What would possess a man whose entire experience on the wrestling mat consists of trying the sport for a week when he was growing up to challenge a six-time world and Olympic champion who is one of the greatest of all-time? Oklahoma State softball coach Kenny Gajewski did just that, but he probably never thought it would actually happen. Gajewski made a bet with his team that if they got hit-by-pitch 50 times last season, he would square off on the mat with Oklahoma State’s wrestling coach, and legendary competitor, John Smith.
For a long time last season, it looked like the Cowgirl softball team would come up short of getting hit 50 times. When they ended the regular season on the bubble to make the NCAA tournament, and short of the number, the match that Gajewski’s team desperately wanted to see hung in the balance. Then, the Cowgirls got in. They wasted no time getting to 50, getting hit four times in a 2-1 loss to Northwestern to open the Regional. After rolling over Maine, 10-1, to stay alive in the tournament, they would again be hit-by-pitch four times against Northwestern, this time knocking off the Wildcats. The Cowgirls ended their season pushing Georgia to a winner take all Regional final. Though they fell there, there was a silver lining. Smith versus Gajewski was on!
This was originally supposed to be a private match with only the softball team and a select few guests in attendance, but Smith had a busy summer traveling to Rio to broadcast the Olympic wrestling tournament so it kept getting pushed back. Eventually, it was decided that the two would face off under the bright lights of Gallagher-Iba Arena Friday night, in what has been dubbed the “Rumble in the Rowdy”, in front of anyone who wants to show up. Admission is free and you can expect a big crowd as the festivities, which are a part of Oklahoma State’s homecoming, also include scrimmages for both the men’s and women’s basketball teams. The arena doors open at 8 pm and the entertainment is scheduled to begin at 9 pm.
As for how long Gajewski expects he’ll be able to hold off the much lighter Smith, he told the Stillwater News Press, “If I can get to the second (period) or even score a point. He told our kids that he would give me about 30 seconds, so if I can go about 31 that would be a win.” Smith’s career record stands at 434-21-2 which is approximately 457 more competitive matches than Gajewski has wrestled. Friday night should be entertaining, but competitive? Probably not.