The meaning behind the Wagon Wheel

Sean Ammerman

It’s time once again for two college teams that are 10 miles apart and both wear blue and gold to play a football game for a horse-drawn wooden wheel.

Maybe it doesn’t get national recognition, but the Battle for the Wagon Wheel is the only thing close to a historic football rivalry here at Kent State.

Notre Dame has Southern California, Ohio State has Michigan and Kent State has the Akron Zips.

In case you don’t know, a blue-and-gold wagon wheel is the prize given to the winning team in this annual contest, hence the name. To get you up to date, here is a bit of history about how the contest evolved.

As legend has it, Akron founder John R. Buchtel was traveling about Northeast Ohio in search of a place to build a college. It was 1870, so Mr. Buchtel was at the disposal of a horse-drawn carriage. While traveling through Kent, his wagon got stuck in some mud. And when his horses tried to pull him out, the whole thing broke to pieces.

Fast forward 32 years and Akron and Kent State are just a carriage ride apart from each other. Unbeknownst to Buchtel, one of his wagon wheels was left behind in pristine condition buried in the mud. Kent State Dean of Men Raymond Manchester found the now-legendary artifact and decided it would make a great trophy for a yearly football contest.

The first actual Wagon Wheel game was held in 1946. Because of a lack of competition on the part of the Zips, the game was ditched in 1954. I guess they figured there can’t be a rivalry if one team keeps winning every year.

However, in 1972, Kent State proved itself worthy again and the illustrious Battle for the Wagon Wheel was restored for good. Since then, Akron has led the series 16-9-1, including eight of the last nine contests.

Akron has now held the Wagon Wheel for two years. Last time the teams met, the Zips won in a 35-3 thrashing during a beautiful Akron snow storm at the Rubber Bowl.

A Zip, by the way, is apparently a kangaroo, not the amount of points the team normally scores.

With history against them, it’s no surprise the Flashes are a 3-point underdog, according to But Kent State is on the verge of a history-breaking year.

In last year’s game, the Zips were led by quarterback Luke Getsy, a player many are quick to point out is putting up better numbers than alum and current Browns quarterback Charlie Frye.

Few seem to notice that Kent State’s Julian Edelman actually has a better quarterback rating.

Kent State is currently atop Akron in the Mid-American Conference standings. The Flashes have what the MAC East Division awarded as the Offensive Player of the Week last week (quarterback Julian Edelman) and the Defensive Player of the Week this week (defensive back Andre Kirkland).

The Zips have nothing but hype and exaggerated preseason expectations.

Contact assistant sports editor Sean Ammerman at [email protected].