Taylor understood the toughest test in his wrestling career was looming. On day two, he would toe the line against two Olympic champions. “I was prepared for that. I anticipated that’s

who it was going to be — (it was) the best opportu- nity in my international career to challenge myself,” Taylor said. To open the second day of action, Taylor

controlled every aspect of his bout against 2012 Olympic champion and 2016 Olympic bronze med- DOLVW 6KDULI 6KDULIRY RI $]HUEDLMDQ +H QRWFKHG ÀYH takedowns and a match-ending exposure from a near-side cradle position to cement a 12-2 technical fall win. The Americans outlasted Azerbaijan on the

VWUHQJWK RI 7D\ORU·V HIIRUW 7KH GXDO PHHW ÀQLVKHG in a 4-4 tie, but bonus points from Taylor and 2015 World bronze medalist James Green pushed Team 86$ RYHU WKH WRS VHWWLQJ D ÀQDO VKRZGRZQ DJDLQVW the host nation Iran. The Imam Khomeini Sport Venue was rock-

ing for the clash of international powers. It was an environment every wrestler dreams of competing in — a sold-out arena hinging on your every move. For the second time that day, Taylor stood op-

posite an Olympic champion with the fate of the dual meet squarely on his shoulders. “I really think I thrive in that type of environ-

ment,” Taylor said. “When you take dual meets and the top couple teams in the world are wrestling each other, those matches are so awesome, so competi- tive, so exciting to watch that from a competitor or a fan or whatever you are, that is the top tier compe- tition probably in the world just because of the dual meet aspect.”

Reigning Olympic champion (74 kg/163

SRXQGV +DVVDQ <D]GDQLFKDUDWL FDPH RXW RQ ÀUH DJDLQVW 7D\ORU LQ WKH ÀQDOV WXVVOH 7KH ,UDQLDQ JUHDW pushed Taylor to the brink, taking a 3-0 lead by way of step outs and forcing two caution calls against Taylor. A third caution and Taylor would be disqual- LÀHG IURP WKH PDWFK “I’m in Iran wrestling Iran’s best wrestler. The

next time I get pushed out of bounds I’m going to JHW GLVTXDOLÀHG VR , FDQ·W OHW WKDW KDSSHQ DQ\PRUH µ 7D\ORU UHÁHFWHG The momentum of the match swung to Tay-

lor’s side after he notched a takedown on Yazdanich- DUDWL LQ WKH ÀQDO PRPHQWV RI WKH ÀUVW SHULRG 7D\ORU was relentless in the second frame, scoring three more takedowns, the last of which led to a pin at the 5:05 mark of the match. Taylor completed his journey at the World

Cup with a perfect 4-0 record and wins over three Olympic medalists. His emotions could not be re- pressed after he cemented the win over Yazdanich- arati.

“I remember holding him there and look-

ing at the ref when he slapped the mat,” Taylor said. “I became overwhelmed with excitement. All the emotions I’ve had over the last couple of seasons, just being close, but not quite getting there, not quite beating some of the best guys, a lot of frustration, maybe some anxiety…all of a sudden, all those emotions just came out. “It was the best tournament of my life for

sure, and maybe the most exciting moment I can ever remember from a wrestling perspective.” Ultimately, the U.S. fell one win shy of top-

ping Iran in the championship dual. No matter the outcome, the experience was one that will al-

ways be remembered as a time wrestling brought nations together under a common banner. This World Cup experience is but one small

part in Taylor’s plan to reach his lofty goals. After VSHQGLQJ KLV ÀUVW WZR SRVW FROOHJH \HDUV FRPSHW- ing at 74 kg, Taylor made the transition up to 86 NJ +H ÀQDOO\ IHHOV VROLGLÀHG LQ WKH ZHLJKW FODVV DQG WKH FRQÀGHQFH WKDW ZDV ODFNLQJ LV QRZ DS- parent.

“The reality is over the last couple years, I

haven’t been wrestling the way I want to wres- tle. I think I started putting a lot of pressure on myself as I was falling short a couple of times there,” Taylor said. After his unbelievable showing in Iran, Tay-

lor announced his presence as a World title con- tender, boasting a No. 5 World ranking at 86 kg. +LV DWWHQWLRQ QRZ WXUQV WRZDUG PDNLQJ KLV ÀUVW U.S. World Team, but the learning process is just as important in Taylor’s mind. “I am still learning so much just by being Jordan [Bur-

around guys like Kyle [Snyder],

roughs] and Logan [Stieber], guys who are World and Olympic champions, just seeing how they prepare and taking some of those aspects and applying them to what I’m doing,” Taylor said. Taylor has adopted the approach of simply

competing hard and having fun. The wins and losses will take care of themselves as long as he continues to wrestle free and put up points. This is self-admittedly the best version of

Taylor we have seen grace the wrestling mat. The path is prepared for Taylor to achieve World glo- ry. All that remains is for him to continue wres- tling like he’s fully capable of, seeing future chal- lenges as opportunities… and a little magic. Q


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