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OSU Wrestling: 2020 Olympic Gold Medalist David Taylor Named Head Coach of Cowboy Wrestling

Taylor was a two-time Dan Hodge Trophy winner.



[Devin Wilber/PFB]

For the first time in 33 years, there will be someone new in charge of Cowboy Wrestling.

Oklahoma State announced late Monday night David Taylor as the eighth wrestling coach in program history. Taylor, 33, replaces legendary Cowboy wrestler and coach John Smith, who retired in April after a 33-year coaching career, during which he led OSU to five national titles and became the program’s leader in dual wins.

“With 34 national championships, the Oklahoma State wrestling program is the most successful in the country by any metric, regardless of sport,” OSU AD Chad Weiberg said in the release. “We began this search knowing there is no goal that is unattainable for Cowboy Wrestling. No expectations are too high. The ambitions we have for ourselves led us to the hiring of David Taylor, someone of equally high goals and ambitions.”

Taylor, famously nicknamed Magic Man, is one of the most decorated wrestlers in Penn State and United States history. He won a gold medal at 86 kg at the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games in 2021. He upended defending Olympic champion Hassan Yazdani in the finals. Overall, Taylor has four world championships since 2018 including that Olympic gold. He failed to qualify to compete at the upcoming 2024 Paris Olympic Games, though, after Aaron Brooks upset Taylor in the finals of the United States Olympic Team Trials last month.

“It’s an honor to be in this position and I’m extremely grateful,” Taylor said in OSU’s release. “I’m looking forward to the future of Oklahoma State wrestling. It has an unbelievable tradition and I’m excited to be part of it moving forward. I’ve achieved everything I have wanted in my personal career, and this is no longer about me. I am just thrilled to be in the position to help others achieve their goals, and truly make an impact in the wrestling world and on the lives around me.”

Before his international career, Taylor won a pair of individual NCAA titles at Penn State in 2012 and 2014 and was also awarded the Dan Hodge Trophy twice. He beat OSU’s Tyler Caldwell 6-0 in the 165-pound championship match in 2014 to finish his college career. Taylor was a four-time NCAA finalist and four-time Big Ten champion. The Nittany Lions also won a national championship every season Taylor competed. Taylor was 134-3 during his college career.

Although he has an impressive resume on the mat, Taylor has yet to garner much coaching experience. However, Smith was only 26 with very little coaching experience when he took over OSU in 1991. Since graduation, Taylor has stayed in State College to train at the Nittany Lions Wrestling Club and has helped Cael Sanderson’s staff. Taylor also has a recognizable brand in a new age of college sports with NIL and transfers. He signed with Adidas in 2015 and developed his own wrestling apparel called “M2” that included wrestling shoes. Smith also had his own shoe. Taylor also created M2 Training Center, a successful training facility in Pennsylvania that has produced some of the top young talent in the country under Taylor.

“We are allowed to have very high expectations here because we have elite support and so many great people across multiple generations who care deeply about Cowboy Wrestling and the sport of wrestling,” Weiberg said. “While there are many to thank for their help during this process, I’d like to particularly thank [Paycom CEO] Chad Richison. Without his leadership support of our program, this wouldn’t be possible. Like so many others, he cares deeply about the sport of wrestling, wants to see it continue to thrive in the state of Oklahoma at all levels, and shares my belief that a strong Oklahoma State program helps assure that continues to be the case long into the future.

“Replacing a legend like John Smith is a daunting task. He has been the face of Oklahoma State wrestling nearly four decades. In many ways, David has had a similar path in becoming our head coach. I know he respects and admires John and is up to meeting the high expectations we all share for this program.  I look forward to introducing him to the Cowboy family.”

The Taylor hire will be a surprise to many, though, as most expected interim head coach and OSU alum Coleman Scott to get the job. Scott left a head coaching position at North Carolina in August to become associate head coach under Smith at OSU. That move of leaving a Power Five job for an assistant role led many to speculate the plan was for Scott to be Smith’s heir. That was never made public by either, though.

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