David Taylor wins wrestling world title, at long last

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David Taylor, the formerly dominant NCAA wrestler known as the Magic Man, was stuck for five years.

Stuck finishing second or third in the 2013, 2014 and 2015 World Championships team trials in the U.S.’ toughest weight class owned by Jordan Burroughs. When Taylor moved up a division, he suffered the same fate in 2016 (Olympic Trials) and 2017.

At last, at 27 years old, Taylor made his first world team this summer. It helped that United World Wrestling expanded the number of weight classes from eight to 10 (still six at the Olympics), meaning Taylor didn’t have to go through Burroughs, Olympic bronze medalist J’den Cox or four-time NCAA champion Kyle Dake at trials. But Taylor earned his place, going undefeated internationally this year.

Then in Budapest on Sunday, Taylor completed a breakthrough run through the 86kg bracket, becoming a world champion.

Taylor is the oldest first-time Olympic or world champion for USA Wrestling since 2006, when now-freestyle head coach Bill Zadick did so at 33. Taylor reached the top four years after ending an NCAA career at Penn State that included two Hodge Trophies, given to the college wrestler of the year.

“I don’t know if I ever really believed if I was best in the world, for a long time,” Taylor said.

Taylor had to work from start to finish in Budapest, upsetting Iran’s Olympic and world champion Hassan Yazdani in his first match Saturday. He suffered a knee injury in his second match and said he was kicked in the face in the semifinals. He then dumped Turkey’s top-seeded Fatih Erdin in the final, scoring a two-point takedown in the first 10 seconds and getting a 12-2 tech fall.

Upon weighing in Saturday, Taylor looked at his phone screen protector and saw what he had written days before, “2018 World champion 86 kilos.” He knew the great Yazdani was first up in his bracket. It’s time, he thought.

“This flag on my shoulders, looking up, just the chills that I get when I think of that moment [of winning],” Taylor said. “To be able to earn it the way that I earned it, there’s no easy way. … I wrestled every single best guy every single round.”

The U.S. earned medals in all four weight classes with finals Sunday.

The 2012 Olympic champ Burroughs rallied for bronze, beating Cuban-born Italian nemesis Frank Chamizo via tiebreaker by scoring the last point with 26 seconds left. It’s the seventh Olympic or world medal for Burroughs in eight global tournaments, coming one day after he suffered just his seventh defeat in seven-plus years on the senior stage.

“All I thought about [after Saturday’s loss] was Rio, Rio, Rio, Rio,” Burroughs said, referencing failing to earn a medal at the 2016 Olympics. “I was thinking, well, damn, there were a lot of people who thought I quit after I lost to [Russian Aniuar] Geduev [in the Rio quarterfinals]. I’m not a quitter. I’m not a quitter. You can call me what you want, but you can never call me a quitter.”

Nick Gwiazdowski earned his second straight heavyweight bronze, winning both of his repechage matches after a Saturday loss to eventual silver medalist Deng Zhiwei of China.

In the 61kg bracket, worlds rookie Joe Colon earned a bronze medal, two weeks after replacing U.S. champion Nahshon Garrett on the team. Garrett, who beat Colon in the world team trials final in June, is out with a torn pectoral.

Cox and Dake advanced to Monday’s gold-medal matches in the 92kg and 79kg divisions, respectively.

“If it wasn’t for those guys, I wouldn’t be where I am,” Taylor said of Burroughs, Cox and Dake. “When I went up in weight class, it was for the future of my career. It wasn’t just for short-term.”

Logan Stieber, a 2016 World champion, lost his opening match at 65kg. Thomas Gilman, the 2017 World silver medalist at 57kg, lost his semifinal match and will go for bronze Monday.

Olympic champions Kyle Snyder and Helen Maroulis begin their world title defenses on Monday and Wednesday, respectively.

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MORE: Wrestling worlds TV schedule

J’den Cox wins bronze at World Wrestling Championships

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J’den Cox, bronze medalist at the 2016 Rio Olympics, added another bronze to his resume when he finished third in the 86-kilogram freestyle weight class at the United World Wrestling Senior World Championships on Friday.

Cox defeated Mihail Ganev of Bulgaria, the 2010 world champion in the 84-kilogram class, in dominant fashion, winning the match with a final score of 8-0.

Cox won his first four matches before a surprise loss to Slovakia’s Boris Makeoev in the semifinals took him out of the running for the world title.

After that loss, fellow American wrestler David Taylor tweeted criticism of how Cox wrestled against Makeoev.

After Cox won gold, he told FloWrestling he’d like to give a “big special thank you to David Taylor. Thank you for the motivation, because without your critique I don’t know if I would have been up to it.”

Cox is a three-time NCAA champion who graduated from Missouri University in May. He’ll return to MU as a volunteer assistant coach after worlds.

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MORE: Helen Maroulis dominates for world title after making history in Rio

Jake Varner, Kyle Dake reach U.S. Olympic Trials finals

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Olympic champion Jake Varner is one step from returning to the Games. Four-time NCAA champion Kyle Dake is close to his first Olympics.

Varner and Dake each won their three U.S. Olympic Trials qualifying matches to move into Sunday night’s best-of-three finals in Iowa City (7 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Live Extra).

Varner will face Kyle Snyder in the freestyle 97kg finals in the first matchup of reigning Olympic and World champions at a U.S. Olympic Trials since 1988.

Snyder, an Ohio State sophomore, upset Varner at last year’s World Championships Team Trials before becoming the youngest American to win a World title in September.

Dake will face University of Missouri rising senior J’Den Cox in the freestyle 86kg finals. The winner of that match must qualify for the Olympics at an international tournament later this spring.

“J’Den’s a good competitor, you know what I mean, he’s strong, he’s big,” Dake, with a bloody cut near his left eye, told media Sunday afternoon. “We’ll just see how good his freestyle savviness is.”

Other Sunday night finals include Olympic champion Jordan Burroughs against Andrew Howe in 74kg, a rematch of the 2012 Olympic Trials finals.

Howe advanced through three qualifying matches Sunday to face Burroughs, who had a bye into the finals as a reigning World medalist.

World champions Helen Maroulis and Adeline Gray are in the women’s 53kg and 75kg finals.

The biggest upset on Sunday morning came in Dake’s division, with top seed Jake Herbert falling in his first match to Cox.

Later, Dake defeated two-time NCAA Wrestler of the Year David Taylor to reach the finals. Dake and Taylor were the top two challengers to Burroughs before leaving Burroughs’ division in the last year.

MORE WRESTLING: Three 2012 U.S. Olympians earn Rio berths Saturday