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Move to 189 pounds will let Taylor focus more on wrestling, not weight cutting
Editor’s Note: David Taylor, who has competed at 163 pounds in freestyle since graduating from Penn State in 2014 with two NCAA titles and two Dan Hodge Trophies, announced in September he will now wrestle at 86 kilograms/189 pounds. Taylor recently spoke to WIN Publisher Bryan Van Kley about his decision.
WIN: Between last month’s interview and now, you’ve made it official you’re moving up to 86 kilos. Talk about that.
TAYLOR: Ultimately, I have to do what’s best for me and continue with my dream of becoming an Olympic champion. The big issue with me was my size. I was focusing more on the weight cut and recovery than I was with becoming a better wrestler. Look at the World Team Trials, it was hard for me to put together three or four matches to the best of my ability when my body wasn’t really allowing it. I had to sit down and look at the purpose of wrestling. The whole idea is becoming a better wrestler, and that wasn’t what I was doing.
I’m committed to it 100 percent. It’s been kind of relieving. I’m focusing on becoming a better wrestler. I’m planning on competing more over this next year than I did before. I’m excited to move forward.
WIN: What was the timeline of the decision?
TAYLOR: Right after the Trials (in June), I was pretty upset with my performance battling back for third place. I was thinking: what could I do different? I knew I was prepared. I was already up to 180 or 185 pounds a short period of time after that. I was already committed to go to Spain, then I started to cut my weight again and my body was really bothering me.
I actually made the decision right before leaving on that tour. I told the (Penn State) coaches I had made my decision to go up to 86 kilos. All of them were very excited. Ultimately, it’s what a lot of people have wanted me to do with three very high-powered wrestlers at a weight class (at 74 kg.) With how big I am, my most competitive weight class isn’t at 74 anymore.
Since the middle of July, I’ve really been getting back into the weight room for the first time in five or six years and am working on getting my weight up. It’s kind of nice. There’s a new excitement in getting in there and wrestling bigger guys. I have to be more disciplined in how I’m moving and in my finishing. It’s getting back to wrestling, ultimately what I love is wrestling and not weight management.
WIN: Where’s your first competition at 86 kilos and what events are you planning on after that?
TAYLOR: I’m thinking of competing in France over Thanksgiving weekend. Then the U.S. Open, then the Yaryigan, but we haven’t qualified our weight yet for the Olympics. The Pan Am Championships are in March and that will be the first opportunity to qualify the weight, but USA Wrestling has to decide who’ll they’ll send there. Then (I’ll have) the Olympic Trials in April. That’s more international matches in the next year than I’ve had in my career. It’s exciting.
If you look at Jordan (Burroughs), for example, he trains close to his weight class and he’s got 120 international matches. That’s definitely a recipe for success.
WIN: Do you regret staying down at 74 as long as you did?
TAYLOR: It’s hard to say you regret it. Finishing college at 165 pounds, it was logical to go 163 (pounds) afterwards. I don’t know if I could have gone up to 189 pounds (then). I took a lot of time off last year, about six months. And my body continued to grow. I still felt my most competitive weight class was 74. But it was just too much weight, and at that point I was too committed to change in a different direction.
A weight change takes time. Just because you get up to 195 pounds, your body may only feel like it’s weighing 190. If I would have made a decision last year, I would have made it in January. This is a good time frame for my body to adjust to where I’m 200 and I’m the same size as everyone else. I’m starting to fill out for the first time in my life. I don’t have any doubts about not being big enough or strong enough.
WIN: You’re obviously close to Penn State coach Cael Sanderson and continue to move up in weights as he did. Talk about his reaction and role in this decision.
TAYLOR: One of things that makes Cael great is that he’s never going to try influence the decision you’re going to make. But he mentioned some, ‘What about 86?’ I always thought I would be most competitive at 74. When I told him, he was happy. (Now) Cael and Casey (Cunningham) are doing the same workout I am.
They know the better the feel they can give us (weight wise, as workout partners) the better chance we have in an Olympic year. Cael says it’s fun wrestling the “big David” now. I know if I can wrestle with Cael, I can wrestle with anybody.
WIN: How do things go with “big David” wrestling Cael?
TAYLOR: Big David is getting his butt kicked! I’ve done this weight change a couple times in my life, in high school and college. It just takes time. I’m not an explosive kind of guy. I’m a pretty technical guy. It’s going to take time for me to adjust (to wrestling bigger guys).
WIN: Talk about the other guys you’ll now be wrestling at 86, including former teammate Ed Ruth (2014 World Team member). Is it awkward with Ed there?
TAYLOR: Awkward is probably not the word. It’s competitive. We have six weights to pick from if you’re going to be on the Olympic Team. We were teammates and had a lot of success together.
If you look back at history, we were the two best guys to be on a team for four years. What we were able to achieve together doesn’t change. It just happens to be that our weight now is the same. He’s an unbelievable wrestler and a great talent. It will be tough.
There are a lot of guys in that weight class. You’ve got Jake Herbert, Keith Gavin, Jon Reader, Clayton Foster, Chris Perry….you can’t really focus in on one person. You have to be ready right from the get go as there’s 8-10 guys. I have to be ready to battle every single match to get what I want.
WIN: Talk a little bit about the process of qualifying the weight for the Olympics.
TAYLOR: Qualifying the weight is the No. 1 priority. The Pan Am Championships are the first qualifier, then a tournament in Mongolia and the last chance is a tournament in Turkey.
At the Pan Ams, for example, there will be three really good guys going for two spots. If USA and Cuba are on the same side, whoever wins that match is going to go to the Olympics.
There are a lot of tournaments between now and then where (the top U.S. guys at 86 kilos) all are going to be wrestling. (USA Wrestling) will be able to see who has the best chance to go down there and qualify the weight. In the back of my mind, I’m thinking I’m going to wrestle well between now and March so I’m the guy to go down there and qualify the weight.
WIN: On a change of subject, talk about the upcoming college season.
TAYLOR: I’m really excited. This (Penn State) team has more talent than any team I was on, from freshman up through the seniors. They’re hungry to go get their name in the books as national champions. That hunger from top to bottom is very exciting to watch. This is a team that can start another streak of four national championships. That’s how good this group of freshman is.