Wrestler Daryl Monasmith is one of Gallagher-Iba Arena's legendary stories

Monasmith was a two-time All-American for the Cowboys, but his name is often forgotten when rattling off OSU wrestling legends.
by Jenni Carlson Modified: March 2, 2014 at 6:16 pm •  Published: March 2, 2014
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Daryl Monasmith went to grab a bite one summer evening after work. He was wearing an Oklahoma State shirt, and even though he was in rural Colorado hundreds of miles from Stillwater, a stranger asked if he’d gone to OSU. Monasmith told him that he had.

“I got a wrestling scholarship,” he explained.

“You know, they’ve got some good wrestling down there,” the stranger said.

The stranger’s son went to OSU and attended his first wrestling match when the Big Eight Tournament came to town. It was so wild that he called and told his dad about this OSU wrestler who wasn’t worth a poop beating this big guy from Iowa State. The stranger went on and on about that OSU wrestler.

“Mister, I gotta tell you,” Monasmith said finally, “I’m that OSU wrestler.”

In the lexicon of legendary Cowboy wrestlers, Daryl Monasmith isn’t a name most people remember even though he was a two-time All-American. But as Gallagher-Iba Arena celebrates its 75th year, he is a legend in its storied history. He upset Frank Santana, that big guy from Iowa State, in the 1978 Big Eight Tournament and produced a moment to remember.

Lights went out, and the floor shook.

Many say it is the loudest that the arena has ever been.

Monasmith marvels at how that night still resounds today, but the real wonder is the road that brought him to that historic arena for that momentous moment.

*

Daryl Monasmith grew up in Burlington, Colo., only 10 miles west of the Kansas state line on Interstate 70. He remembers the town being lousy at sports, but he became a wrestling star. He won his first high school state title as a sophomore. Two years later, he went to a national tournament and turned recruiters’ heads when he beat David McQuaig, a Tulsa Memorial High wrestler who was a rare two-time outstanding wrestler at the Oklahoma state tournament.

OSU wanted Monasmith badly, and after visiting Stillwater, he was sold.

Monasmith wrestled at 177 pounds as a freshman, but when he hurt his back late in the season, fellow freshman David McQuaig (yep, same guy from that high school tournament) took his spot and became an All-American.

Monasmith decided to move to 190 pounds to avoid more battles with McQuaig, and that season, Monasmith was an All-American.

After a disappointing junior season, Monasmith again found himself battling McQuaig. A phenom named Eric Wais was so good that he was always going to start at 177 or 190 pounds, so Monasmith and McQuaig fought for the other spot.

At the start of the 1977-78 season, McQuaig was injured, so Monasmith started and excelled. But when McQuaig got healthy late that fall, the coaches decided he was in and Monasmith was out.

He made plans to go home for Christmas break and not come back.

“I was ready to quit,” Monasmith said. “I had my bags packed. I was through with Oklahoma State.”

*

Daryl Monasmith called his parents before he left Stillwater for the break and told them his plan.

Transfer to Colorado State. Finish up there. No more wrestling.

Finally, his dad reminded him that all he ever did was talk about how much he loved wrestling and how much he loved Oklahoma State.

“You just need to change your attitude,” his dad said. “Start having fun.”

Monasmith thought for a few days about what his dad had said, and after Christmas break, he returned to OSU with a new attitude.

A few weeks later, McQuaig broke his nose during practice, and Monasmith was back in the starting lineup.

“I was ready,” Monasmith said.

He had no way of knowing the heights to which that attitude would take him.

*

The Big Eight Tournament came to Gallagher-Iba Arena in March 1978.

So did the heavily favorite Iowa State Cyclones. They were top-ranked in the country, and everyone, including the Cowboys, knew that beating them would be almost impossible.

Heading into the finals, the Cowboys had wrestled well, but they were going to need at least one win from an Oklahoma wrestler and likely an upset from one of their own wrestlers to have a chance.

An overflow, largely Cowboy-loving crowd packed Gallagher-Iba. Fire codes were non-existent or ignored as every available space in the 6,381-seat arena was filled. Everyone knew what had to be done for the Cowboys to upset the Cyclones, which wrestlers were the favorites and which ones were underdogs.

“I think I was on the top of the list of guys that was going to get his dog walked that night,” Monasmith said.

The reason: Frank Santana, his opponent at 190 pounds, was the returning national champion. The closest that Monasmith came to beating the Iowa State senior was a couple weeks after Santana had surgery to remove bone chips in one of his knees. Even with some pretty raw stitches on that knee, Santana still beat Monasmith by decision.


by Jenni Carlson
Columnist
Jenni Carlson, a sports columnist at The Oklahoman since 1999, came by her love of sports honestly. She grew up in a sports-loving family in Kansas. Her dad coached baseball and did color commentary on the radio for the high school football...
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