The Story of the 1975 Bedlam Wrestling Brawl

I like to try and take unique angles and looks related to Oklahoma State wrestling, and with it Bedlam week I thought I thought I’d touch on this one.

The Bedlam rivalry is actually rooted in the sport of wrestling. According to Oklahoma State this is how the term was coined.

The rivalry has its roots in the schools’ prestigious wrestling programs; OSU has won 34 NCAA titles, OU 7. The story goes that a newspaper reporter emerged from a wrestling match in OSU’s historic Gallagher Hall (now Gallagher-Iba Arena) and said, “It’s bedlam in there!”

And the 1975 Bedlam dual could easily be viewed as the craziest Bedlam event ever.

At the time of the dual, the Cowboys and the Sooners were ranked No. 1 and No. 2 in the country and the match came down to heavyweight and OSU freshmen Jimmy Jackson. This is how Jackson described the scene to the Washington Post in 1978.

“I’ve won the NCAAs twice and been to the Olympics, but the match I remember most was my first against OU, my freshman year, and naturally the whole thing came down to what I did.”

“There were about 9,000 people in the (OSU) gym – 4,500 for us and 4,500 for them – and the guy I’m wrestling is a senior, runner-up in the Big Eight the year before. So he tried to intimidate me, tapping me on the head, pushing me, stuff like that.

“We were near the edge of the mat when he pushed me once too often and I pushed him back. The next thing I know somebody jumped out of the stands and took a punch at me. Turned out it was the OU guy’s brother.

“Well, he missed me, but all of a sudden some OSU football players I know jumped out of the stands and jumped on top of him.”

“Everybody in the place seemed to be fighting each other, so the teams went back to the dressing rooms. About an hour later, they cleaned everything up and we went out and wrestled again, started my match all over in fact.”

“I pinned him.”

As Jackson described, his match got a bit chippy and as it did, the OU heavyweight’s brother took a swing at him. This incited a melee as the OSU football players in attendance went at it with the OU wrestling team and fights broke out all over the gym.

Both teams were cleared from the gym to get the crowd under control. Once they got everything calmed down, the teams returned and Jackson finished off his match and the dual in short order.

This archived article from the O’Colly talks about the aftermath.

According to the article, Stan Abel, the OU head wrestling coach at the time, saw things differently. He believed Jackson started the fight and told Al Eschbach and the Oklahoma Journal (which the O’Colly pulls fron).

“Jackson threw the first punch. I then went out there and tried to break them up.”

It should be noted that Abel’s side was the only one depicted in the Oklahoma Journal article discussing the melee, and the writer of the article, Eschbach, did not reach out to Oklahoma State head wrestling coach Todd Chesbro at the time.

Abel went on to also say this about the OSU fans.

“They were the most hostile fanbase I’ve ever seen. Soon as we got on the floor they were booing us. They have so much animosity for us up there it’s unbelievable I think one of the reasons is we dominate them so much at football, that they take out their anger on us in wrestling.”

Bedlam wrestling on Sunday in Norman will likely be a bit tamer, but this is certainly an interesting footnote in the history of the rivalry.

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Source: Pistols Firing