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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Jordan Burroughs falls in wrestling worlds quarterfinals

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Jordan Burroughs‘ bid to match John Smith‘s American record six global wrestling championships must wait another year.

Burroughs lost in the 74kg quarterfinals at the world championships in Budapest on Saturday. Russian Zaurbek Sidakov took him out 6-5, according to USA Wrestling.

Burroughs, the 2012 Olympic champion and four-time world champion, could still grab a medal Sunday (as can every American man in the four freestyle divisions in play), but he’s out of the race for gold and silver.

Burroughs was expected to face Cuban-born Italian Frank Chamizo in a semifinal showdown later Saturday had he gotten past Sidakov, a 22-year-old at his first senior worlds.

Burroughs and Chamizo split head-to-head matches earlier this year, marking Burroughs’ sixth career senior defeat. Now Burroughs has seven losses in more than 150 senior matches of a seven-plus-year senior career.

Two of those came at the Rio Olympics, the only global championship that Burroughs left without a medal.

The U.S.’ other Olympic gold medalists — Kyle Snyder and Helen Maroulis — wrestle later next week.

In other men’s freestyle weight classes Saturday, former Burroughs foil David Taylor made the 86kg final in his senior worlds debut, upsetting Iran’s Olympic and world champion Hassan Yazdani along the way. He gets top-seeded Turk Fatih Erdin in Sunday’s gold-medal match.

“One match away from being a world champion,” said Taylor, a 27-year-old who won the Hodge Trophy as the NCAA’s best wrestler in 2012 and 2014. “Something I’ve dreamt about for a really, really long time.”

In the 61kg bracket, worlds rookie Joe Colon lost in Saturday’s semifinals, putting him directly into a Sunday bronze-medal match. Colon actually lost in the final of the world team trials in June, but U.S. champion Nahshon Garrett withdrew from worlds due to injury, it was announced two weeks ago.

Like Burroughs, 2017 World bronze medalist Nick Gwiazdowski lost Saturday but remains in the 125kg repechage bracket with a chance at bronze Sunday.

“Not a bad spot, everybody wrestling for medals [Sunday],” U.S. coach Bill Zadick said. “A little bit less than what we had anticipated, maybe, knowing the stars that we have and the star power that we had wrestling today.”

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Jordan Burroughs keeps Rio defeat at a distance as he chases record

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NEW YORK — Jordan Burroughs says he has rewatched almost every one of his wrestling matches at least 15 times. That’s more than 150 senior matches in the last seven years, following a 148-match career at the University of Nebraska.

There is one event that he can’t bring himself to pull up in full — the Rio Olympics. Burroughs suffered two of his five career senior defeats in Brazil. Shockingly, tearfully, the London Olympic champ left his second Games without a medal.

“Disappointment, embarrassment, disgrace,” Burroughs told media on Aug. 19, 2016.

Nearly 700 days have passed. Burroughs has rebounded.

He wore his fourth world championships gold medal last August. He won the team World Cup title with the U.S. for the first time last month, the only senior tournament he had yet to claim.

Then last Thursday night, atop Pier 17 at South Street Seaport, Burroughs tacked on his first win over Cuban-born Italian Frank Chamizo at the annual Beat the Streets meet.

Chamizo took gold at the last two world championships before moving up to Burroughs’ 74kg division this year.

If Burroughs captures a fifth world title in October in Budapest, he will share the record he has for so long coveted — John Smith‘s six combined Olympic and world titles, most by an American.

He said none of what he has done since Rio, or what he can do the next two years, will make up for what happened in Brazil.

“It hurts me too much to look back at it, so I avoid it at all costs,” Burroughs said after a press conference at the New York Athletic Club overlooking Central Park last week. “Occasionally, I’ll come across an Instagram post where someone would do a highlight of the Olympics, and it will just be me getting my butt kicked, really. I’ll look at it. I’ll internalize it. I’ll think about it for the moment. I’ll let it sting. Then I’ll be driven from it.”

Burroughs distancing himself from defeat is not in character.

In 2014, he was beaten by his biggest rival, Russian Denis Tsargush, at the world championships. Burroughs saved on his phone an image of Tsargush celebrating on top of him as a constant reminder and said it motivated him to get out of bed on tired mornings.

Burroughs admitted last year’s world title was, at least somewhat, about proving to the world he could still be the best at age 29. The oldest men’s Olympic champion in freestyle between the last two Olympics was 26. Come Tokyo 2020, Burroughs will be older than any previous U.S. Olympic wrestling gold medalist.

Last year marked his most difficult path to gold since the match format was changed from best of three periods to a cumulative, two-period model in 2013. Burroughs gave up 17 points at worlds last August, more than twice as many as his 2013 and 2015 titles combined.

“I knew I was still the best wrestler in the world,” Burroughs said. “I knew I was the best wrestler in the world on August 19th, 2016. I just didn’t compete at my highest level. Whatever it was, whether it was the weight cut or mindset or lack of technical ability at that particular time, I felt like I was still the best wrestler. Things just didn’t come together for me.”

After worlds in Paris, Burroughs said he hoped the Tokyo Games would be his “final chapter.” Now he’s open to competing beyond 2020, but it won’t be his decision alone.

“Ask my wife,” Burroughs said. “I’ve got two little ones [son Beacon, 3, and daughter Ora, 1]. They’re still growing.

“I just want to win the gold in 2020. That’s the goal. My focus is 2018, 2019, 2020, re-evaluate after. … The only thing that can make up for [Rio] is win another gold in 2020.”

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