It would be no exaggeration to declare 2014 The Year of David Taylor.
The two-time NCAA champ and four-time Big Ten titlewinner for the Nittany Lions just added to his impressive collection of wrestling trophies and honors by being named the 2014 Jesse Owens Big Ten Male Athlete of the Year, Penn State announced Monday.
Purdue track and field star Dani Bunch was named Big Ten Female Athlete of the Year for 2014.
The Big Ten Athletes of the Year are selected by a panel of conference media members from nominations submitted by each institution.
Taylor is the second Penn State male athlete to earn this honor since it was first created in 1982. The wrestler from St. Paris, Ohio joins Luis Vargas, who won the award as a Nittany Lion gymnast in 2005.
Taylor topped a field of a dozen Big Ten men vying for the honor, named for Olympic gold medal-winning track athlete Jesse Owens, an Ohio State alum. A total of five wrestlers had been nominated for the 2014 Owens Award – more than any other sport -- having been named their school’s male athlete of the year earlier this month. In addition to Penn State’s Taylor, other wrestlers in the running included Jesse Delgado of the University of Illinois, Tony Ramos of the University of Iowa, Northwestern’s Jason Tsirtsis, and Ohio State’s Logan Stieber.
Taylor becomes the eighth wrestler to win Big Ten Male Athlete of the Year in the 27 years the award has been presented. No other sport can claim more conference Male Athlete of the Year honors than wrestling. Other mat champs who have earned this honor: Iowa’s Ed Banach (1983), Barry Davis (1985), and Brent Metcalf (2008); Illinois’ Matt Lackey (2003); Minnesota’s Damion Hahn (2004) and Cole Konrad (2007), and Northwestern’s Jake Herbert (2009).
In more ways than one, Taylor’s just-concluded collegiate wrestling career is one for the history books. As a Nittany Lion, Taylor compiled an overall career record of 134-3. He became Penn State’s first four-time NCAA finalist, winning the 165-pound title in 2012 and 2014. In addition, he was the Nittany Lions’ first four-time Big Ten champ, joined in that accomplishment by teammate Ed Ruth a few minutes later at the 2014 Big Tens.
Beyond the titles, Taylor made his presence known with a dominating performance throughout his time at Penn State. He scored 53 pins, 42 technical falls, and 30 major decisions. That means 125 of his 134 college wins resulted in bonus points for the Nittany Lions. What’s more, Taylor never lost a dual meet, and was a perfect 56-0 against Big Ten rivals.
Taylor’s trophy case is filled with numerous awards and honors. In addition to this year’s Penn State and Big Ten Male Athlete of the Year honors, Taylor won the 2014 Hodge Trophy as the nation’s top college wrestler by WIN (Wrestling Insider Newsmagazine), his second, to accompany the one he received in 2012. At the 2014 NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships, Taylor was presented with the Outstanding Wrestler award for his performance at the tournament, as well as the NCAA Most Dominant Wrestler Award for the entire 2013-14 season. Furthermore, two major amateur wrestling websites – InterMat and Flowrestling.org – both named Taylor Wrestler of the Year.
Taylor’s superb on-the-mat performance was matched by success in the classroom. He was a four-time member of the Academic All-Big Ten, NWCA First Team All-Academic four-timer, and Capital One First Team Academic All-American.
David Taylor’s public reaction to winning the Big Ten honor was keeping in character for the accomplished-yet-modest wrestler. On his @magicman_psu Twitter account, Taylor tweeted, “Wow! Such an honor to be named @bigtenconf Jesse Owens Male athlete of the year! It's been an unreal journey!”