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Fans at 2014 NCAAs: Check out Wrestling Hall of Fame, other landmarks

The National Wrestling Hall of Fame in Stillwater, Okla. is a must-see spot for 2014 NCAA wrestling fans
The National Wrestling Hall of Fame in Stillwater, Okla. is a must-see spot for 2014 NCAA wrestling fans

Fans headed to Oklahoma City for the 2014 NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships might want to include visits to various landmarks in the area including the National Wrestling Hall of Fame, which on Friday announced extended hours for championships week March 17-23.

The facility will be open Monday-Wednesday, March 17-18, from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Central. From Thursday-Sunday, fans can visit the Hall of Fame from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Normally, the Hall is not open during the evening, and is only open on weekends for special events.

The National Wrestling Hall of Fame, located in Stillwater, Okla., is about an hour north of Oklahoma City’s Chesapeake Energy Arena, site of the 2014 NCAAs. True to its name, this facility honors the wrestlers, coaches and others who have been enshrined since its opening in 1976. In addition, the Hall of Fame is a museum that has one-of-a-kind displays of actual wrestling singlets worn by the all-time greats, as well as photos and other memorabilia of significance to all phases of amateur wrestling. There’s also a research library with a treasure-trove of wrestling books and publications, a theater for watching films of wrestling matches, and gifts and mementos available for purchase.

“The National Wrestling Hall of Fame is one of my favorite places to visit,” according to Dan Gable, Iowa State wrestling champ, 1972 Olympic gold medalist, and legendary University of Iowa coach. “This museum celebrates the rich tradition of our sport. Be sure to include it in your plans.”

Directions to the Hall of Fame: From the Chesapeake Energy Arena, head north from N. Walker Ave., then turn right on NW Fourth St. Bear left at NE Fifth St.; take the I-235 South ramp. Take the I-40 East exit No. 1A to I-35 North (signs say “Wichita”) and continue north on I-35 47 miles. Take exit No. 174 (Oklahoma state route 51), turn right towards Stillwater, and go east for 15.5 miles on what becomes Sixth St. In Stillwater, turn left on Duck St. Head north to W. Hall of Fame Ave., then turn left. The National Wrestling Hall of Fame is at Hall of Fame Ave. and Duck St.

Other Oklahoma attractions

In addition to the National Wrestling Hall of Fame and Museum, you might want to check out these other attractions while at the 2014 NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships. (See photo-list…)

Get prepped for the 2014 NCAAs with Mat Bracketology: See College Wrestling Examiner's weight-by-weight analysis of seeded wrestlers by clicking on the Mat Bracketology link.

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Gallagher-Iba Arena, home to Oklahoma State wrestling for 75 years
Gallagher-Iba Arena, home to Oklahoma State wrestling for 75 years 1939 "Gallagher Days" arena dedication (author's collection);

Gallagher-Iba Arena, home to Oklahoma State wrestling for 75 years

The National Wrestling Hall of Fame and Museum is located on the edge of Oklahoma State University… a short walk to Gallagher-Iba Arena, which just celebrated its 75th year as home to the Cowboy wrestling program.

The facility on the Stillwater campus is the only major arena in the U.S. named to honor a college wrestling coach, Edward Clark Gallagher, considered to be the father of modern college wrestling. With Gallagher at the helm, Oklahoma State crafted a 138-5-4 overall record, including 19 undefeated seasons, and eleven NCAA team titles. He coached 37 individual NCAA champs; a number of his wrestlers went on to earn Olympic gold medals.

Towards the end of his coaching career, Gallagher battled Parkinson’s Disease, but remained wrestling coach until his death in August 1940, at age 53. His funeral service was held at a packed Gallagher Hall, the building he helped dedicate 18 months earlier.

Gallagher was a member of the inaugural class of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame. For the 75th anniversary of the NCAA wrestling championships in 2005, Gallagher was named one of the three greatest college coaches of all time (along with Iowa’s Dan Gable, and Iowa State’s Harold Nichols).

Gallagher-Iba Arena hosted the NCAA wrestling championships in 1946, 1956 and 1962.

Over the years, the building has undergone a major expansion and upgrades, and a couple name changes, first becoming Gallagher Hall at the time of the coach’s passing, then being renamed to also honor Henry Iba, long-time Oklahoma State basketball coach and athletic director.

One of the new features of the most recent renovation to Gallagher-Iba Arena in 2000 was the opening of Heritage Hall, which displays Oklahoma State sports memorabilia. Visitors can easily move through the years, 1890 to the present, checking out national championships, conference champions, academic All-Americans, Olympians, and the Hall of Honor. Heritage Hall is open to the public from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Wrestler-coach Wayne Baughman immortalized at U.S. Air Force Monument
Wrestler-coach Wayne Baughman immortalized at U.S. Air Force Monument Original source unknown

Wrestler-coach Wayne Baughman immortalized at U.S. Air Force Monument

One of the hallmarks of a great wrestler is to maintain position. Former University of Oklahoma mat champ Wayne Baughman has done just that in downtown Oklahoma City for a half-century, in all kinds of weather… which is an impressive feat, considering how little he’s wearing.

Fifty years ago, the 1962 NCAA champ -- who went on to wrestle and coach at multiple Olympic games and serve as long-time Air Force Academy head coach -- posed for an U.S. Air Force Monument which is now on display in Kerr Park in the heart of Oklahoma City’s business district.

Perhaps as impressive as Baughman’s chiseled physique: the Oklahoma City native came into wrestling by accident, after being kicked off his high school basketball team. His football coach demanded that his athletes participate in a second sport, so he directed Baughman to the wrestling room. His mat coach told Baughman he was too slow to be successful as a wrestler. However, Baughman had the last laugh as a three-time NCAA finalist for the Oklahoma Sooners. He won the 191-pound title at the 1962 NCAAs at Gallagher Hall by defeating Oklahoma State muscleman Joe James in the finals.

Baughman, a ROTC (Reserve Officer Training Corps) candidate at Oklahoma, posed for sculptor Leonard McMurray for approximately 100 hours – maintaining position for 3-5 minutes at a time – and was paid $500. The 12-foot tall sculpture was unveiled in 1964, and restored a decade ago.

"Working with McMurray was really interesting because he's a tremendous artist," Baughman told The Oklahoman newspaper upon the rededication of the restored statue in 2003.

You’ll find Baughman on display at the U.S. Air Force Monument in Kerr Park on Robert S. Kerr Blvd., between Broadway to the east, Robinson St. to the west.

Hallowed ground: Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum
Hallowed ground: Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum Wikipedia

Hallowed ground: Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum

Although it took place nearly two decades ago, for many of us, it’s as if the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City happened yesterday. This single greatest act of terrorism caused by a U.S. citizen on American soil took place April 19, 1995 when Timothy McVeigh detonated a bomb inside a rented truck on the NW Fifth St. side of the glass-and-concrete structure, killing 168 and injuring more than 600.

Where the Murrah building once stood is now the site of the Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum.

The facility consists of two distinct components – an outdoor memorial, and an indoor museum.

The Outdoor Symbolic Memorial honors the victims, survivors, rescuers and others in the Oklahoma City community whose lives were shattered by the bombing. The website describes the Memorial as “a place of quiet reflection.” A reflecting pool now occupies the ground where the Murrah building once stood. At either end of the pool are large granite square-arch structures; at the east end, a large 9:01 is carved into the granite, while the west structure has 9:03 carved in stone, signifying the bomb blast at 9:02. Bronze-and-glass chairs – one for each of those killed in the explosion – line a grassy area to the south of the reflecting pool. A cell phone tour of the Outdoor Symbolic Memorial is available by dialing (405) 445-4792. There is no charge to visit the memorial.

The Memorial Museum, located just to the north of the outdoor memorial, provides a chronological, self-guided, interactive tour of the events of April 19, 1995, and the days, weeks and months that followed the bombing. The museum is normally open Monday-Saturday, 9 a.m.-6 p.m., and Sunday noon-6 p.m. There is an admission charge for the museum.

The Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum is located at the north edge of downtown Oklahoma City, about a 15-minute walk straight north of the Chesapeake Energy Arena. To visit this hallowed ground is an incredibly moving experience that no fan attending the NCAAs should miss.

Get a taste of spring at Myriad Botanical Gardens
Get a taste of spring at Myriad Botanical Gardens Myriad Gardens website

Get a taste of spring at Myriad Botanical Gardens

The Myriad Botanical Gardens is an incredible public space – 17 acres of natural beauty in the heart of downtown Oklahoma City, practically a stone’s throw from the Chesapeake Energy Arena, site of the 2014 NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships.

The Gardens feature both outdoor and indoor spaces. Think of the Crystal Bridge Conservatory as a super-sized, space-age-looking greenhouse, filled with beautiful exotic plants that provide a much-welcome breath of spring color and scent after a miserable, long winter. There’s also the Park House restaurant for a refreshing dining experience.

The outdoor grounds are open daily 6 a.m.-11 p.m., with no admission charge. There is an admission charge for the Crystal Bridge Conservatory.

It’s all about the fans at the NCAA Fan Festival at Cox Convention Center
It’s all about the fans at the NCAA Fan Festival at Cox Convention Center

It’s all about the fans at the NCAA Fan Festival at Cox Convention Center

The NCAA Fan Festival was created with college wrestling fanatics in mind. Located at Cox Convention Center across the street from Chesapeake Energy Arena – site of the 2014 NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships – it’s the perfect place for fans to get all the wrestling action they can handle… or take a break.

This year’s Fan Festival will feature live coverage of all eight matches during the championship sessions… along with three projection video boards and numerous flat-screen TVs, serving up replays of featured matches, press conferences, all-time great matches of the past, and other live sports action.

There will also be autograph sessions slated to feature wrestling greats from various eras, as well as wrestling clinics and demonstrations, and other events.

NCAA Fan Festival is also the place for the W.I.N. (Wrestling Insider Newsmagazine) Memorabilia Show, a long-running staple of NCAA championships, where fans can take a look at wrestling books and other collectibles, and meet some true mat legends.

In addition, the 2014 NCAA Fan Festival will have two very special live events.

Latino-American Wrestling Experience

The National Wrestling Hall of Fame’s third “Diversity & Inclusion” exhibit, the Latino-American Wrestling Experience, will be available for viewing during the festival. The exhibit honors Latino-American wrestlers who have won NCAA Division I titles and those who have represented the United States on Freestyle and Greco-Roman Senior Teams at the World Championships and Olympic Games.

In addition to displays, on Thursday, March 20 at 4:15 p.m. (between the first and second session), the Hall of Fame will host its Latino-American Wrestling Forum, featuring four wrestling greats: Eric Guerrero, Jessica Medina, Bill Rosado, and Frank Santana. The forum will be held at the Fan Festival Main Stage.

Bobby Douglas in the hot seat at Celebrity Roast

Legendary wrestler and coach Bobby Douglas will be featured guest at the second annual Myron Roderick Celebrity Roast, Thursday evening following the conclusion of the second session. The event will take place in Great Halls A & B on the second level of the Cox Convention Center, and is free and open to the public.

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