Oklahoma State head coach John Smith with Nick Piccininni at the NCAAs (Photo/Tony Rotundo, WrestlersAreWarriors.com)
Imagine a state that's considered a hotbed of amateur wrestling that has a hall of fame to honor its most famous citizens of great accomplishment ... and none of the inductees has a wrestling background.
That's the case in the state of Oklahoma, home to the Oklahoma Hall of Fame. This institution, established in 1927, has welcomed hundreds of individuals in nearly a century of its existence ... including 20 athletes and coaches. Not a single honoree has any connection to the oldest and greatest sport.
The surprising news was first reported by Seth Duckworth in his "Pistols Firing" blog which weighs in on sports at Oklahoma State University.
In his article -- "John Smith, Ed Gallagher and the Hall of Fame Snub No One Is Talking About" -- Duckworth noted that the Oklahoma Hall of Fame had no wrestlers listed in its recently-revealed Class of 2019 honorees. He did a bit of digging ... and discovered that in its 92-year history, the Hall has yet to welcome anyone with an amateur wrestling background, including legendary Oklahoma State wrestling coaches John Smith and Ed Gallagher mentioned in the headline.
The 20 individuals with sports backgrounds who reside in the Oklahoma Hall of Fame are names well-known beyond the Sooner State, including early 20th century multisport superstar Jim Thorpe, Major League Baseball Hall of Famers Mickey Mantle and Johnny Bench, and Olympic gold medal-winning gymnast Bart Conner, among others. The Class of 2019 includes former pro football players turned politicians Steve Largent and J.C. Watts, among other honorees.
Here's how the Hall -- located in Oklahoma City -- describes its mission:
"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 ..."
(And, to be absolutely clear ... the Oklahoma Hall of Fame is not affiliated with the University of Oklahoma, nor Oklahoma State, nor any other public institution of higher learning within the state.)
Here's what Duckworth had to say about the wrestling-less Oklahoma Hall of Fame:
"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 (University of Oklahoma) legends Danny Hodge, who the wrestling award equivalent of the Heisman trophy is named after, and Olympic gold medalist Dave Schultz, are not included."
According to its official website, the Oklahoma Hall of Fame welcomes nominations from the general public.
In the meantime, before the Oklahoma Hall of Fame sees fit to welcome a wrestler or wrestling coach, wrestling fans have two other halls of fame within the state that have honored individuals connected to the sport: the Oklahoma Sports Hall of Fame in Oklahoma City ... and the National Wrestling Hall of Fame in Stillwater.
The Oklahoma Sports Hall of Fame website describes the facility as "a nonprofit organization whose mission is to encourage excellence through sports, academics, health and fitness; preserving our sports heritage while building pride in Oklahoma in the spirit of Jim Thorpe."
Established in 1986, the Oklahoma Sports Hall of Fame has at least a dozen honorees who were involved in the sport as wrestlers, coaches, or, in the case of one member, Bob Dellinger, as a sportswriter who covered the sport for The Daily Oklahoman newspaper and whose name graces the award presented each year since 1960 by Amateur Wrestling News to the nation's top wrestling writer.
The National Wrestling Hall of Fame has honored athletes and others who contributed to the ongoing success of the sport since 1976. Despite its location in Oklahoma, the National Wrestling Hall membership is not limited to those who were born and/or competed in the Sooner State. What's more, as Jack Carnefix of the Stillwater Hall pointed out on social media when sharing the link to Seth Duckworth's story about the lack of wrestlers in the Oklahoma Hall of Fame, all of the individuals named in his story -- John Smith, Ed Gallagher, Yojiro Uetake, Kenny Monday, Dan Hodge, and Dave Schultz -- have already been inducted into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame.