The Leyshon Era: mid-1960s to 1980s
Under the guidance and leadership of coach Glynn Leyshon in the mid-1960s, intercollegiate wrestling at Western expanded into national and international competitions. Athletes continued their training after the season ended and increasingly entered open competitions, despite their differing rules. Charlie Nixon and Pete Lockyer became the first Canadian grapplers to make the leap from intercollegiate to international competitions. Participating in these non-intercollegiate competitions meant that students had to cover all travel, accommodation and entry fees, which could be quite substantial. Gradually the expenses for these competitions were taken over by the Ontario Amateur Wrestling Association.
Participation in international championships also meant that athletes needed to train throughout the year. In the early 1970s, coach Leyshon created the London Amateur Wrestling and Athletic Club, now the London-Western Wrestling Club. The primary goal of the club was to ensure that students were able to train and compete throughout the year. This club affiliation has been very positive for wrestlers and many universities have since established similar programs. Watch a segment of our video interview with Ray Takahashi, current coach of Western wrestling, as he speaks about the importance of the Club affiliation.
Prior to the 1960s, recruitment of athletes for major international competitions such as the Olympics, Commonwealth Games, Pan-Am Games and World Championships, was done mostly through the YMCAs. In the 1960s, universities that were equipped with paid coaches, excellent training facilities and regularly scheduled competitions became the primary source of high caliber athletes that would then be recruited for major international competitions.
In the 1970s, Mustang wrestling was marked by an ever-increasing participation of wrestlers in national and international competitions and by the creation of a government supported program. It was during this time that Canadian wrestling adopted the International Federation of Associated Wrestling Styles rules for all levels of the sport, thus adopting the standardized wrestling rules under which international competitions are regulated. The adoption of this rule system was advantageous for many Western grapplers who participated in many competitions outside the university system, including national and international competitions.
Mike Barry, Egon Beiler, Joe Dell'Aquila, Brian Renken, Lloyd Renken and Ray Takahashi are some of the athletes who participated and in many cases championed major competitions in the 1970s, including Ontario University Athletic Association and Canadian Interuniversity Athletics Union championships, Canadian Opens, Pan-Am Games, World Cups, Commonwealth Games and the Olympics. During Leyshon’s seventeen years as coach, the team won championships in 1965, 1969, 1971, 1973, 1975, 1978 and 1979. With all the team’s provincial, national and international success, the London Free Press and Western's newspaper, Campus Sport, increasingly covered wrestling, thus having a direct impact on the public’s support.
When Leyshon left his position as head wrestling coach at Western after the 1979-80 season, he became the national coach and was appointed as Olympic coach for the 1980 Summer Games, which Canada eventually boycotted.
Glynn Leyshon had a profound influence on many Western wrestlers, including Western's current wrestling coach, Ray Takahashi. Watch a segment of our video interview with Ray Takahashi as he speaks about his experience training under Glynn Leyshon.