At Oklahoma State, a gifted wrestler can look forward to the NCAA championships, the Olympics and the really important matches of his life - the dual meets with Oklahoma, known as the Bedlam Series.
"I've won the NCAAs twice and been to the Olympics," said heavyweight Jimmy Jackson of OSU, "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".
Jackson is 6-foot-6 and 358 pounds, give or take an ounce or two that may have melted during an 89-second pin of monstrous Ralph Zigner of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga in the preliminary round of the NCAA tournament yesterday in Cole Field House.
Jackson always has been large, but did not reach building-tipping proportions until he arrived at OSU. And, yes, there was spirited competition for his skills, from such as Bo and Woody in football and all the wrestling hucksters, even though he was an undernourished 260 at the time.
That was in Grand Rapids, Mich, and Jackson would have been a Wolverine like his father, instead of a Cowboy if the football wizards had allowed him to wrestle and the wrestling folks had bothered to offer him a scholarship
"One of the reasons I chose wrestling is that I wasn't as good at it as I was football," he said. "But I liked the fact that it's an individual sport. It's all your fault when you lose, but you get all the glory when you win."
When Jackson still was deciding which college to attend, he answered the phone one day and began a memorable talk with the Oklahoma wrestling coach, Stan Abel. There was the usual recruiting banter and then Abel said something like "stud, you've got to come to the land of milk and honey" and all of a sudden broke into the Oklahoma fight song, "Boomer Sooner".
Barry Switzer must carry a better tune; Jackson chose OSU.
Anyone as large and strong and swift as Jackson should lose about once a stone age. He as 109-3 in high school and increased his collegiate record to 84-9-2 with that quick pin yesterday. He is 49-1-1 his last two seasons, and unbeaten in 25 matches his senior year.
OSU treats wrestling the way the factories treat football, with trips that sometimes last a week. So Jackson often plays catch-up with his double major, journalism and business adminstration.
Some of us would pay handsomely to see George Allen try to keep a deadline-harried Jackson out of a dressing room. And Jackson's skin is thick enough to tolerate such rumor, as well as the ice cream waitress in Poland who grabbed his hand and began rubbing it.
"I guess she'd never seen anyone this black this big before," he said.
This year Jackson and some friends began a fraternity, Alpha Tau Omega, at OSU, and he missed the dual meet with lightweight Nebraska to be initiated as a charter member. Now he is intent on joining another exclusive OSU group, the three-time national champions. OSU is sort of the UCLA of wrestling - and Jackson needs to win his division this weekend to become the 11th Cowboy three-time champion. And the third heavyweight.
"Just another name in the crowd," he said. "It would be a great feat, but you've got to remember somebody else already has done it. But now it's tougher, because now you've got to wrestle more in the tournament and the competition is better."
Jackson has not looked much beyond the NCAAs and a few commitments in April. He might choose to return to OSU for a master's and remain in competition until the Moscow Olympics (he lost ot the gold and silver-medal winners at Montreal).
He has not considered turning pro, never even had an idle moment when he dreamed of being billed as "JJ The Giant" or some such. But if the pros are low on dignity, they are large on money - and Jackson said he will at least listen when they come calling.