Gregg Sunner has earned the bragging rights for the next year.
The retired Ankeny optometrist also gets to take home the ISU vs. OSU victory trophy.
Sunner attended Saturday’s football game at Jack Trice Stadium along with his good friend, Walt MeGown. They were celebrating the 50th anniversary of the first Iowa State vs. Oklahoma State contest that they attended together in 1973.
“We’ve had a lot of fun,” Sunner said prior to the Cyclones’ 34-27 win. “We don’t take the games too seriously. It’s all in good fun. He’s always complimentary of our fans. They’re never obnoxious with him or anything.”
Sunner received his undergraduate degree from Iowa State, while MeGown got his degree from Oklahoma State. Then, they went to optometry school together at Southern College of Optometry in Memphis, Tenn.
Fifty years ago, the two friends decided to attend the Iowa State vs. Oklahoma State game in Ames on the Saturday before Thanksgiving.
“We had the week of Thanksgiving off at school, so we drove back here the Friday before the game,” Sunner said. “We sat in the old Clyde Williams Field and watched our first game.”
Sunner will never forget that game because of a memorable play.
“Buddy Hardeman was a freshman quarterback for the Cyclones, and he rolls around the left end and goes down the sideline right in front of the Oklahoma State bench and all of the sudden he goes down,” Sunner said. “I looked over at Walt and said, ‘Holy cow, where did that guy come from?’ And Walt sat back down and said, ‘The bench.’ One of their subs came off the bench and tackled (Hardeman) at about the 30-yard line. The referees huddled up and eventually ruled it a touchdown.”
In 1974, Sunner elected to make the trip to Stillwater for the game.
“I just told Walt that since he came up here with me the first year, I’d come to his place the next year,” Sunner recalled. “So we just kind of meandered into (this tradition). Nobody wanted to break the string.”
Sunner estimates that he and MeGown have attended about 40 games over the last half-century. The annual clash between the two programs came to an end when the old Big Eight Conference expanded into the Big 12.
“When we first split into the Big 12, Oklahoma State was in the South Division and Iowa State was in the North so we were home-and-home with three of the South teams for two years but then we’d be off for two years, so we haven’t been to 50 games because we haven’t had 50 games,” Sunner said. “But this is our 50th anniversary of our first year of going to the game.”
Both Sunner and MeGown, who had an optometry practice in his hometown of Okmulgee, Okla., have missed a couple of games in the series due to various conflicts.
“But not too many,” Sunner said. “We’ve gone back and forth pretty religiously. And because many of the games in Ames were played in November, we’ve seen our share of bad weather. We’ve been to a couple of snow bowls, but we managed to go no matter what.”
In 2011, Oklahoma State was in position to play for the national championship before the Cowboys came to Ames and Iowa State erased a 17-point deficit in the second half and posted a 37-31 victory in double overtime. It was the Cyclones’ biggest win in school history.
“They were ranked second in the nation, but we came through with the big upset,” Sunner said. “That was a great night.”
In 2018, Sunner traveled to T. Boone Pickens Stadium and watched in amazement as true freshman quarterback Brock Purdy came off the bench and produced five touchdowns to lead the Cyclones to a 48-42 win. Purdy, of course, went on to break nearly every Iowa State passing record and is now a budding star with the San Francisco 49ers.
“I remember Walt going, ‘Who in the hell is this freshman? He comes off the bench and he’s got an S on his chest,'” Sunner said.
Sunner also recalls many of the Cyclones’ losses. In 1988, Oklahoma State closed out the regular season with a 49-28 victory at Ames, putting the finishing touches on Barry Sanders’ Heisman Trophy campaign.
Sanders went on to become an NFL legend who was enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
“Barry was phenomenal,” Sunner said. “He was probably the first guy that I remember whenever he scored a touchdown he would just hand the ball to the ref.”
At some point, the two friends created the victory trophy which has Cy on one side and Pistol Pete on the other, along with the scores of all the games that they’ve seen. The trophy belonged to Sunner after Saturday’s game.
MeGown returned to Oklahoma with something else.
“The loser for the year gets a little trophy which is an infant’s port-a-potty, and there’s a sticker on it that says ‘OSU-ISU Toilet Bowl’,” Sunner said. “And when you open up the lid it says on the bottom, ‘Another season in the crapper.’
“We’ve had fun shuffling these trophies back and forth,” he added.