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By Mike Finn
David Taylor just finished enjoying the main event of the 2014 NCAA Division I Championships — ending his career and this year’s national tournament in Oklahoma City’s Chesapeake Energy Arena by winning the 165-pound title on March 22 — when it came to accepting the school’s record-setting fourth team championship trophy.
The two-time NCAA champion and eventual two-time Hodge Trophy winners was one of the first Nittany Lions to hoist the NCAA trophy before he found another teammate to enjoy the spotlight: James English.
Before this year’s Nationals, few even with the State College, Pa., landscape knew much about this 149-pound senior from York, Pa. … considering over a six-year period (2008-14) he had a less-than-impressive record of 55-20 in an injury-plagued career
But for three days in Oklahoma City, this Nittany Lion — who did not earn a postseason starting spot until a week before the Big Ten tournament — made sure everyone who follows the Penn State team will remember him by earning a very unexpected All-American finish of seventh.
“He’s been at Penn State for what seems like a decade. When you talk about the blood sweat and tears that go into this sport, it’s definitely James English,” said Taylor. “I get chills now just thinking about it. It’s a pretty special moment that people should write stories about. He’s an unbelievable person.
“From the way he grinds out matches to becoming an All-American, I know how much that means to him … and how much that means to our team. To have him score those points for us could very well have meant the difference for us.”
Simply put, had English gone 0-2 at his first-ever national tournament, Penn State would not have won a fourth-straight national team championship. The Nittany Lions’ victory margin over Minnesota was 5.5 points (109.5-104) and 6.5 of those points belonged to English who won five of seven matches. That included a first-round victory over 12th-seed Dylan Cottrell of Appalachian State, a Round-of-12 victory over 10th-seed Zach Neibert of Virginia Tech and finally a 2-1 tiebreaking win over last year’s 141-pound champion Kendric Maple in the seventh-place bout.
“I just knew if I could take it deep, I could out-wrestle anyone,” said English, who went to overtime to win three of his NCAA bouts. “The longer the match goes, the more it is in favor of me.
“If there is one word to describe the way I wrestled out there, it’s just fight all the way through.”
And if there was one wrestler coach Cael Sanderson really wanted to praise after all the post-NCAA celebration, it was English, the former Central York prep, who arrived on the Penn State campus before Sanderson.
Two of those years, English was injured and did not wrestle, including 2012 when Penn State won the second team championship in its current run.
When historians look back at these four straight team championships, there will plenty of stars who burned bright, including in this fourth championship.
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