CLEARFIELD – Clearfield wrestling is synonymous with greatness. The Bison have the most individual state champions in the history of the PIAA. There have also been some world renowned athletes to wear a Bison singlet like former USA wrestler Tim Taylor.
If you think about some of the ultimate tough guys out there in the world, Taylor is someone that should come to your mind. Not only was he an electric heavyweight wrestler, but he was a force on the gridiron and served our country for many years in the armed forces. The 2000 Clearfield Area High School graduate was a Division I recruit both in football and wrestling. Even if the Pittsburgh Panthers football program and the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers wrestling team wanted his services, he took another route in life. A more noble one at that.
“I won JO (Junior Olympic) states a few times growing up and fell a little short of some of my goals in high school. I kept working and joined the Marine Corps. I never realized how hard it was going to be to make the All-Marine Wrestling team, let alone the Olympic team. I kept plugging away at it just like I watched my parents do in their lives growing up. I was handed nothing and learned the best way to get something done is to go after it.”
Admittedly, Taylor did not thrive in a traditional sit at a desk and listen to lectures learning style. His personality fit more of a kinesthetic learner. Needing to always be on the move, the military became something he started thinking more seriously into. Instead of becoming a Division 1 athlete, he pursued his dream of being an Olympic and international wrestler by becoming a Marine. The United States armed forces have programs that allow soldiers to take part in sports and even can qualify for World Championships and Olympic competitions if they meet qualifying criteria.
Criteria includes being added to the All-Marine Wrestling team and then going toe-to-toe with some of the greatest wrestlers in the world to make the USA Wrestling team. A wrestler can go up against world champions and Olympic medalists just a few matches into their journey towards making the All-Marine team, All USA Armed Forces team, or even eventually the USA team. Which is exactly where Taylor found himself as just a few matches into going through qualifying, he was matched up against a reigning world champion Greco-Roman wrestler at heavyweight in Dremiel Byers, while Taylor was just an 18-year-old in some of his first bouts as a Marine.
As if it is not already clear, the path is truly a difficult one as soldiers manage their day-to-day responsibilities to the military as well as dedicate as much time as they can to staying in shape to go as far as they can in their sport. It’s not unheard of for service members to make it all the way to Team USA, but it definitely is a bit more difficult. Despite the odds, Taylor eventually made it all the way to Team USA for around a decade. He served as an Olympic alternate for the 2008 Olympic Games held in Beijing, China and the 2012 Olympic Games held in London, England. But getting there was even more difficult than can be imagined.
Around two years into his time in the military, Taylor was called to active duty in Iraq. From training in California at Camp Pendleton to a tour of duty came quickly for Taylor. His dream was put on hold for around a year and even seemed unlikely when he finished his four years of service in 2004. Even if he was coming off finishing fourth at heavyweight in Greco-Roman Olympic qualifying for the 2004 Olympics Games held in Athens, Greece, while becoming the first wrestler to win a freestyle and Greco-Roman university championships in the same year, it was time for the next chapter. He went on to assist his father in the construction business building hotels. That was, until a few months later, he knew he was ready to give wrestling another chance. This time, he served in the United States Army and found a path that would aid his wrestling journey in a more direct way.
Heading into the United States Army allowed Taylor to wrestle for another decade before ultimately retiring from competition in 2014. Unfortunately, the former Bison did not exactly go out in his sport on the terms he would have liked. Serious spinal surgeries to treat chronic and degenerative back pain were necessary and were events he had tried to avoid for as long as he could. Nearly 10 total surgeries were required during and after his career in order to keep him competing for a time and now to have a functional day-to-day life. To this day, retirement from wrestling is painful to talk about for Taylor, as wrestling is something he loves so much. He put his body on the line for his country, himself, and his training partners to produce the best outcomes as he could. But not long after his own career ended as a competitor, he found the next chapter of his wrestling journey; coaching.
“One of my pretty good friends informed me about an opening to be a high school assistant wrestling coach and I quickly said yes to the opportunity. It was so rewarding to me to guide these athletes who needed it in their life and their wrestling career. Seeing the kids become successful in whatever path they choose past high school wrestling, I consider it a win for me and is one of the best parts of being a coach.”
When someone has the experience of three-time state Pennsylvania qualifier, 107 career high school wins, and being on Team USA on a resume, people will tend to want direction from them when it comes to wrestling. His life experience and technical wrestling knowledge have been helping amateur wrestlers at the high school level for the last eight years. Taylor got his start in coaching for two high school programs in the state of Colorado as an assistant coach. From 2015 to 2018, he served as an assistant for Sand Creek High School in Colorado Springs before moving to Fort Carson High School from 2018 to 2022. While Colorado was home for almost 20 years, Taylor knew there was something lacking in his and his family’s lives.
Taylor, his wife, and his two children wanted to be closer to family. Predominantly, their family resides in central Pennsylvania which made the family think about relocating to the Clearfield area. That’s exactly what they did this summer as they made their way across the country to return home. While they’ve only been back in the area for a little over two months, the Taylors have wasted little time making an impact. Just last month, Taylor helped to form the first ever Clearfield Lady Bison wrestling team, which will compete in the 2023-24 school year. The program is hopeful to feature somewhere between 10 to 20 wrestlers in season one and are hopeful of building a dynasty of their own on the girls’ side similar to what the boys have done over many decades of success.
While this latest chapter in his life is unexpected, Tim Taylor is excited about a full circle moment. Returning to lead a program at Clearfield Area High School and aiding his children in their own days as a Bison are something he looks forward to. The move home to Clearfield County may be fresh, but the memories made and the foundation he built as a man are because he was born into a blue collar family in a blue collar area. If there’s anything that can be expected of this newly formed program, the girls will wrestle hard and will feel supported as they develop their personal and wrestling identity.
“It will always be awesome to be a part of a group and a school district like Clearfield. It’s an honor to me to be a coach in the greatest wrestling state at the greatest wrestling school. Our program will compete in a very tournament heavy schedule, but we hope to have some dual meets on the same night as some of the boys’ matches. For anyone who is considering going out for the team, this is a great way to learn how to deal with adversity in your life. To me, wrestling is the greatest sport in the world,” he said