Skip navigation
Sign up to follow your favorites on all your devices.
Sign up

David Taylor retires from wrestling competition in taking Oklahoma State job

In a three-week span, David Taylor went from being arguably the world’s best pound-for-pound male wrestler to announcing his retirement.

Taylor, 33, said his “competition career” is over, speaking at a press conference that introduced him as the new head coach at Oklahoma State University.

“I knew in 2024 that this was going to be it for me as a competitor,” said Taylor, who contemplated retirement after winning Tokyo Olympic gold. “I think after 2021 it was really difficult. ... My inner fire started to dwindle a little bit, and it showed.”

On April 20, Taylor, a two-time reigning world champion, was swept in the Olympic Trials 86kg finals by then-fellow Nittany Lion Wrestling Club member Aaron Brooks.

“My performance at Olympic Trials, it’s like, man, how do you feel about that?” Taylor said. “Honestly, I’m at peace with it because I did everything I wanted to do in my career. Everything and more.”

Then this past Monday, Taylor was announced as the new head coach at Oklahoma State, the most successful NCAA program in history with 34 team titles, though none since 2006.

“I was at probably the first real crossroads in my life in a long time,” Taylor said of the time after Olympic Trials. “I had a pretty clear vision of what we’re doing. It’s like, OK, this is the time to take a break and see what’s next. After talking with these guys, we came up with a really good plan and realized this is next.”

Taylor said Friday it was “the most uncomfortable decision I’ve ever made” to leave Penn State, where he had trained since starting his college career in 2009, to move to Stillwater.

“Obviously, it was a tough decision to leave, but this is the best decision for me and my family moving forward,” he said.

As Oklahoma State coach, Taylor succeeds 1988 and 1992 Olympic gold medalist John Smith, who announced his retirement from coaching on April 11.

That Taylor became an NCAA coach didn’t necessarily mean he had to retire. Cael Sanderson briefly came out of competitive retirement in 2011 — while coaching Taylor at Penn State — and finished fifth at the world championships.

“My journey as a competitor is done,” Taylor said. “My journey as a coach is now just getting started.”