Wrestling the real facts on Tak
A different kind of coaching
To Dan Marino - hang up your spikes of leave Miami
Wrestling the real facts on Tak
By Wes Brown
This week's 20 questions takes to the mat as Western wrestling head coach Ray Takahashi grapples the ins and outs of an extremely physical sport.
Takahashi's path to wrestling actually started with judo and it wasn't until high school that wrestling finally piqued his interest. "In Grade 9 I started wrestling but I already had hundreds of judo matches under my belt. Initially, I started [it] to improve my judo," Takahashi said about his early athletic ventures.
"My father got me involved in judo at a young age. He's one of the highest ranking judo Ka's in Canada right now with an eighth degree black belt. My entire family was brought up on it. My mother is a fifth degree black belt and my brother and sister run the judo club my father started years ago."
Takahashi's focus from judo to wrestling gradually shifted as he improved at the sport. This increased commitment would lead him to much bigger and better things.
"I made three Olympic teams, '76, '80 and '84, wrestling at 52 [kilograms]. It was a great experience, it was exactly what you think the Olympics are all about," he said, adding he managed to leave his mark on the international competition. "I placed fourth at the '84 Olympics. I wanted to do well at the '84 Games because I knew it would be my last."
Ray wasn't the only Takahashi competing at the Olympic level. His brother, Phil, also represented Canada on the judo team in the 1980, 1984 and 1988 Olympics. Having his big brother compete alongside him at such a high level of competition was incredibly exciting, Takahashi said.
Glynn Leyschon coached Western's wrestling team as well as the 1980 Olympic squad and Takahashi said he was a big influence on him when he applied to the university in 1978.
"I came here because [Western] had a good wrestling program and it was a good school for academics, so I wanted a good balance. I did my [physical education] degree here as well as my masters in phys-ed, too so I've been here for awhile," he chuckled.
During his masters studies, Takahashi said a coaching position opened up at the university to which he quickly applied. "I was lucky. It was a matter of being in the right place at the right time."
Takahashi has led Western's wrestling team since 1986 and he said dealing with the people, both other coaches and students, has definitely been the highlight of his tenure.
"What I really enjoy now is hearing from and meeting people I've coached and see them at this period in their lives. Some of them are married with great jobs and you can't help but feel like you had some part of it," he said.
With a bevy of international experience behind him, Takahashi still takes an interest in the global state of the sport. As for wrestling in Canada, Takahashi said competition is at a good level internationally, but added it has changed a lot throughout the years.
"Canada won their first world medal ever last year, we've also won silver medals at Barcelona [Olympics]," Takahashi said about the sport's growing popularity. "Pro-wrestling, however, has really changed over the years to a spectacle and a big business. Very few pro-wrestlers have come through the amateur ranks. I don't think any amateur wrestler comes out aspiring to be a professional wrestler."
Takahashi said he has thoroughly enjoyed his stay at Western and feels he can still contribute to the university program. "One thing people don't know is that Western has a lot of really outstanding coaches. I'm amazed I can rub shoulders with coaches like Larry Haylor [for football], Volker Nolte [for men's rowing and] Al Morrow [for women's rowing] I mean, these are some of the best coaches in the country."
Takahashi added he hopes he can still contribute to Western for many years to come.