Friday, March 9, 2018

Les Lyman

Les Lyman was a promoter/wrestler active around Toronto in the 1950's and early 1960's. I'm not sure when Les started wrestling but by the time he settled in as a regular at Maple Leaf Gardens in 1960-61 he was already fairly long in the tooth.
Lyman vs Alfie Richards (on ground) 1956

The first signs of him in the area are alongside Red Garner on Red's shows around the Toronto outskirts in 1950-51. It's likely Lyman came out of the busy amateur scene as had Red and many of the pros of the 1950's.

Around 1953 he started promoting some shows at East York Arena, the same spot Frank Tunney would occasionally run when MLG was unavailable. The wrestlers were a mix of guys who worked on Garner and Tunney's shows around the region.

Those early cards featured young Sandy Scott and his billed brother/ cousin Joe (real brother George?), Wilf Jennings (long time wrestler turned McKigney ref later), and big Jim 'Killer' Conroy. All of which would work for Tunney in some capacity down the road. Others names included Jack Sibthrope, Ivan Klimenko, Kenny Evans, Paul Penchoff, Al Kendall, George & Bob McKeague, Ronnie Kopac, and the usual masked gimmicks Masked Marvels, Red Mask etc.

Sometimes they would mirror the going-ons over at the Gardens. During the big Red Mask angle on Tunney's cards which ended with Lou Thesz unmasking the villain to reveal Dutch Hefner, Lyman too had a Red Mask headlining his cards.

He would promote under the banner of 'International Wrestling Association' and occasionally branch out to other spots, Scarboro Arena, Lakeshore Arena, etc. He and Garner had an ongoing partnership of sorts that lasted throughout the '50's. Besides sharing talent, much of it the homegrown talent that Garner had trained himself, Lyman would appear on Garner's cards, often as 'Canadian Heavyweight Champion.'

Sometimes referred to as the 'Scarboro Strongman' and variously billed from Scarboro or East York, In 1954 as Canadian champ he faced Quebec star Sylvain Richard at the Thornhill Market north of Toronto. Was also often billed as undefeated and a year later a byline listed him as 'having an enviable record, among his victims Baron Von Seiber, (later Waldo Von Erich), Tiger Jenson, and Sandy Scott who wrestled at MLG a few weeks back.' Garner mostly had middleweight wrestlers among a few heavyweights, Lyman, variously at 218-230lbs a heavyweight. Garner had his own title, the Canadian Middleweight Title.

He lost his Canadian title to Seiber in 1957 on Garner's circuit and was described even then as 'aging.' He was one of Seibers early opponents and carried on a feud over several years with the up and coming star.

In 1960 he made his MLG debut against Bob Nandor in the opener. He would remain a regular through 1961 and but for a few occasions, always worked in the opening bout. His last MLG date was teamed with Tony Marino against the Kalmikoffs, that one in the semi of the night but Lyman still took the fall for his team.

Photographer Roger Baker used to work out at the YMHA in Toronto and remembers Lyman and associates from there. The photo of Lyman and Alfie Richards was taken by Roger in 1956 as they worked out on the mat at the facility and he also attended some shows.

Thanks to Roger for the photo !

If you can add to the story of Les Lyman please comment or contact me

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