Taylor shooting for Rio in 2016

A Heisman winning quarterback and NBA lottery pick, among two other college athletes, might find out in July what the wrestling world already knows: It’s tough to take down David Taylor.

Taylor, one of the greatest wrestlers in Graham High School and Penn State University history, goes for his latest accolade as an ESPN ESPY nominee for the Best College Male Athlete.

Jameis Winston (Florida State football, Doug McDermott (Creighton basketball), Johnny Gaudreau (Boston College hockey) and Lyle Thompson (Albany lacrosse) are Taylor’s competition. Honored by the nomination (the winner will be announced July 16), Taylor isn’t concerned about being college’s best athlete.

He’s more focused on world domination. Taylor has established himself as one of the top freestyle wrestlers in the country at 74kg. Next up: Rio and the 2016 Olympics.

“It’s encouraging knowing at this level there’s still a lot of room for improvement,” Taylor said. “It’s definitely exciting. But the reality is I have to beat the No. 1 guy in the entire world to make the team. I have to face that fact, but it’s exciting that challenge is still ahead of me.”

New Jersey’s Jordan Burroughs is his biggest obstacle. The 2012 Olympic gold medalist is 3-0 against Taylor this year. Burroughs beat Taylor 5-2 at the U.S. Open in April and won a best-of-three match 5-2 and 6-5 at the United States World Team trials in early June.

Losing three times in a season — let alone to the same opponent — is something Taylor isn’t used to. Taylor went 180-2 with four Division II state championships at Graham. He finished his Penn State career 134-3 with two national championships. Add in Graham and Penn State’s four team titles and he’s won 14 state or national titles with the Falcons and Nittany Lions.

Taylor isn’t discouraged by those three losses to Burroughs. He’s using it as added motivation.

“In the big scheme of things the Olympics in 2016 are the No. 1 priority. This is all preparation leading up to that,” Taylor said. “Ultimately, that’s when everything really matters. It’s a dream I’ve had since I was about eight years old. This is all progress leading up to then. It’s just a matter of fixing little things and continuing to try and get better.”

To prepare for his Olympic dream, Taylor is taking some time off from competition this summer to rest and relax. He’s working some camps and clinics around the country and letting his body get healthy after the rigors of college wrestling. Then it’s full-go for Rio.

“This could be the most important two years of my entire life. It’s kind of crazy,” Taylor said of where his career is heading. “I just try to put myself on the map and build a reputation for myself. I did that in high school and college, now I’m doing it on the international scene. This is the professional level of our sport. It’s the NFL, the MLB or NHL of our sport. When you talk about competing at that level it’s pretty exciting.

“I think it’ll be cooler when I’m actually there. I’m right on the edge. It can be a little frustrating but you’re talking about competing with the best in the world. I’ll just keep trying to make progress and reach my goals.”

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