John Smith coaching at the NCAAs (Photo/Tony Rotundo, WrestlersAreWarriors.com)
Imagine taking on long-time Oklahoma State wrestling coach John Smith in a wrestling match ... on a bet.
That's exactly the situation Oklahoma State women's softball coach Kenny Gajewski faces at the school's Homecoming and Hoops event inside Gallagher-Iba Arena this Friday night.
Gajewski, who became the Cowgirl softball coach in 2015, will be wrestling the legendary Smith -- now in his 26th year as coach at his collegiate alma mater -- all because of a bet he made with his players at the start of last season. If team members got hit by a pitch 50 times over the course of the season, he'd wrestle Smith, a true icon in the sport, with two NCAA titles, two Olympic gold medals, and six World championships.
What seemed like a sure "this is never gonna happen" bet at the beginning of the season for coach Gajewski became reality, as the Oklahoma State women qualified for the NCAA tournament. The Cowgirls were able to achieve that mark in their 55th game of the year.
Even John Smith didn't think he'd ever have to face Gajewski on the mat when first told of the bet.
"They told me when I agreed to it that there was no way that they could get hit 50 times. Don't ever say 'no way' to women that are motivated," Smith told the Stillwater News-Press. "I'm going to live up to it and I'd say I have a pretty good shot."
Gajewski said the bet was originally to be settled with the two coaches squaring off in the Oklahoma State wrestling room, with the softball players getting front-row seats. However, with Smith's busy schedule -- including time spent at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro this summer as a contributor to NBC Sports coverage of wrestling at the Games -- the much-anticipated match got pushed back further and further … until it bumped up against Homecoming.
Now what was going to be a bet-settling bout held essentially in private will now be on display for all to see -- for free -- at Gallagher-Iba Arena which hosted more than its fair share of wrestling events -- including a number of NCAA championships -- since it first opened in 1939.
There is one upside for Gajewski in the change of venue.
"I was going to wear a singlet -- and the singlet was disgusting because it had a kitty cat on it," the Cowgirl softball coach said. "But when it got moved to this, we both said that singlets are out. We're going to wrestle in regular clothes, so for that reason there, I'm glad that it's Friday night and not in our own room."
The "Mat vs. Bat" bout between coaches John Smith and Kenny Gajewski is just part of the festivities slated for Friday night at Gallagher-Iba, which also will include scrimmages for both men's and women's Oklahoma State basketball teams as part of Oklahoma State Homecoming 2016. Doors open at 8 p.m.; action begins at 9 p.m. Admission is free.