David Taylor looking to lead powerful Penn State to fourth straight NCAA team title
Penn State senior David Taylor has scored bonus points in 101 of his 108 career wins. Photo by Tony Rotundo, WrestlersAreWarriors.com.
David Taylor doesn’t need to put together a highlight video to showcase his wide array of wrestling skills.
His talents are on full display every time he steps on the mat.
The Penn State senior has treated fans to an entertaining, energetic and dynamic style of wrestling in leading the Nittany Lions to three straight NCAA team titles.
And the best may be yet to come.
Taylor is ranked No. 1 nationally at 165 pounds for the top-ranked team in the country. He’s off to an 8-0 start this season.
The three-time NCAA finalist, who won the Hodge Trophy and a national title in 2012, has scored bonus-point victories an unthinkable 101 times in 108 career wins.
Taylor has won 43 matches by fall, 35 by technical fall and 23 by major decision. He’s 108-3 in his career with the Nittany Lions.
“Ever since I got here, I had the expectation and attitude to try and score as many points as I can,” Taylor said. “I don’t want to hang on to win a match by one point. The sport needs guys that are going out there to score points.”
Penn State coach Cael Sanderson recognized early in Taylor’s career that he had a special brand of athlete in his loaded wrestling room.
“David’s going to put on a show,” Sanderson said. “He’s a lot of fun to watch. He brings a lot of energy and fire. His conditioning is fantastic. Seven minutes is nothing for him. He creates a lot of action and he wrestles hard for every second.”
Taylor employs a relentless, attacking style on his feet where he can score with an assortment of lethal leg attacks. He also has a knack of taking an opponent down and driving him to his back before they know what is coming.
Taylor’s wide-open approach is similar to the style Sanderson wrestled with during his standout collegiate and international career. Sanderson won four NCAA titles and an Olympic gold medal.
“I loved watching Cael because he was always scoring points and creating a lot of action,” Taylor said. “That’s the style I’ve always tried to wrestle.”
When Sanderson came out of retirement to place fifth at the 2011 World Championships, Taylor was one of his training partners as he prepared for the Worlds.
“That was a really fun summer for me,” Taylor said. “I was able to wrestle with him and seeing a different side of him as a competitor was great. He’s a very fierce competitor. Seeing how hard he trained and how he prepared to compete was an awesome learning experience for me. It was a great opportunity that I was lucky to have.”
Those bonus points that Taylor, and teammates like two-time NCAA champion Ed Ruth score for their team, add up at the Big Ten and NCAA Championships.
“What separates one team from another at the national tournament is scoring bonus points when you can,” Taylor said. “It takes a special group of guys to do that. When people on your team embrace that attitude, it is contagious.”
Taylor placed second at the NCAAs as a freshman before going undefeated as a sophomore en route to earning an NCAA title and winning the Hodge Trophy as the nation’s best college wrestler.
Taylor then dropped a hard-fought 5-4 decision to Cornell’s Kyle Dake in the 2013 NCAA finals as Dake won his fourth national title.
“There is really nothing you can go back and do about the matches you’ve lost,” Taylor said. “I just have to learn from it, and try to move forward and make improvements. I still have really lofty goals I want to accomplish.”
Taylor is one of the best freestyle prospects in the United States. He excelled on the Senior level this past spring and summer. He finished second at the U.S. Open and third at the U.S. World Team Trials at 74 kg/163 lbs.
Taylor also received a chance to face Olympic and World champion Jordan Burroughs in the U.S. Open finals. Burroughs prevailed 3-1, 1-0 in a match where Taylor wrestled tough in a number of scrambles and showed signs he is going to be strong internationally.
Taylor defeated past World Team member Trent Paulson and Olympic Trials runner-up Andrew Howe en route to placing a strong third at the World Team Trials.
Taylor then captured a bronze medal for the U.S. at the World University Games in Russia. He won one match by fall and two matches by technical fall in that event.
“This year was the first time I’ve really dedicated myself to freestyle in a few years,” said Taylor, a past U.S. Junior World Team member. “My style has continued to develop and improve by wrestling with a lot of those top guys. I have really matured in my wrestling. I gained some valuable experience.”
Taylor, from St. Paris, Ohio, already has earned his degree from Penn State and is now pursuing a master’s degree at the school.
Taylor has led a revival at Penn State that has led to sold-out home dual meets of 6,500 fans at Rec Hall. The Nittany Lions also have a large and vocal group of fans who have followed them to the Big Ten and NCAA tournaments the past three seasons.
Penn State is looking to sell out its Dec. 8 dual against Pitt at the Bryce Jordan Center, which holds 15,000 fans.
“We have awesome alumni and a great fan base,” Taylor said. “Wrestling in Rec Hall is pretty amazing. We have tremendous fan support and it’s great to be able to put on a show for them.”
Taylor has a unique opportunity to wrestle for a team that is in position to win four straight NCAA titles.
“It obviously would mean a lot,” he said. “Winning one NCAA title is very difficult. They are very hard to come by. So many things can go wrong and throw complications into winning a team championship. We’ve peaked when we needed to peak the last three years and had success when we needed to. We know it’s going to take a lot of hard work, but it’s really exciting to have the opportunity to do it again.”
Taylor said his time at Penn State has gone by quickly.
“It’s definitely a little bit different being a senior,” he said. “I’ve been trying to soak in every moment and every opportunity I have at Penn State. I’m going to try and make this season as memorable as I can.”