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Penn State Wrestling

Penn State Wrestling: David Taylor Back for More at Olympic Trials

January 02 2013: Mckenzie Arena, Chattanooga TN

University Park— When former Penn State wrestling great David Taylor won an Olympic gold medal Aug. 5, 2021 at the Tokyo Games, it was a moment that changed his life forever.

There wasn’t nearly as much time to dwell on it as a usual Olympics but that’s okay with Taylor with the Olympic Trials being held in home territory this weekend.

Life hasn’t changed a whole lot, outside of welcoming his third child since the gold medal victory over Iran’s Hassan Yazdani. Sure, Taylor’s 33 years old now, but he’s has shown no signs of slowing down.

“Just because you won the Olympics, it doesn’t mean your life stops,” Taylor said. “You just go back to doing what you do. You go back to being better each day. My competitive instinct is stronger now than it ever has been.”

Taylor will have a bye until Saturday as the rest of the 86 kg bracket will battle to face him in the best-of-3 championship series. He will see a lot of familiar faces in the rest of the 86 kg field, including 4-time national champion Aaron Brooks, who is the top seed. Carter Starocci also bumped up from 74 kg and instead will compete at 86 kg.

Two other former PSU wrestlers in Mark Hall and Max Dean are also part of the weight class, as well as incoming PSU true freshman Connor Mirasola.

The loaded weight class is just a small reminder of how dominant Penn State wrestling has been over the years.

“I think every athlete that comes to Penn State, their desire is to be great,” Taylor said. “The last 15 years, Penn State has shown you want to be a national champion, you go to Penn State. Now we’re saying if you want to be the best in the world, you come to Penn State, you stay afterwards, and you train at the Nittany Lion Wrestling Club.”

Mifflin County native and former North Carolina State wrestler Trent Hidlay, who lost to Brooks in the NCAA finals at 197 pounds last month, is also part of the 86 kg field.

Penn State will also be represented by former wrestlers Nico Megaludis (57 kg, 5th seed), Zain Retherford (65 kg, challenge tournament semis), Nick Lee (65 kg, 1st), Jason Nolf (74 kg, 2nd), and Vincenzo Joseph (74 kg, 7th).

Current wrestlers Beau Bartlett (65 kg, 5th), Mitchell Mesenbrink (74 kg, 5th), Alex Facundo (74 kg, 9th), Levi Haines (74 kg, 10th), and Greg Kerkvliet (125 kg, 3rd) will all compete, as will future PSU wrestler Luke Lilledahl (57 kg, 9th).

PENN STATE WRESTLING: THE CURRENT LIONS

There’s a lot to be said for the current PSU wrestling team to have as many guys competing as they do this weekend.

Haines, who qualified for the trials as an NCAA champion, is just 19 years old and it likely won’t be his last time competing for the prestigious Games.

“I don’t know if I ever imagined the Olympic trials being held here,” Haines said. “I always imagined myself wrestling in the Olympic trials. It’s been a goal of mine to win the Olympics for as long as I can remember. I think it’s special that I have the opportunity to do it in my backyard.”

Haines has been trained by Taylor at the M2 Training Center in State College for a long time, and recognized the uniqueness of wrestling this weekend with him.

“Dave is the man. I started wrestling for Dave when I was in eighth grade,” Haines said. “When I met him, I didn’t know a lot of wrestling. I just worked hard. Dave kind of taught me how to wrestle. I’m forever indebted to Dave with my wrestling career.”

GRECO-ROMAN WRESTLING

Most of the local wrestling will be done in freestyle, but Greco-Roman wrestling will also be done over the weekend.

Former Arizona State wrestler Cohlton Schultz, who is wrestling in the best-of-3 championship Saturday at 125 kg, has been a specialist in the style for many years. He was a runner-up int the last Olympic trials.

“There’s something to be said for Greco-Roman,” he said. “When you have to meet a guy middle of the mat chest-to-chest, and you have to figure out a way to either dump him on his head or run him off the mat or take him down, there’s not a lot of options. You’re limited in what you can do, so it’s a real chess match.”

WOMEN’S FREESTYLE

The Nittany Lion Wrestling Club has just one woman competing over the weekend in Jennifer Page, who’s in the challenge tournament semifinals at 62 kg.

But the weekend will also serve as a reminder that women’s wrestling is growing fast, and that more programs will likely add a women’s program sooner rather than later.

Kayla Miracle, who represents the Sunkist Kids Wrestling Club out of Tempe, Arizona, is in the best-of-3 championship series at 62 kg on Saturday. Miracle, who has won two Pan-American gold medals, said the important thing is to have fun with the sport.

“I was four years old saying, ‘I want to be an Olympic champ.’ We didn’t even have women’s wrestling in the Olympics at that point,” Miracle said.

“There is this whole world that you can tap into, and follow these wrestlers. That representation matters. Just have fun with it, whether you’re talking to a young boy or a young girl. Wrestling is so hard, but you have to enjoy it. The trips, the teammates, the coaches, all of it.”

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