Take a seat boys and girls, and let me tell you the tale of a folk hero named “Gas Tank Gary.”
Yankee Stadium is commonly referred to as the “The House that Ruth Built.” The United Center in Chicago is described as “The House that Jordan Built.” Arguably the two greatest athletes to ever play their respective sports honored as the sporting cathedrals’ namesake. And then there is the Covelli Center on the campus of Ohio State University, quickly becoming the ‘The House that Gary Traub Built.” [insert record screech sound effect here] Wait, what? Yes, the former (more on this later) walk-on heavyweight has risen as a Buckeye sensation.
It all began on Nov. 10, 2019 during the Covelli Center’s wrestling opener. It’s fair to say Stanford University’s David Showunmi has a physique ‘chiseled out of stone’ while Traub carries a more, let’s say, ‘traditional heavyweight’ frame. A schoolyard pick based solely on appearance would presumably result in Showunmi selected as the match-up victor. Traub, and his gas tank, were having none of that though.
Trailing 3-2 with less 90 seconds to go, Traub fired off a shot and grinded out the go-ahead takedown culminated by dragging his fleeing foe back into the circle by his ankle. Showunmi mustered little fight from there, empty, as Traub rode him out for the remainder of the bout.
Traub had broken him and looked to be ready for another seven minutes of action, prompting a fan tweet suggesting the sobriquet of “Gas Tank Gary.” From there, the nickname spread … rapidly.
Traub found himself in a similar predicament a few weeks later versus Cornell:
-Facing a much larger opponent (40+ pounds to be more specific)
-On center stage at the Covelli Center
-Trailing by a lone point late in the third period
The déjà vu provoking denouement was much the same, too, as Traub electrified the crowd once again by ‘winning the third’ and snagging the bout-winning takedown as time expired. His second dramatic win in as many home matches sparked the “Gas Tank Gary” explosion.
More than a month passed without dual competition from early December to early January. This lull did little to derail the “GTG” train. Rather, it picked up steam and built up over the holiday break. Buckeye Nation wanted more fuel and the Traub Family was prepared to provide it.
T-shirts with GAS TANK GARY scribed across the back started to pop up around southern Ohio and make the trek to the Covelli Center thanks to Papa Traub. 📱#GasTankGary was appearing more frequently on social media and wrestling media outlets from across the country dropped casual mentions of Traub’s two thrilling triumphs.
Away from the spotlight, Traub’s motor continued to rev unbeknownst to most. He took a detour from the Ohio State varsity schedule and registered for the Cleveland State Open between home matches. His flair for the dramatic was re-kindled in the finals, erasing a 5-3 deficit late in the second period by pinning Kent State’s Spencer Berthold to be crowned the event’s heavyweight champion.
Then came a tilt against Arizona State’s Tanner Hall, the sixth-ranked heavyweight in the country. A rare Monday night wrestling clash between top-5 squads broadcast live to a national audience on Fox Sports 1. This is when it happened for the first time … 🗣️ Gary! Gary! Gary!
Chants from the packed house rained down before Traub even surfaced from the tunnel. Reminiscent of the pop culture fueled cadence of ‘Jerry! Jerry! Jerry!’ from one of the trashiest, yet most successful shows in television history (ironically also starring a Cincinnati native), ‘Gas Tank Gary’ had become a real phenomenon.
Once again finding himself in a third-period hole, Traub began taking shot after shot in pursuit of evening the score at 4-4. He came up a toe-tap shy of doing just that and potentially blowing the roof off of the Covelli Center as his final offensive onslaught spilled outside the circle.
As all super heroes do in the movies, Gas Tank Gary did not stay down for long. Four days later his superior conditioning, drive and heart was put on display once again in front of the Scarlet-clad assembly inside the Covelli Center.
First, it was a late reversal followed by a lunch pail effort to thwart the ensuing escape, clinging to an ankle as he was dragged around the mat. Though Rutgers’ Matthew Correnti was ultimately able to break free with one second left on the clock and force overtime, everyone in the place sensed what was about to happen. Traub made true on the shared premonition — snatched a leg, elevated and finished the takedown for sudden victory. Pandemonium ensued. Apple Watch noise level warnings lit up throughout the arena. Gary Traub had officially become the mayor of the Covelli Center.
Covelli unedited is pure gasoline 📽⛽️ pic.twitter.com/zB9ToJmAyX
— Ohio State Wrestling (@wrestlingbucks) January 11, 2020
Admiration for the hard-working heavyweight and media buzz ascended to a new level. ‘Gas Tank’ was the darling of college wrestling.
The native Buckeye who works 18 hours a week stocking groceries while enduring the rigors of being a full-time student-athlete for one of the nation’s elite wrestling programs could be seen everywhere. Post-match press conferences, interviews with FloWrestling, podcasts, artist paintings, you name it. His ‘aw shucks’ humble attitude was palpable and further endeared him to the wrestling community.
Traub’s rocket ship rise into Buckeye folklore has been nothing short of awesome. In the truest sense of the word … “inspiring awe” as defined by Merriam-Webster.
All the highlight clips combined would not match the outpouring of attention received on Jan. 15 when Traub was rewarded by the Ohio State coaching staff with scholarship funds, making him a walk-on no more. The magic moment was caught on tape…
Our program had the opportunity to reward scholarship funds to some deserving Buckeyes today. A special day inside the Jennings Wrestling Facility. pic.twitter.com/1IynTjmlgh
— Ohio State Wrestling (@wrestlingbucks) January 15, 2020
The smile says it all.
Keep making us all smile, ‘Gas Tank.’ We thank you.