How will David Taylor to Oklahoma State impact Penn State wrestling and Cael Sanderson? (2024)

jon sauber

·5 min read

Shock waves were sent through the college wrestling world Monday night when Oklahoma State announced the hiring of David Taylor as the leader of its program. The new Cowboys’ head coach comes from the Nittany Lion Wrestling Club and has spent more than a decade in Centre County, where he helped start the Penn State wrestling dynasty as one of its first — and best — national champions.

Now he will take what he’s learned under Penn State head coach Cael Sanderson and potentially create his mentor’s greatest competition in the sport.

How quickly can that happen, and what will all of this mean for the Nittany Lions? Let’s take a look.

Short-term impact

With the transfer portal closed, Penn State’s roster shouldn’t see any immediate turnover. The Nittany Lions have multiple players with heavy connections to Taylor, with both Levi Haines and Tyler Kasak coming up through his M2 Training Center in Pleasant Gap, but both should be locked in with Penn State.

How will David Taylor to Oklahoma State impact Penn State wrestling and Cael Sanderson? (1)

There could, however, be an impact on the team’s recruiting class. Zack Ryder, the No. 6 recruit in the country in the 2024 class according to FloWrestling, left his high school in New York prior to his senior year and joined M2 to prepare for his time as a Nittany Lion. It’s fair to wonder if he could be a target for Taylor as he begins his first stint as a college head coach.

The more immediate impact will likely be with the Nittany Lion Wrestling Club, where Jimmy Kennedy coaches. Kennedy is Taylor’s brother-in-law and would make for an obvious choice to join his staff in Stillwater. There are other wrestlers in the NLWC who have been working in the same wrestling room as Taylor, like former Iowa Hawkeye Thomas Gilman, who would also make sense on his staff. Beyond that, it will be interesting to see just how many staff members the now-former Nittany Lion tries to take with him to his new home.

From a competitive standpoint, Oklahoma State shouldn’t provide much of a fight at NCAAs for the first few years. That could change depending on who Taylor is able to add from the transfer portal and out of high school, but in all likelihood he and the Cowboys will be fighting for second place with the rest of the country as the Nittany Lion dynasty rolls on for at least a couple more seasons.

How will David Taylor to Oklahoma State impact Penn State wrestling and Cael Sanderson? (2)

Long-term impact

While Penn State may not see much of a roster impact in the short term, there’s a good chance Taylor eats into the Nittany Lions’ recruiting in the long run. While Sanderson is one of the most recognizable names in the sport and that has helped him recruit — and so has his long list of accomplishments as a wrestler and a coach — there may not be a more popular wrestler in the country than Taylor, who is coming off a gold medal at the 2020 Summer Olympics.

How will David Taylor to Oklahoma State impact Penn State wrestling and Cael Sanderson? (3)

He should be able to draw some of the highest level high school wrestlers in the country and should prove to be one of the few coaches in college wrestling that can go head to head with Sanderson when it comes to talent acquisition. That doesn’t mean Penn State won’t be hauling in the best classes in the country when it wants to — it still should — but there may not be as many cases where Sanderson is able to pick and choose who he wants because of Taylor. The new Oklahoma State head coach should be able to win over recruits with his charisma and wrestling experience, helping him get the ball rolling quickly with the Cowboys.

The question, then, is how far will Taylor be able to take the program? His hire is already drawing comparisons to when PSU brought in Sanderson, but that seems like a stretch right now. He’s a proven commodity on the mat, but has yet to show what he can do running a college program. The projection here is that he’ll prove to be adept at that, too, and get the Cowboys on the upswing sooner rather than later.

That being said, the Nittany Lions are still miles ahead of the competition on the mat and there still doesn’t seem to be an end in sight to the Penn State wrestling dynasty. But if, say, five years down the road there are discussions about what Taylor has built and how he has created formidable competition for the Nittany Lions at the NCAA Wrestling Championships, it won’t be a massive surprise. His hire should revitalize Oklahoma State wrestling and in turn could eventually provide Sanderson and the Nittany Lions a true test of just how strong the Penn State wrestling dynasty is.

How will David Taylor to Oklahoma State impact Penn State wrestling and Cael Sanderson? (2024)

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