“Chris is a legend of our sport,” said Iowa State head wrestling coach Kevin Jackson. “He is the most recognized heavyweight in U.S. history and his induction is well-deserved. To see another Cyclone entering the national hall of fame should make the Cyclone nation proud of its’ rich wrestling tradition.”
Taylor had enormous impact on the sport of wrestling-literally and figuratively. He will go down as the heaviest wrestling competitor in Olympic Games history, but his influence on the sport remains larger than life.
Competing during an era with no weight limitations for the heavyweight division, Taylor was a force in collegiate and international wrestling. Taylor stood 6 feet 5 inches and weighed over 400 pounds throughout much of his wrestling career.
Hailing from Dowagiac, Michigan, Taylor began wrestling as a junior in high school. He dropped only one match on his way to the 1967 state championship title at heavyweight. Taylor lost only one match his senior year, in the 1968 state finals.
Taylor continued wrestling at Muskegon Community College in Michigan, placing first at the junior college national tournament as a freshman and third as a sophomore. But it was his career at Iowa State that would turn Taylor into a national and international superstar. Noticed by Hall of Fame coach Harold Nichols, college wrestling’s super heavyweight would take the wrestling world by storm.
His two year career as a Cyclone was nothing short of spectacular. Taylor won NCAA individual titles in 1972 and 1973, leading Iowa State to NCAA tournament crowns both seasons. The “Gentle Giant” pinned his way through the NCAA tournament in 1973, becoming only the second wrestler to pin his way through a 32-man bracket. Taylor’s overall career record at Iowa State was 87-0-1 with 70 pins.
After he won his first NCAA title in 1972, Taylor pulled off a rare double for the United States by wrestling in the freestyle and Greco-Roman competitions at the Olympic Games. Although he did not place in Greco-Roman, Taylor earned a bronze medal during the freestyle competition-dropping a controversial 3-2 decision to eventual champion Alexender Medved of the Soviet Union.
Taylor died in 1979 at the age of 29.
For an enduring wrestling legacy that touched the lives of many, Chris Taylor is honored as a Distinguished Member of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame.