Interview by Samantha Leffler
Freestyle wrestler David Taylor is headed to the International Games which kicks off in Japan on July 23rd. He is among the favorites to take home a gold medal in his weight class.
Like many talented athletes, David has been honing and perfecting his skills for years. In fact, he began wrestling when he was just five years old and hasn’t stopped. Now 30 and preparing for his trip to Japan, David has only one thing on his mind — winning a gold medal.
However, David’s path to Japan wasn’t easy. His early childhood wrestling career included many losses, and even as his skills vastly improved, he was met with many obstacles along the way. Still, David has never given up on his dream and is ready and willing to work hard to (hopefully!) make that dream a reality in a few weeks. This talented CHOMPIAN relies on Chomps to fuel himself between workouts, and even plans to take Chomps overseas with him while he competes.
Keep reading to find out what David’s training regimen looks like, how Chomps has helped him achieve his goals, and how he defines a successful trip to Japan.
Tell me a little bit about your background. How did you first discover your wrestling talent?
I started wrestling when I was five years old. We lived in Evanston, Wyoming, and I was one of those energetic kids that had done the youth sports circuit. My mom saw an ad in the paper for the Red Devil Wrestling Club and I started going to practice. I don’t really remember a lot from when I first started, but from a success standpoint I didn’t have very much. I went through the youth circuit and I didn’t win very many matches, but I did win my last tournament. I remember I just fell in love with [wrestling] at that point.
I won my first national championship when I was eight years old. My parents have made a lot of sacrifices to provide as many opportunities as they possibly could [for me] to continue to reach my goals.
We moved from Wyoming to Ohio when I was in 6th fifth grade. My dad was a Delta airlines pilot, so his job was pretty mobile, but we moved to give myself more wrestling opportunities. I finished my high school career as a four-time state champion, I wrestled at Penn State University and I’m a four-time National Finalist, 2x three-time National Champion, and a two-time Hodge Trophy Award winner, which is basically wrestling’s equivalent of a Heisman Trophy.
I graduated in 2014, and then I made my first world team in 2018 — I was the 2018 World Champion. In 2019 I tore my ACL and was out for a year, in 2020 we had the COVID year, and then this year I’m [going to Japan.]
How does it feel to finally be heading to Japan after the COVID-19 crisis?
It feels really good. It’s interesting because, being at the point that I am in my career, my expectation for Japan isn’t just to compete. It’s an amazing accomplishment and an amazing feat, but my goal has never been to just be an athlete, it’s to win a gold medal. But the number one thing you have to do is make the team.
Going into 2021 this year for the trials, I’d been through the process and knew what to expect. After the trials I just felt really relieved to know that I checked that box and now I really have the opportunity to compete in Japan and fulfill that lifelong goal.
How are you preparing for Japan? Are you training just as you would for any other competition? Has your diet changed?
This is something that you learn over years of competing, dating back to when I first wrestled at the highest level when I was 8 six years old. What you learn is that you just find a recipe for success and repeat that over and over again, and that’s molded over 22 years of competing at a high level. You figure out what works and what doesn’t work.
My diet is consistent all the time, that’s part of being a professional athlete because it’s a variable that you can control. In terms of approaching the competition, the event in Japan is the biggest competition I’ll ever wrestle in in my entire life, but I’ve wrestled in really big competitions at other points in my life that were the biggest at that time. The experiences are so valuable.
In terms of preparation, for me it’s just putting in the work and putting in the time, and believing.
I think at that level everybody is skilled and everybody wants to win. There’s a reason they’re representing their country. But I believe people who put in the work and believe in the preparation, and believe in their abilities, are ultimately going to be successful. I think that’s been part of this learning process.I feel great about where I am in the training, and the work and the preparation that I’ve put in, and now I get to go and enjoy that labor and wrestle with a smile on my face.
Weight is obviously a big part of wrestling since you’re classified into weight classes, so what are some of the biggest challenges you face in terms of your diet and how do you overcome them?
I’ve always gone up in weight class. When I was younger I was smaller, and from 2015 to 2016 I made the weight class jump from 74 kilos to 86 kilos. In Men’s Freestyle we only have six weight classes, and that was a 26-pound jump from 163 pounds to 189 pounds. I was kind of stuck right in the middle, and I was really having a hard time, so when I made that transition it was a much better transition for my career.
I knew in 2016 that [the jump to a different weight class] was really for the 2020 competition. It was definitely the right thing.
Weight management isn’t really much of an issue for me now, which is nice. I train around 200 pounds and I wrestle 189 pounds, but I try to limit those variables we talked about earlier with my nutrition preparation.
What does your day-to-day schedule look like as you prepare for the event Japan?
My day-to-day varies in terms of intensity and the frequency of the workouts, but I would say as I’ve gotten a little bit older I train less. But I make sure that when I’m training, I’m putting 100 percent into those training sessions and then focusing on my recovery. I think that’s a formula that’s different for each individual.
A lot of people, especially in wrestling, feel like you have to constantly work hard and train every single day, but times have changed in terms of how we now value our nutrition and incorporate our recovery. I think there’s definitely sometimes a smarter way to do it, and that’s just believing in my coaching staff and listening to their guidance.
Are there certain foods you eat to fuel your body and stay lean? Or foods you eat during that recovery process?
I follow a modified keto diet, so I eliminate as much refined sugars and refined grains [as I can.] I focus on good quality protein, fats, and I try to eat as much organic or locally sourced products as possible. I think that’s something that has really helped with eliminating inflammation in my body and helped me perform at that level.
What are some of your favorite protein sources?
I just try and eliminate as many things that have antibiotics, or pesticides, or things like that. For my meat, I try to find grass-fed and finished good quality red meat, chicken, or turkey.
Eating things that are natural and not artificially grown or altered is a good thing, whether you’re training at the highest level or just trying to live a healthy diet. I think that’s one thing that I identify with in Chomps — it’s grass-fed grass finished, and there’s nothing added to it. That was one thing that I was really drawn towards. It’s really easy to implement into my diet, whether I’m on-the-go grabbing an easy snack, or traveling across the world. Chomps is something that I can rely on that I know is good and good for me.
You mentioned that Chomps is great to have on-the-go. Is that something that is especially appealing to you?
Definitely. I think convenience is so important, especially from a training standpoint. I might leave the house at eight in the morning and have multiple training sessions, or maybe I’m traveling on an airplane. For example, going to Japan is a 14-hour flight. I think having that preparation and knowing that you’re bringing food you can rely on that is easy and convenient to pack into a bag, that’s a good recipe for success.
Do you have a preferred flavor of Chomps?
I definitely like the variety pack. I like the venison, I like the beef sticks, and the turkey. These are the kind of [protein] sources that I’m already sourcing in my diet on a regular basis. Chomps are obviously smaller than a big meal, but it’s definitely a viable snack. I like the variety, considering that I eat so much. It's nice to have options.
How do you feel Chomps has helped you achieve your goals or made life easier?
Hopefully you can ask me in about three weeks and I can tell you!
I think it helps you live a healthy lifestyle. That’s one of the most important things. Me and my family — my wife and my daughter — we focus on trying to live a good, healthy lifestyle. I’m very passionate about trying to help other people live a healthy lifestyle because I’ve seen a big difference in how it can make you feel from a competitor’s standpoint and how it can increase your energy on a daily basis.
I feel like incorporating things in your lifestyle that make you feel good and you can feel good consuming is really positive.
What does a successful trip to Japan look like to you?
At this point in my career, it’s winning a gold medal. [I’m not coming from] an overconfident standpoint, but it’s what I’ve dreamt about my entire life. I’ve never dreamt about being an athlete. I’ve never dreamt about winning a medal.
Would it be great to be a medalist and to [win] bronze or silver? That would be an amazing feat, and [going to Japan] is an amazing opportunity … To be one of the 11,000 athletes is an amazing accomplishment, but my goal is set on winning a gold medal. That’s what I’ve dreamt about and that’s what I’ve been training for every single day. It’s no easy feat and I know I have to earn every step of the way, but that’s what success will be for me.