By Ron Holt
Stillwater News Press
STILLWATER, Okla. —
Driving past the spacious Michael and Anne Greenwood Tennis Center recently produced a bout of nostalgia concerning the path Oklahoma State tennis has taken.
A first memory of OSU tennis was matches being held on courts near the old Armory south of Gallagher-Iba Arena. There was a time the Cowboys’ head coaching assignment was held by its head wrestling coach, Myron Roderick.
Roderick, a three-time NCAA champion wrestler, was also a three-year letter winner in tennis and later coached both sports at OSU. He was 105-23-1 during his 10-year tennis tenure.
Phil Haller coached the Pokes for three seasons before former NCAA champion wrestler Fred Fozzard coached tennis for two seasons.
The dynamics of Cowboy tennis changed when James Wadley was hired away from Duncan High School to become OSU’s head men’s coach in 1972.
Besides being a coach with a high energy personality, coach Wadley also became a quality recruiter, luring outstanding foreign talent to campus. He was also a Barnum & Bailey type promoter for his program.
Led by Wadley, the DeBois Tennis Center was opened on the OSU campus, near the Colvin Center, in 1980.
It was an improvement from the Armory courts but not as fan friendly as OSU’s new 50,000 square foot Greenwood Center with its six indoor courts and 12 outdoor courts.
Under Wadley’s guidance, Cowboy tennis flourished on the conference and national stage. And, he sustained that level of excellence through four decades of devotion to the program and the university, making him the longest tenured head coach in O-State history.
Coach Wadley was honored last May by being inducted into the Intercollegiate Tennis Association Hall of Fame. The much deserved award was presented during the NCAA Division I Men’s and Women’s Tennis Championships in Athens, Ga.
During his career, the Cowboys compiled 662 wins and claimed 12 conference championships. In addition, O-State played in 17 NCAA Tournaments and had four Sweet Sixteen appearances.
Wadley grew up in McAlester and played collegiate tennis for NAIA power Southeastern State in Durant.
Ironically, Cowgirl tennis began to elevate its standing on both the conference and national levels when another Southeastern State tennis star, Ike Groce, was hired in 1979 after building outstanding high school tennis programs in Texas.
Groce’s short-lived six-year tenure produced an overall record of 131-27, including an astounding 44-2 record in Big Eight matches. Groce died of heart failure in 1985 but his collegiate legacy had been permanently established.
OSU’s men’s and women’s tennis program rose to prominence under the guidance of two Southeastern State Hall of Famers.
Current Cowboy coach Jay Udwadia and current Cowgirl coach Chris Young have the talent and resources to take OSU tennis to even loftier heights.
They owe a debt of gratitude to the coaches who paved a successful path.
Ron Holt is a columnist for the Stillwater News Press. Holt was a sports editor for the News Press for nearly 30 years and currently resides in Bixby.