To understand how David Taylor has become so successful, all it takes is a look inside the practice room.
The defending national champion at 165 pounds and last year’s Hodge Trophy Winner has posted a 70-1 record in his collegiate career, including a 33-0 record in duals and a 16-0 record in Big Ten competition. Taylor is currently ranked No. 2 in the nation in his weight class.
Taylor said former Penn State wrestler Jake Varner has been a key to helping him improve and figure out what he needs to work on. While the junior does not wrestle Varner due to the weight difference, the former Penn State wrestler is still an influence in freestyle practices.
“He plays a really important role, to look up to a guy who’s been a four time NCAA finalist, two time champ. He’s been there and accomplished everything there is to accomplish,” Taylor said. “It’s just good having him in the room.”
With two of the best defensive wrestlers in the country in Taylor’s weight class, including Kyle Dake of Cornell, the junior has focused on going against head assistant coach Casey Cunningham in the room to get that defensive look.
“I know when I can score on him, I can score on anyone,” Taylor said about his practice duels with Cunningham.
Taylor also focuses on wrestling against his teammates at 165 pounds to get different looks and face different wrestling styles.
Head coach Cael Sanderson said the key to a successful wrestler is the influence from his teammates.
“When you have a successful kid, you don’t have to look too far as to why. The people around him are pushing him, whether it’s guys in their own weight or whether it’s a weight above or a weight below,” Sanderson said. “That’s why you see teams a lot of times, when they’re good, they’re in bunches.”
Andrew Alton, who wrestles at 149 pounds, said the reason for his success is the motivation and support he gets from the other wrestlers in his weight class.
“We’re all friends, we help each other work out, we’re all hard workers,” Alton said. “Every one of them are really talented and bring a lot to the team.”
Taylor was able to get an early season test against one of the best in his weight class.
In the U.S Marine Corps All Star Classic in early November, Taylor faced off against Dake and wrestled a close match, losing 2-1 in the second tie breaker.
This experience helped Taylor realize what he needed to improve on against more defensive wrestlers. Through work with Cunningham in the practice room, the junior has started the season 7-0, including winning the 165-pound individual title at the Nittany Lion Open.
As the Lions open up conference duals with Indiana this weekend, Taylor recognizes he still has some things to work on to take his wrestling to the next level.
“Almost everyone I wrestle tries to wrestle me, slow me down and back me off the mat and keep matches close,” Taylor said. “So, it’s just something I got to get used to wrestling and open them up.”