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.
“He was like wrestling a stump,” Monasmith said.
As the evening went along, it looked like Santana would be the one to lock up the team title just as he’d done the year before. After Iowa State’s Joe Zuspann upset OSU’s freshman sensation Dave Schultz at 150 pounds, Cowboy coach Tommy Chesbro turned to assistant Tom Hazell.
“We just lost the Big Eight Tournament,” Chesbro said.
“What do you mean?” Hazell replied. “We still have three guys to go. All Mono has to do is whip Santana.”
“Like I say,” Chesbro retorted, “we just lost the Big Eight Tournament.”
Monasmith went downstairs to the Cowboys’ old wrestling room after the Schultz upset. He couldn’t focus in the packed arena. People sat in the aisles and on the floor so that wrestlers had to push fans aside just to get to the mat for their matches.
When Monasmith came back upstairs, he stopped on his way into the arena and put his forehead against the brick wall.
“Daryl,” he told himself, “this is the time to perform the best you’ve ever done in your whole life. You don’t quit. You don’t start stalling. If Santana starts beating on you, you just beat back at him. You do not give up.”
And the most important thing: “Just have fun.”
Dressed in that familiar orange singlet plus black tights and black shoes, Monasmith took the mat with Santana. Early in the first period, Santana shot on Monasmith’s midsection, but Monasmith countered and threw Santana. They went out of bounds, so no points were scored, but it was an unexpected move.
The crowd buzzed.
“I could tell it kind of scared him a little bit,” Monasmith said of his counter.
Santana became cautious when he would shoot, and Monasmith took advantage. Santana shot tentatively later in the first period and Monasmith attacked, grabbing both of Santana’s legs, putting him on his kiester and scoring a takedown.
The crowd roared.
Then in the second period, Santana shot and got one of Monasmith’s legs. Monasmith looked like he was going to try to get out of bounds, but then, he countered and put Santana on his back. The referee began to count for a pin, but Santana was able to muscle his way off his back.
Santana was in trouble. He wasn’t just going against Monasmith now.
Gallagher-Iba was shaking.
“Have you ever seen those vibrating football fields that are little toys for kids?” Monasmith said. “That’s what it was like. You couldn’t hardly stand up out there.”
Monasmith doesn’t even remember the third period, but here’s what happened: he fought off move after move by Santana, won the Big Eight championship, spurred the Cowboys on to the team title, propelled himself into another All-American performance at nationals and touched off pandemonium.
Gallagher-Iba roared and shook for nearly 10 minutes after the match was over.
Back in 2008, when Myron Roderick was battling Alzheimer’s, he talked about his memories of Gallagher-Iba with Cowboy Journal, a publication of the OSU College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources. The former OSU athlete, coach and administrator proclaimed the Monasmith-Santana match the loudest he ever heard the arena. Even though his mind often failed, that memory stuck with him.
“It was unbelievable,” he marveled.
During the hubbub, a couple of the massive lights in Gallagher-Iba’s ceiling went out. Custodians later went to replace the lights and realized that the bulbs had burst from the noise vibrations.
Gallagher-Iba in those days had an acoustical ceiling suspended from the rafters to dampen some of the sound. The acoustic tiles hung from metal strips, and it was later discovered that the vibrations had knocked some of those strips loose.
“The acoustical ceiling almost came down,” Monasmith said. “Wouldn’t that have been something?”
Daryl Monasmith returned to his native Colorado after his OSU career. Now a crop consultant and retired wrestling official living in Wray about an hour north of Burlington, he has a hard time believing anyone would count that match against Santana among the greatest moments in the history of Gallagher-Iba Arena.
“To be a part of that is just awesome,” he said.
But for as special as that night is in the arena’s storied history, it was even more significant to Monasmith. It proved to him that he could impact his future. He went from nearly quitting the team to beating the defending national champion. He changed his attitude, and that changed his destiny.
“If you just put your head against the wall and say, ‘I’m gonna do something,’” Monasmith said, “man, amazing things can happen.”
Jenni Carlson: Jenni can be reached at 475-4125. Like her at facebook.com/JenniCarlsonOK, follow her at twitter.com/jennicarlson_ok or view her personality page at newsok.com/jennicarlson.