Amateur Wrestling news, gear and photos from the side of the mat.

Blog Archives

Iowa State-bound Dave Taylor not afraid of challenges – Next Big Thing?

February 7th, 2009 by Tom

Andrew Hipps, Senior Writer
[email protected]

Seriously "¦ It's impossible not to like David Taylor.

In an era where it's become commonplace for athletes and teams to dodge competition, the high school senior from St. Paris Graham (Ohio), who maintains a 4.0 grade point average, seeks out competition.

In a battle of two of Ohio's best ever, David Taylor moved up from 135 to 140 and beat Collin Palmer (Photo/Kevin Schlosser)

This past Saturday afternoon, in front of a packed gymnasium at St. Paris Graham High School, David Taylor, a three-time state champion, bumped up a weight class from 135 to 140 to face another three-time state champion, Collin Palmer of St. Edward High School in Lakewood, Ohio.

The Iowa State-bound Taylor and Ohio State-bound Palmer did not disappoint. Palmer struck first with a beautiful duckunder. Palmer looked to be in control of the match after he picked up a reversal in the second period to go up 4-1. But Taylor battled back, picking up a reversal of his own to cut the deficit to one point, 4-3, going into the third period. In the final period, he picked up a quick escape and then added a takedown to go up 6-4. Taylor was then able to tilt Palmer for a two-point nearfall, which all but sealed the deal as Taylor won 8-5.

Nobody has ever questioned Taylor's talent. How could you? All the kid has ever done is win. And mostly in dominating fashion. He has won five Cadet or Junior National titles in Fargo. He has just two career losses in high school, both of which he has avenged. In December, Taylor became the first wrestler ever to win four Walsh Ironman titles.

Although Taylor's talent has never been in question, people have questioned whether he could remain on top moving up from the lowerweights to middleweights. Taylor competed at 103 as a freshman and sophomore before moving up to 112 as a junior. This season, Taylor moved up four weight classes to compete at 135.

If Taylor's tournament victories at the Super 32 in November and Walsh Ironman in December weren't reason enough to think he would be extremely successful as a middleweight, then his victory over Palmer, who was four weights heavier last season, should be.

All one has to do is watch David Taylor and Collin Palmer wrestle and it quickly becomes clear that both should go on to have very successful collegiate wrestling careers. But just how successful? Collegiate success is never easy to predict. I can think of countless examples of wrestlers who won everything there was to win in high school only to go to college and never be heard from again. Things happen. Like injuries. Some wrestlers lose their drive and motivation for the sport. Others don't improve at the rate other people expect.

With that said, I'm going to go on record and say this: I think Collin Palmer is going to be a very good college wrestler at Ohio State, much like his older brother, Lance, a junior at Ohio State who is already a two-time All-American. David Taylor, on the other hand, is going to be special. When Taylor's college wrestling career is through at Iowa State, he'll go down as one of the best college wrestlers of his generation. Bold statement? Certainly. But the kid possesses all the ingredients a wrestler needs to be special.

David Taylor, shown here as a junior 112-pounder, moved up four weight classes to 135 pounds for his senior season. In December, Taylor became the first four-time Walsh Ironman champion ever (Photo/Tech-Fall.com)

Taylor is a monster on the mat, which should help him immensely as he makes the transition from high school wresting to college wrestling. He's phenomenal on his feet and can score with a variety of attacks. He can scramble with the best of them. However, above all else, Taylor has a drive to be the best "¦ like few I have ever seen.

I was at Iowa State during the Cael Sanderson Era. So I have watched countless Cael matches and listened to countless Cael interviews. I see so much of Cael Sanderson in David Taylor. Not only in his wrestling, but even more so in his demeanor off the mat. Both are humble and unassuming and have a quiet confidence about them. Neither ever seems completely satisfied and is always looking to improve. Both have a love for the sport that is unrivaled. And both continued their dominance moving up several weight classes in high school (Cael went from 119 to 135 to 145 to 171.)

Continue Reading at RevWrestling

USA Today: Brands, Cael Reignite Iowa/ISU Rivalry

December 8th, 2008 by Tom

Brands, Sanderson re-ignite Iowa wrestling rivalry

By Luke Meredith, AP Sports Writer

DES MOINES, Iowa " They're shooting for a record crowd Saturday night in Iowa City.

Local authorities gave the University of Iowa permission to increase the capacity at Carver-Hawkeye Arena from 15,500 to 16,000. Officials have warned folks to buy their tickets in advance and arrive early, and the school plans to run shuttles from parking lots around campus to alleviate traffic.

Must be a Jonas Brothers concert, a Hannah Montana show or a big-time basketball matchup, right?

No, no and no.

It's the annual dual meet between the Iowa State and Iowa wrestling teams. In a state that prides itself on being a cradle of wrestling, that's a very big deal - and this year's matchup between top-rated Iowa and second-ranked Iowa State could be the biggest yet.

Iowa is hoping to break the dual-meet record of 15,646 set by Minnesota when it hosted the Hawkeyes in 2002. The school had sold 13,500 tickets as of Thursday morning.

"I think it shows that wrestling is strong in Iowa, "said Iowa coach Tom Brands. "When you look at two programs that are 200 miles apart, or whatever, I don't know if there's any other place in the country like that."

That one of the biggest rivalries in all of college sports is as popular as ever is a testament to the schools' dynamic young coaches - Brands and his Iowa State counterpart, former Olympic gold medalist Cael Sanderson.

The 40-year-old Brands, himself a gold medalist at the 1996 Games in Atlanta, was hired by the Hawkeyes in 2006 after they fired coach Jim Zalesky, who had the unenviable task of replacing legend Dan Gable. Though Zalesky won three straight national titles at Iowa from 1998-2000, a six-year drought followed.

Brands, a former three-time national champion at Iowa, was charged with putting the nation's pre-eminent program back atop the college wrestling hierarchy. It took him just two seasons to get there, as last spring Iowa rolled to its 21st national title by a whopping margin of 38.5 points.

Brands - who recently signed a contract extension through 2013 that will pay him $150,000 a year plus incentives - will be hard-pressed to approach the 15 national crowns Iowa won under Gable from 1977-97, but he appears to have laid the foundation for an extended run at the top.

Iowa has won 22 straight dual meets and is favored to repeat as national champions. The 13 wrestlers in position to compete in the 10 individual matches on Saturday night are a combined 74-6 this season.

"These guys are about the lifestyle. They are geared toward doing the best they can every time they step out on the mat, "Brands said. "The one thing about this team that I like is that when they get ready to go, they're pretty good."

Sanderson, hired by the Cyclones a week before Brands got the Iowa job, is widely viewed as the greatest college wrestler who ever lived. He's already established a strong reputation as a coach, even though he won't turn 30 until next June.

Sanderson went 159-0 at Iowa State and was the only athlete ever named the Most Outstanding Wrestler at the NCAA meet four times. He spent just two seasons as an assistant with the Cyclones before becoming head coach.

Though the man who once graced the cover of a Wheaties box likely could coach anywhere he wanted, Sanderson views the Iowa State job as a "dream situation."

The Cyclones feel the same way. Besides the esteem that comes with having Sanderson as the face of the program, a team that slipped to 13th at the national meet in 2006 has won two straight Big 12 titles and was second at the 2007 national meet.

The Cyclones are ranked No. 2 in the latest Intermat/NWCA poll.

"It's awesome. That's why I'm coaching here, "Sanderson said. "Wrestling is important at Iowa State. We do have the support of the fans and the alumni and the university."

Sanderson has put Iowa State in position to challenge for its first national title since 1987, but the Cyclones know that the road to the title will go through Iowa City.

They'll get to see how they stack up to the vaunted Hawkeyes and a raucous crowd that, even by Iowa standards, figures to be huge.

"It's fun, it's something that I look forward to as a coach. I know our wrestlers look forward to it, "Sanderson said. "If you get a chance to step out there on a stage where there's 10,000-plus, 15,000 people watching, it's pretty cool."

Iowa vs Iowa State: Bringing Down The Curtain Makes for an Even Tougher Ticket

December 9th, 2007 by Tom

An even tougher ticket

Curtaining off Hilton limits Iowa-ISU crowd

By Andy Hamilton
Iowa City Press-Citizen

Iowa State examined ways to improve its wrestling attendance when Cael Sanderson became the head coach, and the Cyclones came up with an unusual strategy -- limiting the number of fans who can attend dual meets at Hilton Coliseum.

Iowa State's home arena has room for 14,092 at capacity, but only approximately 9,000 fans will be able to get through the doors Sunday when the top-ranked Cyclones wrestle No. 4 Iowa.

Iowa State curtained off nearly one-third of the arena to create a more intimate setting for its dual meets and help boost its season-ticket sales.

"Our attendance hasn't been great, and this was one of the first things we looked at as a coaching staff, "Sanderson said. "How do we make this a more exciting environment? How do we make it more appealing for people to buy season tickets? It's just for the overall atmosphere, and that's really it. We don't have enough fans right now to use (all of) Hilton and have the atmosphere we want in every match. We knew this Iowa match would be the one exception. The only problem is this match only comes around every two years."

Sanderson said school officials discussed making more room for the Iowa dual but opted to drop the curtain. Thus, all of the tickets have been sold for a showdown that drew 13,732 last year at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. Those who couldn't get a ticket can watch the 2 p.m. dual live on Iowa Public Television.

"We put a lot of thought into it, especially a year or a year and a half ago when we decided to set it up this way, "Sanderson said. "We knew it would be an issue, but my concern is just being loyal to the season ticket holders and their seats. Many of them asked when they bought season tickets, 'What about the Iowa match? Are you going to move it?' We said we weren't moving the mat."

Some argue that turning away followers doesn't benefit a sport that has been trying for years to build its following.

"Really what we're trying to do is get more people to all of our matches and make it a better experience for people, "Sanderson said. "We don't want to turn away fans. A week ago we had close to 2,000 tickets left. We were uncertain we'd even be able to sell out the set up we had. I believe it's for the best for our program and being loyal to the people who are loyal to us, and you also want to keep your environment the same for the student-athletes. That's part of home-field advantage. Switching things up for the biggest match of the year really doesn't make a whole lot of sense."

Wrestling has been known as a sport that often attracts a big walk-up crowd on the day of marquee dual meets, but all of the tickets have been sold and approximately 5,000 seats will sit empty behind a curtain Sunday. Nevertheless, the Cyclones have seen their season ticket sales double since Sanderson was promoted to head coach in the spring of 2006 and Iowa State wanted to take measures to draw bigger crowds for opponents such as Northern Illinois, Rider, Wisconsin and Oregon State.

"I don't think it was anyone's intention to keep Hawkeye fans out of the arena, "Sanderson said. "The intention was to make it a more exciting atmosphere for our fans and get our fans to come to more events and not just come to the big ones, and that's been working."

Hilton's current configuration for wrestling requires fans to purchase season tickets or have a National Cyclone Club membership to purchase tickets in the lower level for the Iowa dual. Sanderson said Iowa State lifted those restrictions in mid-November when all of the tickets in that level hadn't yet been sold.

On the surface, the ticket restrictions might seem like another Jamie Pollard strategy. The Iowa State athletics director employed a similar strategy earlier in the year when the Cyclones sold single-game tickets to every home contest except Iowa. Those who wanted tickets to the Iowa game through Iowa State had to purchase season tickets. Those who tried to get tickets from Iowa's allotment for the game were required to pay the host-school-set fee of $90 compared to the $60 fee Iowa State charged for games against Texas and Oklahoma.

Pollard has been known to get under the skin of Iowa fans. When the Cyclones won the multi-sport Cy-Hawk Series in 2005, Pollard put a billboard up approximately 25 miles from the Iowa campus proclaiming Iowa as the "Cyclone State "accompanied by a picture of Iowa State football players hoisting the Cy-Hawk Trophy.

"I give Jamie Pollard a lot of credit, "Iowa wrestling coach Tom Brands said. "He's brought it to the point where he's made some people mad on our side of the fence, and that's exactly what his intentions are. In a way, you're dealing with someone who's trying to play head games, and that's why you have to stay focused on the task at hand."

Brands said he isn't among those on the Iowa side of the fence who have been irritated by Pollard.

"I love it, "he said. "It's right up a competitor's alley. I think his dimension is a little bit like a high-level athlete."

Reach Andy Hamilton at 339-7368 or [email protected]

Iowa vs Iowa State: The Rivalry Heats Up

December 9th, 2007 by Tom

Coaching changes bring back spark to Iowa State-Iowa wrestling

By Andy Hamilton

It took two major shifts in the coaching landscape 20 months ago before Iowans could feel the tremors returning to a rivalry that once used to shake the state.

The match between Iowa's Mark Perry, right, and Iowa State's Travis Paulson sparked controversy on the sidelines.

Then all it took was another seven minutes to take the Iowa-Iowa State series to a new, earthshaking level.

Two Iowa Wrestlers

"I'm not going to say there's hatred, "Iowa's Mark Perry Jr. said. "But the Iowa-Iowa State thing grows on you, and I think the rivalry picked up last year from where it was when it was big, and it might even be more heated now than it's ever been."

Perry got a good feel for the temperature change last year when he was at the epicenter of what might be the most heated moment in 72 duals between the Hawkeyes and Cyclones. And it doesn't figure to be any cooler Sunday when the two teams meet in front of a sellout crowd at Hilton Coliseum in Ames with perhaps the top spot in the national rankings riding on the outcome.

"I think there are going to be quite a few brawls on Sunday, "Perry said. "I'm not saying fights, but I think there will be a lot of good action, a lot of good wrestling and guys are going to get after it."

Iowa State will likely enter the dual as the No. 1 team in the country after taking down defending NCAA champion Minnesota over the weekend. Iowa has been ranked as high as No. 3 early in the season, and if the Hawkeyes jump the Gophers in the rankings, it would set up the first No. 1 versus No. 2 showdown between Iowa and Iowa State since 1999.

This is just the kind of plot Iowans envisioned in the spring of 2006 when both schools made coaching changes that rekindled the interest in a series that gripped the attention of the wrestling world throughout the 1980s before the Hawkeyes assembled a 30-meet winning streak over the Cyclones and both programs lost their stature as perennial national championship threats.

Iowa bought out the final year of coach Jim Zalesky's contract on March 29. Hours later, Iowa State called a news conference for later that week to announce Bobby Douglas was stepping down as the coach of the Cyclones. Those moves triggered the return of Tom Brands to Iowa, the arrival of the Cael Sanderson era at Iowa State and the beginning of an eight-month wait for the first dual between the two programs that put their future in the hands of iconic figures from their past.

Iowa wrestling coach Tom Brands and assistant coach Dan Gable exchanged heated words with Iowa State's coaching staff.

Much of the buildup leading into last December's dual in Iowa City dealt with the first-year head coaches matching wits for the first time. Much of the talk after Iowa's 24-6 victory centered around a fiery exchange in the middle of the mat that still seems almost surreal to some of those involved.

The first match had yet to come to a close last year and coaches from both sides had already gotten into a verbal exchange that later grew into a heated argument in the middle of the mat with Brands and Iowa assistant Dan Gable on one side and Sanderson, his brother and assistant coach Cody Sanderson and Iowa State assistant Tim Hartung on the other.

"I know I lost myself in the moment and kind of stepped back afterward and said, 'Wow, what was going on?' "Hartung said. "It was crazy. You couldn't hear, you couldn't even hear yourself think during that specific moment. It was nuts."

The squabble started in the final seconds of the 165-pound bout when Perry came out on top of a wild scramble to score a takedown to force overtime against Travis Paulson in a bout between two All-Americans. Perry clutched his left knee at the end of regulation, inciting the Iowa State bench.

"He wasn't hurt, "said Hartung, who spent the previous two seasons as an assistant at Iowa under Zalesky. "It was a hell of a scramble, [Perry] was obviously fatigued, but so was our guy. We were ready to continue to wrestle and he takes the injury time. Whatever. I remember Tom was telling me to worry about my guy and that's exactly what I should've been doing. It was crazy, man. I don't really remember much of what was said or hardly even the situation that the two wrestlers were in."

Perry won the match with a takedown midway through overtime that ignited the crowd of 13,732. Seconds later, coaches from both teams were sprinting back to the center to resume the dispute.

Iowa State wrestling coach Cael Sanderson is hoping to upset the Hawkeyes.

"You have to realize you're being looked at as a role model and your job is to display calmness under fire, but you've got to stick up for your athlete, "Brands said. "I felt Mark Perry was being assaulted by their coaching staff, so I was out there sticking up for him.

"I remember thinking, 'You're going to be alone here,' and then all of a sudden there's Gable sprinting to the center. That makes a guy feel real good when you've got backup, and Gable is the ultimate backup. I was jawing at Hartung and he didn't care what I was saying. He was jawing at Gable. Cody Sanderson was jawing at Gable. Cael Sanderson was jawing at Gable. It was like I wasn't even there."

The jawing continued in the post-meet news conferences. Cael Sanderson pointed to how easily the outcome could have been different after Iowa won six matches by a collective nine points and said he felt Iowa State controlled the pace of several bouts.

"We didn't take a timeout, "Sanderson said. "I don't know how many timeouts they took. We were pushing them all over. They had injury times."

Said Brands: "Our guy took one timeout. It was Mark Perry. We've got to work on that. You know what, I'll throw some fuel right back on that. I had Mark Perry for a year here [as an Iowa assistant] and then Hartung had him for two years. We're still working the kinks out of him."

On his way out of the interview room, Sanderson asked photographers if anybody had caught Gable "flipping us the bird "during the first match.

"I didn't flip him the bird, I flipped him the arm, "Gable said. "The bird, I know what that means. I don't know what [the arm] means. To me, it meant, 'Come on, guys.' He had just called me a crybaby right before that or something. Sometimes you get a little emotional, but that's part of the game."

The game has changed. The rivalry that used to shake the state of Iowa has reached a new level on college wrestling's seismograph.

Andy Hamilton covers wrestling for the Iowa City Press-Citizen.

    Next Entries »