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Penn State Legend David Taylor Hits Wrestling World Championship Mat For First Time

David Taylor has accomplished pretty much everything you could at the collegiate level.

The four-time NCAA All-American has two individual national titles to his name at 165 pounds and claimed the Hodge Trophy for most outstanding collegiate wrestling in those two seasons. His efforts to get to four-straight national title bouts helped earn the Nittany Lions team national championships from 2011-14.

Yet for all the success he’s had in Happy Valley, Taylor has not gotten a chance to compete on international wrestling’s biggest stages — the Olympics and World Championships — until this weekend.

After missing out on the 2016 Olympics and 2017 UWW World Championships with losses to four-time NCAA Champion Kyle Dake and Olympic/World Championship bronze medalist J’Den Cox in trials, Taylor stormed through Final X at Rec Hall over the summer to claim his spot at the 2018 UWW World Championships in Budapest.

Breaking Down “The Magic Man”

UWW added a pair of weight classes to the 79 kilograms and 92 kilograms — clearing space at 86 kilograms for Taylor to cruise to his first U.S. world championship team selection at 86 kilograms. 

He might be in his first World Championships, but Taylor enters as one of the favorites — coming in at No. 2 in UWW’s world rankings at 86 kg. Part of that comes from the dominant slate he’s had this past year.

Taylor is undefeated in 2018, earning gold at a pair of the four major international tournaments, Yasar Dogu and Ivan Yarygin Grand Prix, as well as taking home the regional title at the Pan-American Championships. He also helped Team USA claim its first Freestyle World Cup title since 2003.

Taylor will be the only Nittany Lion competing, but Penn State senior Bo Nickal is also with him as a training partner.

He’ll compete Saturday morning in the qualification rounds and is slated for a Saturday afternoon semifinal should he advance.

The final in Taylor’s weight class will be among the first — scheduled for Sunday afternoon. If Taylor lands in the repechage rounds after a loss, he’ll wrestle Sunday morning. 

The Competition

There’s one glaring name on Taylor’s list of challengers heading into the weekend: Hassan Yazdani.

The Iranian star won the 2016 Olympic gold medal at 74 kg and moved up a weight class in 2017 to shut out all five of his opponents en route to the world title at 86 kg. At 23 years old, Yazdani has lost just four times at the senior level, and has been undefeated at the two marquee competitions since his loss in the final of the 2015 World Championships.

His one loss at 86 kg in his career, however, came when he was pinned by Taylor in February 2017 at the Freestyle World Cup. Yazdani hasn’t lost since.

Based on the UWW rankings point system, neither Yazdani nor Taylor are the top seed for this event. Turkey’s Fatih Erdin, who earned a medal at all four of UWW’s major yearly international tournaments, tops the seeding instead. However, Taylor pinned Erdin at the Ivan Yarygin Grand Prix final in January.

Sandro Aminashvili is the third of three seeds in the competition. The Georgian is a 2015 World Championship bronze medalist. His highlight of 2018 is a bronze medal finish at the European Championships.

How To Watch

TV coverage is limited to the finals, but you can catch every bout of the tournament on TrackWrestling.com with a $30 event subscription.

Should Taylor make it to the final, his bout would be live on the Olympic Channel on Sunday sometime from 1-3:30 p.m. NBCSN will reair the bout at midnight.

Full 86 kg Schedule

  • Saturday: 4:30-9:30 a.m. — Qualification Rounds
  • Saturday: 10:45-11:45 a.m. — Semifinals
  • Sunday: 4:30-9:30 a.m. — Repechage
  • Sunday: 1-3:30 p.m. — Final

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About the Author

Steve Connelly

Unfortunately, former editor Steve Connelly has graduated. Where is he now? He might be doing something related to that PR degree he got in 2019. Maybe he finally opened that sports bar named after one of his photos, the Blurry Zamboni. Or he might just be eating chicken tenders and couch surfing. Anything’s possible. If you really want to know, follow him on Twitter @slc2o.

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