and we’re wrestling it as long as I’m coach. I think maybe the same before — Joe Seay, before Joe it was Tommy, and those guys were like, ‘Yeah, we’re gonna wrestle.’ It’s a big dual meet. It’s a big dual meet for them when we go there, it’s a big dual meet for us when they come here. You don’t take it for granted. You never know how things could change, but it’s sure nice while we have it. We’ve been committed to each other to having this dual meet.”

Most Read

Copyright © 2011- 2023 White Maple Media