Remembering David Taylor's Insane 2018-2023 Freestyle Run

Remembering David Taylor's Insane 2018-2023 Freestyle Run

Taking stock of David Taylor's legendary run in freestyle wrestling between the years of 2018 and 2023.

May 8, 2024 by Andrew Spey

Never say never, but David Taylor's acceptance of the head coaching position at Oklahoma State suggests that we may have seen the last of David Taylor at major international wrestling competitions. 

If that is the case, it's worth looking back at David Taylor's insane run in men's freestyle wrestling, specifically from 2018 to 2023.

If you don't want to click through that tweet (created by Jon Kozak, who also helped with the research for this blog), here are some highlights to keep in mind: 

6 Years

3 World Golds

1 World Silver

1 Olympic Gold

66 Matches 

65 Wins

32 Tech-falls

13 Pins

20 Wins over world or Olympic medalists

Some other things to keep in mind about Taylor's six-year run:

  • Taylor's only loss during those six years is to Iran's Hassan Yazdani.
  • Taylor is 5-1 lifetime against Hasan Yazdani (4-1 between 2018-23). 
  • Yazdani's only losses over the past eight years are to David Taylor. 
  • Yazdani has won 9 world and Olympic medals in a row. The only time he didn't win gold between 2018 and 2023 was when he lost to David. 
  • Taylor was the only men's freestyle to go back-to-back gold medals at the 2022 and 2023 World Championships (Amit Elor also accomplished that feat in women's freestyle).  
  • Only 12 American men's freestylers have both a world and Olympic gold medal. David is one of them. The others -- because I just did the research -- are Kyle Snyder, Jordan Burroughs, Tom Brands, Kurt Angle, Kevin Jackson, Kenny Monday, John Smith, Bruce Baumgartner, Mark Schultz, Dave Schultz and Dan Gable.

John Smith set the literal Gold Standard with six golds in a row, however, the Magic Man's run is not far off with four golds and a silver and one year lost due to injury. 

The entirety of David Taylor's wrestling career is not too shabby either, and worth reflecting on. 

Before The Dominant Run

A massive recruit out of Graham High School in St Paris, Ohio, David originally committed to Iowa State while Cael Sanderson was still coaching there before following Cael to Penn State and enrolling as a freshman Nittany Lion for the 2009-10 season, which he sat out while redshirting. 

Taylor was a sensation in Happy Valley for the next four years, making four NCAA finals and winning two titles and two Hodge Trophies. 

Taylor's freestyle career started at 74kg where he competed for a couple of years before moving up to 86kg for the 2016 Olympic Team Trials. The extra 26 pounds between 74kg (162.8 pounds) and 86kg (189.2 pounds) suited David well, as his freestyle career took off after he bulked up. 

Though Kyle Dake would prevent David from making the Rio Olympic team, and J'den Cox would beat David in a best two-of-three series in the 2017 World Team Trials finals, David only lost one international match at 86kg in 2016 and 2017 while notching wins over the likes of Hasan Yazdani (for the first time), Sharif Sharifov (a world and Olympic gold medalist), Dato Marsagashvili (a world and Olympic bronze medalist), Alireza Karimi (a three-time world medalist), Vladislav Valiev (a world medalist), Istvan Vereb (another world bronze medalist), and Nika Kentchadze (yet another world bronze medalist).

Sharifov is also the answer to the trivia question: who beat both Cael Sanderson and Kyle Snyder at World Championships? Sharifov beat Cael in 2011 and Snyder in 2019. 

The Switch Is Flipped In 2018

Once Taylor made his first world team in 2018 it was like a dam had broken and the world-caliber accolades began to flood in. 

The Magic Man would tear through the loaded 2018 World Championship bracket in Budapest berserker style, beating Hasan Yazdani (again) in the first round and Dauren Kurugliev in the semis (after nearly getting knocked out by a Kurugliev mule-kick) before winning gold and putting the world on notice. 


In this blogger's humble estimation, Kurugliev may be the best wrestler to have never yet won a World or Olympic medal, having won the Individual World Cup in 2020 plus four European titles. 

Unfortunately, David would have to wait another two years to get back on the top of the international podium, as an injury at the 2019 Beat the Streets event kept him from competing for the rest of 2019, including Final X and the 2019 Worlds. 

Then, stupid Covid-19 delayed the Tokyo Olympic Games until 2021, although Taylor was able to squeeze in a gold at the Pan-Am Olympic Qualifier in March of 2020 after he had healed but before the world shut down due to the global pandemic. 

Taylor was again back in action at the USA Wrestling Olympic Team Trials in April of 2021, where he trounced his opponents by a combined score of 25-0.  

When the Tokyo Games finally arrived it was more wizardry from Taylor, as he beat Iranian legend Hassan Yazdani once again, this time in the finals, to cement his legacy as one of America's all-timers. 

Despite the Olympics being pushed back a year, the 2021 World Championships were held in Oslo Norway, as originally planned, just two months after the Olympics. There, Yazdani would finally have his revenge, beating Taylor in the finals and handing David his first freestyle loss in over four years.

Taylor would get right back to his magical way in 2022 and 2023, blitzing the field and defeating Yazdani in the finals of both World Championships, thus completing one of the most impressive six-year runs in men's freestyle history.

David Taylor's Freestyle Hit List

Jordan BurroughsUSA110
Hassan YazdaniIRI59
Sharif SharifovAZE15
Jabrayil HasanovAZE15
Ali ShabanauBLR14
Livan LopezCUB14
Artur NaifonovRUS13
Selim YasarTUR13
Alireza KarimiIRI13
Azamat DauletbekovKAZ32
Boris MakoevSVK22
Myles AmineSMR12
Dato MarsagashviliGEO12
Abubakar AbakarovAZE11
Deepak PuniaIND11
Fatih ErdinTUR21
Zahid ValenciaUSA21
Vladislav ValievRUS11
Isvan VerebHUN11
Nika KentchadzeGEO11
Aaron BrooksUSA2 
Bo NickalUSA2 
Dauren KuruglievRUS1 
Ed RuthUSA1