Leroy McGuirk

Name: Leroy McGuirk
Year Inducted: 2014

Leroy McGuirk

Pioneering junior heavyweight wrestler Leroy Michael McGuirk devoted 50 years of his life to professional wrestling. From his first match in 1932 until closing the doors of his Tulsa, Oklahoma promotion in 1982, he was enthusiastically committed to the industry and took pride in his work. McGuirk was born December 10, 1910 and grew up in Tulsa, where his fascination for the sport first began to develop. Coaches quickly realized that his natural instincts for grappling were well above average and he developed his abilities through high school before attending Oklahoma A&M University from 1928-32. McGuirk was determined to become a champion and overcame the disability of being blind in one eye since birth to win the 1931 NCAA championship at 155 pounds.

 

Naturally, promoters were eager for McGuirk to jump to the professional ranks and under the guidance of Tulsa impresario Sam Avey, Leroy made the leap shortly after graduating from college. Passing up a career in journalism, he embraced the challenges of the grappling landscape, and weighing 175 pounds, was a perfect fit on the non-heavyweight circuit. His quickness and technical savvy were a sight to behold and although most headlines were made by wrestling’s behemoths, McGuirk earned plenty of attention. In Tulsa on March 5, 1934, he defeated Hugh Nichols for the National Wrestling Association World Light Heavyweight Title. He toured from Oklahoma to California and the blazing speed and abilities demonstrated by the McGuirk and his peers often outshined the heavyweights.

Advancing in weight, McGuirk joined the junior heavyweight circuit comprised of 190-pounders, and on June 19, 1939, he beat John Swenski to capture the world championship of that division. For the next decade, he dominated the competition and engaged in brutal feuds with Danny McShain and “Wild” Red Berry. At times, he wrestled heavyweight stars such as “Nature Boy” Buddy Rogers and always held his own, giving his bigger rivals a run for their money. On December 28, 1949, he beat Billy Goelz to unify his National Wrestling Association claim with the National Wrestling Alliance version and was acknowledged as the undisputed titleholder. However, a few months later on February 7, 1950, he was involved in a serious car accident in Little Rock, Arkansas and suffered the loss of vision in his remaining eye.

McGuirk’s career in the ring was cut short but he remained tenacious, moving behind the scenes to work in the Tulsa office. His importance in the NWA also grew, and he served as the second vice president of the organization from 1950 to 1956 and again from 1959-60. When Avey retired, McGuirk took over the Tulsa operations and continued the theme of sponsoring non-heavyweight grapplers, a system that worked wonders in a territory that included Oklahoma and parts of Missouri, Arkansas, Mississippi, Texas, and Louisiana. He mentored the likes of Dick Hutton, Danny Hodge, and Jack Brisco, and was eternally respectful of the athletes themselves because he never forgot his roots and where he got his start – on the wrestling mat. He passed away in 1988.

- Tim Hornbaker



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