David Taylor wins third title as Americans take first three golds of wrestling worlds
Olympic gold medalist David Taylor earned a third world wrestling title by pinning rival Hassan Yazdani of Iran as the U.S. won the first three gold medals of the championships in Belgrade.
Taylor was up 9-3 when he pinned Yazdani with 2.6 seconds left in their six-minute 86kg freestyle final.
“I’m the most dynamic, dominant wrestler the sport’s ever seen,” said the wrestler nicknamed “The Magic Man” for an early penchant for come-from-behind wins.
Taylor, 32, is now 3-1 against Yazdani in global finals after wins at the Tokyo Games and 2022 Worlds and a loss at the 2021 Worlds. He also defeated Yazdani en route to his first world title in 2018.
Taylor has repeated that the rivalry with Yazdani, a four-time global champion, keeps him motivated. But he added his two daughters to that list on Sunday. London, 3, recently gave dad her first medal from Soccer Shots.
“Daddy, I want you to look at this every day, and I want you to be a champion,” she told him.
With this world medal, Taylor earned a bye into the finals of April’s Olympic Trials, which will be at his training base of Penn State. Taylor’s last loss to an American in major competition was in 2017.
Last year, Taylor said he “contemplated retiring multiple times” since his gold in Tokyo and “was hurt all year, hardly could train,” due at least in part to knee swelling.
“I just didn’t know if I wanted to do it anymore,” he said then. “I achieved my lifelong goal of Olympic champion. I believed if I could go to world championships eight weeks later, I’d probably be done. Going there [to 2021 Worlds] and losing, it was hard.”
Next year, Taylor can become the third U.S. wrestler to win back-to-back Olympic titles, and just the second in the last century after John Smith in 1988 and 1992. Taylor is already older than any previous U.S. Olympic wrestling gold medalist, according to Olympedia.org.
Also Sunday, Americans Vito Arujau and Zain Retherford won world titles at 61kg and 70kg, respectively, which are not Olympic weights.
Expect Arujau, a 24-year-old reigning NCAA champion for Cornell, to move down to 57kg or up to 65kg for April’s Olympic Trials. At the Tokyo Olympic Trials, Arujau was runner-up at 57kg to eventual Olympic bronze medalist Thomas Gilman.
Arujau’s father, Vugar, was a 1991 World champion for the Soviet Union, a 1992 Olympic bronze medalist for the Unified Team and 1995 World champion for Russia.
Expect Retherford, who also won 70kg silver at the 2022 Worlds, to move down to 65kg or up to 74kg for Olympic Trials. He was the top seed at 65kg for the Tokyo Olympic Trials and eliminated before the finals.
Mason Parris added bronze at 125kg, his first senior world medal.
It came 11 days after it was announced he replaced Olympic gold medalist Gable Steveson in the event. Steveson did not announce a reason for his withdrawal, though he has since performed for WWE.
If Steveson returns to the 125kg division for Olympic Trials, he will have to beat multiple opponents en route to a possible final against Parris, who gets a bye into the finals as a world medalist.
Worlds continue Monday, featuring American Kyle Dake against Zaurbek Sidakov, a neutral athlete from Russia, in the 74kg final. Dake is the reigning world champion. Sidakov is the reigning Olympic gold medalist.