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Penn State wrestling: David Taylor confirms end of competitive wrestling career

In an expected move, Penn State wrestling great David Taylor has confirmed the end of his competitive career after taking the head coaching job at Oklahoma State.



Penn State wrestling, David Taylor, Oklahoma State, Thomas Gilman
Aug 5, 2021; Chiba, Japan; David Morris Taylor III (USA) celebrates after defeating Hassan Yazdanicharati (IRI) in the men's freestyle 86kg final during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Summer Games at Makuhari Messe Hall A. Mandatory Credit: Mandi Wright-USA TODAY Sports

We’ve seen David Taylor take the mat competitively for the final time. As expected, the Penn State wrestling great confirmed the end of his competitive career, along with that of NLWC teammate Thomas Gilman, during his introductory press conference as Oklahoma State head coach Friday. One of the most decorated wrestlers in American history, Taylor expressed peace with his decision, gratitude to the Nittany Lions coaching staff who paved his way into the profession, and excitement for what’s to come in Stillwater.

David Taylor: “My journey as a competitor is over”

It comes as no shock that David Taylor is closing the book on his competitive wrestling career after taking over as head coach of the Oklahoma State Cowboys on Monday. However, Taylor made it official at the podium Friday afternoon, metaphorically leaving his shoes on the mat.

“I loved coaching and realized as my career came to an end, I wanted to pour into the next generation of kids,” he said. “And, I feel this is the best way to do that. Hopefully, we can leave wrestling a better place when my journey is done. My journey as a competitor is over, but my journey as a coach is just getting started.”

David Taylor will go down as one of the most accomplished athletes in the sport. Credited as a cornerstone of Cael Sanderson’s Penn State wrestling dynasty, Taylor went 134-3 as a Nittany Lion, racking up 50 pins, 42 technical falls, and 29 major decisions on the way. Becoming the third two-time Hodge Trophy winner in 2014, Taylor won two NCAA titles, was a four-time National finalist, and a four-time Big Ten champion.

At peace with the decision

Taylor’s success extends well beyond American borders. The former Nittany Lion finishes with a 152–2 1senior world freestyle career record, including three World Championships. However, his crowning achievement was at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, where he won the Gold Medal at 86 kg.

Only losing once since 2018 before being swept by fellow Penn State wrestling alum Aaron Brooks in the Olympic Trials Championship in April, it’s certainly not the storybook ending for David Taylor on the mat. But, the 33-year-old says that he is at peace with how his competitive career ended.

“My performance at the Olympic Trials, honestly I’m at peace with it,” Taylor said. “I did everything I wanted to do in my career and more.”

Taylor also noted that NLWC wrestler Thomas Gilman, who accepted an assistant coaching role on the Oklahoma State staff, has also ended his competitive career. Gilman was 107-12 and a three-time All-American in his collegiate career at Iowa, and won the Bronze Medal at the 2020 Summer Olympics.

In addition to Thomas Gilman, Taylor also hired Penn State wrestling assistant Jimmy Kennedy as associate head coach. Taylor left the door open for other hires, including keeping members of the current Oklahoma State staff.

Decision to leave Penn State wrestling was one of the toughest of Taylor’s life

While David Taylor reiterated the tremendous opportunity that is the Oklahoma State job, that doesn’t mean leaving Happy Valley was easy. Taylor has been with Cael Sanderson from the beginning at Penn State, creating a bond that runs deep.

“The coaching staff at Penn State — they are a much deeper connection than just my coaches,” he said. “They were my family. They instilled so many things into me. They helped me understand a bigger picture of how to live your life to the best of your ability, and as an athlete how to maximize your opportunities.”

While this week has presented a new challenge for Taylor, it’s one he’s ready to face head-on.

“It’s a blend of a lot of things. Each coach [at Penn State] was different. It’s tough. This was one of the toughest couple days of my life. I cried a lot. But being uncomfortable is something that creates really good things. I think we’re going to create our own little magic down here.”

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Matt is a co-owner and Editor in Chief of Basic Blues Nation. Launched in 2022, Basic Blues Nation is one of the fastest-growing websites covering all Penn State athletics, with over 3.5 million readers in 2023. Matt is also a credentialed member of the Penn State football beat, and is a member of the Football Writers Association of America.


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