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A past enriches the future

Before it became known as the "rowdiest arena in the country," Gallagher-Iba Arena was the 4-H building. The arena, originally named the "4-H Clubs and Student Activities Building," was built by 4-H funds. The historic building is undergoing a $51-million renovation and the "new" Gallagher-Iba arena is scheduled to open in December 2000.

As they still do today, Oklahoma 4-H'ers held their annual convention, State 4-H Round-Up, on the campus of then Oklahoma A&M. Of course back then there were no dormitories or meeting halls for the convention. Members stayed in tents on campus. 

The Beginning of an Era
The 4-H Clubs and Student Activity Building under 
construction in 1938 (photo courtesy of University 
Archives, OSU Library-Stillwater).

Charles Cox, Oklahoma 4-H program specialist and state 4-H program leader, recounts the events that lead to funding for the facility.

"They set up a big tent for their general assemblies," Cox said. "Some 4-H members were injured when the big tent collapsed in the early 1930s."

4-H members lobbied for money to build a facility that would be host for their convention every year. Henry Bennett, then president of Oklahoma A&M, had been lobbying for money for a new athletic facility, but with no success. After the 4-H members were injured, legislation passed to provide funds for a much-needed facility. 

"Part of the legislation indicated it was for 4-H and would be open to other student organizations, not just athletics," Cox said. 

On Feb. 25, 1938, ground was broken for the new multi-purpose facility, the "4-H Clubs and Student Activities Building." 

The arena hosted its first athletic event Dec. 9, 1938, when Kansas came to town. The Aggie basketball team defeated the Jayhawks 21-15. 

Edward C. Gallagher
Edward Gallagher was the head wrestling coach at Oklahoma A&M from 1916 to 1940. In 23 years of coaching, he produced 19 undefeated teams. Under his direction in 1928, A&M clinched the first ever national collegiate team title. A&M went on to win 10 more team titles with Gallagher as its coach. Gallagher-Iba Arena is the only arena in the country to be named for a wrestling coach. (photo courtesy of Wrestling Hall of Fame)

On Feb. 3, 1939, "Gallagher Day," the building was dedicated to the legendary wrestling coach Edward Clark Gallagher. On their opening night before a sell-out crowd, the Aggies of A & M defeated the Indiana Hoosiers 18-6. The first wrestler on the mat, weighing in at 118 lbs., was senior Joe McDaniel. 

"It was a thrill to dedicate Gallagher Hall," McDaniel said. "The other two years I wrestled we were in the old armory in the box on a platform. The crowd was right up on you, and it was fun." 

After claiming three NCAA titles and a World Cup title, McDaniel coached wrestling out of state for 20 years. Back home in Oklahoma, he still attends many OSU wrestling matches. Gallagher-Iba has seen many changes since the days McDaniel wrestled here. The biggest change is underway right now. 

"Itís going to be spectacular," McDaniel said. "I hope I live long enough to see it finished." 

On June 1, 1939, Oklahoma 4-H held its dedication program to the 4-H Clubs and Student Activities Building during its annual State 4-H Round-Up. 1939 marked the 30th anniversary of Oklahoma 4-H. 

When Gallagher Hall was remodeled in 1987, the Board of Regents honored Cowboy basketball coach Henry Iba and his name was added to the arena's title. 

"I thought it would be a nice gesture to honor Henry Iba when we were renovating Gallagher Hall," said former athletic director Myron Roderick. 

Henry P. Iba
Henry Iba served as head basketball coach and athletic director from 1934 to 1970. "Mr. Iba" guided the Cowboys to 13 league championships. Iba coached the most games in NCAA history with 1,105 games. He completed a 36-year record at OSU of 655-316. He coached the U.S. Olympic basketball teams in 1964, 1968 and 1972.

The Gallagher family was contacted and agreed that adding Iba's name would be a great honor.

Gallagher-Iba Arena has undergone three name changes in the last 62 years, but McDaniel said he is glad to see it is not changing again. 

"Iím thrilled they are keeping the name Gallagher-Iba," McDaniel said. "Gallagher and Iba were both great coaches and great men. They were my friends and coaches. I have great respect for both of them." 

When Gallagher Hall was built, it was the largest collegiate athletic arena in the country. Roderick called it the "Cadillac" of its time. 

"At the time it was built, Gallagher Hall was the best facility to watch wrestling in the United States," Roderick said. "It became known as the premier wrestling arena in the country." 

The original floor remains in Gallagher-Iba today. At the time the arena was built, they used a 3-inch thick wood floor, much like the type of floor you would find in a bowling alley. The floor that has held so many great athletes and champions will be saved during the renovations.

"There have been more individual championships and All-Americans on that floor than any other place," Roderick said. "It has a distinct history." 

The walls of Gallagher-Iba have held more national championship teams than any other facility in Division I schools. OSU's 42 national championship banners hang from the rafters in Gallagher-Iba. Thirty of those national championships belong to Cowboy wrestling. The storied arena has also held some of the rowdiest crowds in the country. 

Jeff Ragan, All-American and Big 12 wrestling champion, 
bars an arm during dual action in Gallagher-Iba. Ragan
was named OSUís 1999-2000 Male Athlete of the Year.
(photo by Jim Bolding)

"When wrestling was at its tops here, back in the '50s and '60s, the wrestling crowd was by far the loudest crowd they ever had in there," Roderick said. "There were no fire restrictions in those days, and the crowd would pack into Gallagher." 

But the rowdiest crowd ever in the arena was probably in 1978, when the Big 8 Wrestling Championships were held in Gallagher Hall. 

"It is boasted that there were some 8,300 people packed in Gallagher," Roderick said. "Daryl Monosmith was wrestling for us, and he defeated the defending national champion from Iowa State. It got so loud, a lot of the lights busted in Gallagher. And thatís the loudest Iíve ever heard it. It was unbelievable." 

And who would know better than a man who has been attending athletic events in Gallagher-Iba since 1953. After completing his wrestling career at Oklahoma A&M, Roderick served as head wrestling coach from 1957-1969. Then from 1983-1990, he served as athletic director. Roderick now serves as president of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame and Museum, located east of Gallagher-Iba. 

The OSU men's basketball team made it to the Elite Eight
in the 1999-2000 season. (photo by Robert Thompson)

Another great rowdy moment in Gallagher Hall came in 1957 when the Aggies defeated the Kansas Jayhawks, when KU's Wilt Chamberlain was considered the "big man on campus." With only two seconds remaining in the game, A&M's Mel Wright, made a shot, that would now be considered a three-point shot, to win the game.

"It had to be the biggest moment in basketball," Roderick said. "One that people still consider one of the most memorable." 

Everyone who has ever attended a game or match in Gallagher-Iba Arena can attest that the noise can be deafening. And everyone has a different story to share as their most memorable experience in the "rowdiest arena in the country." 

Sketch of the "new" Gallagher-Iba Arena 
opening in December 2000. 
(Courtesy of OSU Sports Information) 

The new changes to Gallagher-Iba Arena were brought in by the dawning of a new century. One of the things that makes Gallagher-Iba such a unique arena is the proximity of the crowd on the action. Although the expanded arena will hold more than 13,000 spectators, all of the seating on the floor will remain unchanged. Even more rowdy fans will have an opportunity to be a part of the earth-pounding, bone-chilling noise that only Gallagher-Iba can produce. 

With the renovations, OSU is preparing its beloved Gallagher-Iba Arena for the future. No one knows what the future holds, but you can be sure a larger Gallagher will have the capacity to hold many more champions in both athletics and 4-H. 

So whether you are watching a wrestling match, the Cowboys and Cowgirls hoop it up, or anticipating the announcement of this year's state 4-H officer team, remember you are part of a unique history in the "rowdiest arena in the country." 

Story by Shelley Thompson
Davenport, Oklahoma
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