Feature | Wrestling

Five things you did not know about USA wrestling star David Taylor

Find out how the 2018 world champ got the nickname 'Magic Man', and how he overcame his biggest weakness on the mat.

By Andrew Binner ·

David Taylor is one of the most exciting names in freestyle wrestling right now.

After almost a year out of the sport in 2019 with a serious knee injury, the 2018 world champion at 86kg appears to be back to his best.

In March, he qualified USA's place at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics after a comfortable gold medal-winning performance at the Pan-American Olympic Qualifiers in Canada.

Following the COVID 19-enforced lockdown, the two-time NCAA champion's aggressive style was back on full display in July, when he crushed Myles Martin 11-0 in an exhibition match.

Due to the ongoing pandemic, there will be no American athletes at the 2020 Wrestling World Championships in December. But wrestling fans wanting to see Taylor tested against the best may still be in luck.

In recent weeks, the Nevada-born grappler has been embroiled in a war of words with London 2012 Olympic champion Jordan Burroughs over who is their nation's best, and it looks as if the two alpha males will lock horns in an exhibition match at some point in December to settle the beef.

While Taylor remains the heavy favourite to win the U.S. Olympic Trials at 86kg, take a look at some less-known facts about the 'Magic Man' below.

1 - Taylor found love on the mat

David Taylor met his future wife Kendra in unique, but entirely brilliant circumstances: in a wrestling match.

Aged 10, the pair were drawn against each other at a national tournament in Reno, Nevada.

He won, but she clearly didn't hold it against him. Over 20 years later they're still together, and he attributes much of his success to his wife.

"She's just constantly trying to help me, guide me, and hold me accountable if I'm getting distracted," Taylor said of Kendra.

"My wife, I couldn't do anything without her, she just puts me first constantly, I can't really thank her in really any way but tell her I love her every day and give her a hug."

It must have been love at first sight, because David kept (and still owns) the bracket sheet that proves his victory!

2 - How Taylor earnt his 'Magic Man' nickname

The freestyle wrestling community loves to give its top stars appropriate nicknames.

Abdulrashid Sadulaev is 'the Russian tank', while Hassan Yazdani is 'Fearless'.

Taylor's moniker is the 'Magic Man', which stems from a character in Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby - a comedy film about a NASCAR driver.

Taylor's nickname stuck over the years, first at Penn State University and then as a professional, where he became known for his miraculous comeback victories.

His relentless ability to fight, or 'magic' was on full display at the 2018 world champs, he surrendered an early lead to Yazdani, before clawing his way back into the match to take the win.

David Taylor on the podium after winning 86kg gold at the 2018 wrestling world championships in Budapest, Hungary.

3 - Taylor the visionary

As an 8-year-old in Wyoming, Taylor wrote down his life’s goals, one of which was to become an Olympic gold medallist in wrestling.

This hopeful manifestation was tested while he was in his 20s, as he constantly came up against stumbling blocks in the extremely competitive United States wrestling environment.

He finished either second or third in the 2013, 2014 and 2015 world championships team trials at 74kg, a weight-class dominated by Olympic champion Jordan Burroughs.

When Taylor moved up a division, he suffered the same fate in 2016 against Kyle Dake, and in 2017 against Olympic bronze medallist J'den Cox.

But Taylor persevered and at 27, made his first world team after the number of weight classes was expanded from eight to 10 at the world championships, before eventually taking the gold medal.

“When I was a young kid I always had big dreams, and I’ve always been a visionary,” Taylor says. “Whenever it got tough, it always came back to that. I wanted to be the best,” he told the Colorado Springs Gazette.

Visualisation still plays a huge role for Taylor, who keeps his goals written down on his phone screen saver.

4 - Overcoming weakness

With bulging muscles and an athletic physique, Taylor looks exactly like a wrestling world champion should. But that wasn't always the case.

While he boasts an accomplished record as a junior wrestler, his victories were based around superior technique due to his lack of strength.

"I was always very talented in terms of my wrestling skill, but I was never strong. My whole entire life I was actually quite weak. I couldn’t grab legs and pull them in," he told the What Got You There podcast.

While he worked on his strength in the gym, his influential coach Casey Cunningham taught him to overcome that weakness that with mental fortitude, and Taylor's now hallmark ‘fight’. Essentially, this meant never giving up when losing the round or being overpowered.

‘Your number one test of mental toughness is not not let anyone go behind you. If you can do that, I can teach you all the techniques to be successful,’ Taylor said of the same philosophy he now teaches his students.

"Learning that over the past eight years is what has allowed be to truly become the best in the world."

5 - Businessman

Taylor may be one of wrestling's biggest stars right now, but he is far more than just an athlete.

On top of preparing to win Olympic gold at Tokyo 2020, he nurtures the next generation of wrestlers at his M2 Training Center, has a wrestling clothing company and helps his wife run K2 Roots - a health-juice business.

“In terms of stuff outside of wrestling, I definitely have a lot more on my plate than most other athletes at this level," he told Baschamania Podcast

“Some people are happy to work a nine-to-five job, but I’m wired differently. The way that I wrestle is similar to how I want to live my life.

“I want to be aggressive. When I’m on the mat I want to create as many scoring opportunities as possible, I’m not a conservative wrestler. I’m super disciplined but I’m also prepared to wrestle in other areas that other people are not comfortable in. For an entrepreneurial side of my life, I’ve adopted a very similar lifestyle.” 

Now that is one foe you don't want to come up against in business!