Olympic champ David Taylor closes door on wrestling, potential MMA career after becoming Oklahoma State coach

David Taylor didn’t leave his shoes in the middle of the mats after coming up short in his bid to win a second Olympic gold medal but his competitive career has come to an end.

On Friday, the two-time NCAA champion and 2020 Olympic champ was officially introduced as the new head coach for the Oklahoma State wrestling team. Taylor takes over for legendary two-time Olympic gold medalist John Smith, who coached at Oklahoma State for the past 33 years before announcing his retirement in April.

Taylor accepted the job just weeks after he came up short from representing the United States at the 2024 Olympics in Paris following back-to-back losses to fellow Penn State wrestler Aaron Brooks. While Taylor had previously contemplated a potential future in MMA after wrestling was finished, he ultimately decided to step into a full-time coaching role at one of the top colleges in the sport.

“I knew in 2024 this was going to be it for me as a competitor,” Taylor said during his introductory press conference. “I think after 2021, it was really difficult. Every decision that I made in my life was to be an Olympic champion. Every decision.

“After the Olympics, [I realized] well the next one is three years down the road. It’s close. I can win a second [gold medal] and I think my inner fire to do that started to dwindle a little bit. It showed. But I believe in my performance in the Olympic trials. It’s like ‘how do you feel about that?’ Honestly, I’m at peace with it. Because I did everything I wanted to do in my career. Everything and more.”

At 33, Taylor likely only had one more Olympic cycle remaining but after he failed to make the 2024 team, his options to continue in wrestling were probably limited.

Even before the most recent Olympic trials, Taylor had started learning more and more about MMA while working with head coach Marc Montoya at his Factory X gym in Colorado.

Despite interest in possibly fighting, Taylor just couldn’t pass up on the opportunity to take over a top program like Oklahoma State after Smith produced five team championships and 33 individual NCAA Division I National Champions.

“I just realized as my career came to an end, I wanted to pour into the next generation of kids,” Taylor said. “I believe this is the way that I can do it, to the best of my ability.

“My journey as a competitor is done but my journey now as a coach is now just getting started.”