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Taylor: Duals are important, but there should be one champ
Editor’s Note: David Taylor won two NCAA titles and two Hodge Trophies and four All-American honors at Penn State, where he currently trains with the Nittany Lion Wrestling Club. He recently spoke to WIN publisher Bryan Van Kley about the latest change suggestions in college wrestling. The following appeared in the Oct. 10, 2017 issue of WIN Magazine.
WIN: The NWCA’s Blue Ribbon Task Force is recommending a plan for college wrestling that would have two national championships, the traditional one and an official dual championship a month later in April. What do you think about that big of a change?
TAYLOR: I love dual meets and I like the NCAA tournament the way it is. I don’t think there should be two NCAA team champions. I don’t see a reason to change that from a fan perspective. It may be the best event in the world when you talk about 16,000 people filling that arena with their school affiliations.
When you look at the NCAA basketball tournament, there are not two basketball championships. There’s one. In football, there’s one. Having one national championship is important. I like the team race as it is. Dual meets suffer because coaches don’t always wrestle their best team. Guys are getting protected for the NCAA tournament. We need to put the emphasis on the NCAA tournament until the day comes when people are held accountable and guys are wrestling in matches all the time.
WIN: How do guys who have experienced an extremely high level of success in international freestyle like Kyle Snyder and Zain Retherford stay focused for their senior college seasons?
TAYLOR: They just need to continue their focus on getting better. Zain is continuing to improve every single day by grabbing the best guys he can (for practice partners). Zain’s mindset is that he wants to be a national champion and help his team win a national championship. He’s also focusing on the next level of being a World champion. And Kyle has experienced all of it at this point.
Those are two of the more hungry guys I’ve ever been around. Kyle is definitely challenging himself by wrestling bigger guys at heavyweight. And you know Kyle is wrestling internationally (during the college season), so he’ll need to be focused on those things as well. Adam Coon (2016 runner-up from Michigan) is going to 60 pounds heavier than Kyle if they potentially meet in the NCAA finals.
WIN: There’s a plan being developed that would put together a dual-meet schedule between RTCs that may heavily factor into selecting the 2018 U.S. men’s freestyle World Team. What are your thoughts?
TAYLOR: We just came off a very successful World championship. I know Coach (Bill) Zadick has a plan. Regardless of what happens, the United States is in a really good place right now. If the World Team Trials are in the right location with an established fan base, it’s good for wrestling. And we’ve done a good job recently (selecting those spots).
I don’t see how putting them in college environments on a more frequent basis for duals would hurt anything. If the Nittany Lion Wrestling Club wrestled in Rec Hall in front of the Penn State faithful again, you’d have over 6,000 people at that match. Iowa would be similar. Nebraska would do the same thing for Jordan (Burroughs) and (James) Green. Ohio State would do the same thing for Kyle (Snyder) and Logan (Stieber). There are places strategically that would create a fan following, start there and build on it.
WIN: What advice would you give high school wrestlers, coaches and parents in October with the season starting soon?
TAYLOR: The No. 1 thing is that practice is not about winning. Practice is about taking risks and trying to get better. You have to take risks to figure out what’s going to work and what’s not going to work. You need repetition, drilling, and play wrestling.
People are taking time off to play football and are finishing up other fall sports. But, wrestlers should also start getting their bodies into wrestling shape. We all know how hard wrestling is compared to any other sport. And, you see a lot of injuries in the preseason due to being fatigued and putting yourselves into bad position. You need that mat time to get your body used to it. You need to work your body into wrestling shape so when the first day of the season starts you’re ready to go, rather than to playing catch up.