David Taylor falls to Aaron Brooks

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — One of the biggest stars in American wrestling failed to qualify for the Summer Olympics.

In a shocking development, two-time defending world champion and Olympic gold medalist David Taylor will miss the 2024 Paris Games after losing to Penn State teammate Aaron Brooks on Saturday night at the Olympic Trials.

Taylor, 33, earned an automatic bye to the Olympic qualifying final thanks to his past performances, and only needed to win two of three matches against Brooks to book his place on Team USA. But he came out flat in the first bout, weighing 86 kilograms, on Saturday morning, and lost 4-1. That was followed by a 3-1 defeat to Brooks on Saturday night, stunning the crowd at the Bryce Jordan Center on campus where they both previously starred.

“He's one of the first people who made this program what it is today,” Brooks said. “It was a blessing, to be around him and watch what he did.”

Taylor did not pass through the mixed zone and answered questions from reporters.

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It was an almost unfathomable result for the wrestler known to fans as “The Magic Man,” arguably the most dominant wrestler in the United States over the past five years. Prior to this weekend's Olympic Trials, Taylor had won 26 of 27 matches dating back to the start of 2019 and had outscored opponents by a combined score of 226-19. His only loss came in the 2021 World Championship final against his Iranian competitor, Hassan Yazdani. The two men were heavy favorites to face off again in Paris, likely with a gold medal on the line.

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Instead, Taylor became the latest American star to be thwarted by the country's trials system, where even the most accomplished athletes are forced to earn their place.

Only one athlete from each country per weight class is allowed to compete in the Olympic Games.

Ultimately, Brooks, 23, frustrated the Team USA gold medal candidate who had just finished his collegiate career with a fourth straight NCAA title.

While Taylor earned an automatic bye to the Olympic Trials final, Brooks had to fight his way through the Challenger tournament — and almost escaped facing Taylor in the first place. In his second match on Friday, Brooks defeated Zahid Valencia 7-6 in controversial circumstances. He was trailing until the referee awarded him a penalty point in the final seconds, after ruling that Valencia had snatched Brooks' shirt.

Brooks said the Challenger Championship probably helped him, because he already had two must-win matches before he took the fight against Taylor. But he's not sure, as Taylor had the advantage of resting all day Friday.

“I knew that in the second game, it was going to be tougher,” Brooks said. “It's pros and cons to both. I wouldn't pick one. Just wherever you are, use what you have.”

Contact Tom Schad at [email protected] or on social media @Tom_Schad.

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