By John Matisz/London Community News
To say Steven Takahashi has fast tracked his way to a Pan American Games bronze medal would be an understatement.
The Forest City native began competing in the sport of wrestling at the age of 14, swapping hours spent honing his gymnastics skills for time on the wrestling mat.
Only a couple of years after Steven decided to concentrate solely on wrestling, he found himself wearing the red and white. Before this month’s Pan American Games in Mexico, the 19-year-old product of London-Western Wrestling Club claimed Commonwealth Youth Games gold as well as a pair of silver medals at other international events.
Although he cites both an extreme internal urge to succeed as well as strong genetics, Steven feels his success can be linked back to his beginnings as a wrestler in Grade 9.
“London-Western is a great start for any wrestling career,” he said of the grassroots program, which turns 40 next year.
Though he is a member of the University of Western Ontario (UWO) Mustangs wrestling squad as well, Steven still represents London-Western at certain meets. Like most strong programs across the country, UWO wrestling has a feeder system.
“It’s the perfect scenario, with both programs going on at once,” Steven said of the dual training he receives under the same umbrella.
His father Ray, who was a four-time Olympian during his highly successful career on the mat, is a member of the Canadian Wrestling Hall of Fame. For decades, Ray has been involved with the London-Western and UWO alliance. He is the current head coach.
“It promotes wrestling so much in the city and provides enhanced scheduling to varsity student-athletes,” Ray said, noting London-Western has wrestlers as young as 10.
While Steven grew up around wrestling, his love for gymnastics, judo and soccer outweighed any influence from his father at the time. Switching gears once high school began, however, there’s been no looking back.
“My ultimate goal is to win the Olympic Games,” Steven said.