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OSU Wrestling: David Taylor’s Path from Penn State Recruit to Head Coach of Cowboy Wrestling

A path that includes Olympic gold, world championships and a shocking destination



[Devin Wilber/PFB]

David Taylor’s path did not seem to be leading to Stillwater, yet, on Monday night, Oklahoma State announced Taylor as the eighth head wrestling coach in program. Here’s a look at Taylor’s path to leading a storied program after spending most of his life in the Northeast.


Although Taylor’s first position off the mat might be a shock to many, his success on the mat shouldn’t have been a surprise. He was a four-time state champion out of Graham High School in St. Paris, Ohio. He accumulated a staggering 180-2 record and capped his preps career by winning the Dave Schultz High School Excellence Award as the top high school wrestler in the country. And at the same time Taylor’s high school career was winding down, Cael Sanderson became the head coach at Penn State, where he ultimately recruited Taylor to and began a dynasty.


Taylor redshirted his first year on campus as the Nittany Lions finished in ninth in the first season under Sanderson. It was one of only two times Penn State has not finished in the top 2 since Sanderson took over. Taylor then cracked the starting lineup as a redshirt freshman, prompting his college career and Sanderson’s coaching career to escalate. Penn State won the NCAA team title every season Taylor was in the lineup between 2011-14. During that span, Taylor made the finals every year, winning an NCAA individual title in 2012 and 2014. He was also awarded the Dan Hodge Trophy both seasons he won an individual championship. Taylor was also a four-time Big Ten champion while posting a 134-3 record in college.


Although he competed in freestyle some while at Penn State, Taylor’s international career took off in 2015 once his college career concluded. He remained in State College to train at Nittany Lion Wrestling Club, though, and has been there until now. Taylor won the U.S. Open at 74 kg that year. It was his first of three U.S. Open titles. Taylor also signed a deal with Adidas this year to launch his wrestling apparel line, “M2,” which started with a signature shoe.


Taylor won his first of three world championships at 86 kg in 2018. This was the year Taylor’s career seemed to have turned a corner, as he also won two other major international tournaments and the U.S. Open. He also received the John Smith Award, given to the USA Freestyle Wrestler of the Year.


Taylor didn’t compete for almost an entire year before winning the Pan American Olympic Qualification Tournament in March 2020 to earn a berth into the U.S. Olympic Team Trials. The trials and Olympics were postponed because of the COVID pandemic, though, prolonging Taylor’s first Olympic appearance. Taylor eventually beat fellow Penn State legend Bo Nickal in the U.S. Olympic Team Trials finals to make his first Olympic team at 86 kg. At the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, Taylor teched his way to the finals against defending Olympic champion Hassan Yazdani from Iran. Taylor mounted a historic comeback to beat Yazdani 4-3 and win Olympic gold. He was the only American wrestler to win a gold medal in Tokyo. Taylor then pinned Yazdani at the World Championship finals to win both an Olympic and world championship in the same year. He also won world championships in 2022 and 2023.


As the heavy favorite to represent the U.S. again at 86 kg this summer at the 2024 Paris Olympic Games, Taylor was upset by another Penn State legend, Aaron Brooks, at the U.S. Olympic Team Trials on April 20. Sixteen days later, Taylor was announced as OSU’s wrestling coach after rumors of the seismic move started circulating the week before. There were reports of OSU athletic director Chad Weiberg flying to State College on Friday to meet with Taylor about the position, which was opened after John Smith retired April 11, nine days before Taylor slipped in the team trials finals. Rumors and speculation swirled all weekend before OSU announced the hire at 9:35 p.m. Monday in the midst of a big storm rolling through Stillwater.

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