Med Valley's Taylor breaks the mold, brings home gold
OMAHA, Neb. -- Die-hard wrestling fans meeting Rulon Taylor for the first time might show a little disbelief when learning that the Medicine Valley senior is a championship competitor.
Taylor probably doesn't fit the typical mold of a 220-pound high school wrestler. Rulon stands just 5 feet, 10 inches tall, and he doesn't have bulging muscles. One might even use the word pudgy in describing him.
One thing is certain, the words state champion will be written and uttered when Rulon Taylor is the subject.
Taylor capped a perfect season Saturday, Feb. 16, when he won the Class D gold medal at 220 pounds at the Nebraska High School State Wrestling Championships.
The Medicine Valley standout took down Jacob Woockman of Lutheran High Northeast early in the third quarter to break a scoreless tie. Taylor took Woockman to his back with the double-leg takedown and flattened Woockman for a pin and the state title.
Taylor finished his senior wrestling campaign undefeated in 37 matches.
MED VALLEY head coach Barry Mraz just finished his 12th season at Curtis. Mraz agreed that Taylor doesn't look like that typical big, strong 220-pounder. But it's the results on the mat that matters most.
"Sometimes he doesn't pass the eyeball test, but he sure passes the mental capacity test and the heart test and the endurance test. That's what really counts," Mraz said. "People, I know, sometimes look at him and go, 'I wonder how this kid made it to the finals?' Then they find out."
Taylor won three of his four matches by fall at state last weekend, and the other victory came by 10-1 major decision.
A BIG MOTIVATION for the Med Valley senior was last year's state meet. Taylor entered the 2012 state meet with a 43-2 record. He won three matches in the Class D 220-pound division to reach the finals against unbeaten Jarrod Bazata of Howells. Taylor dropped a 9-2 decision to finish second. He also placed sixth at state at 215 pounds as a sophomore.
"It was probably the biggest drive I had," Rulon said of last year's runner-up finish. "I got a taste of what (state) feels like when I was a sophomore, last year was even a whole bigger bite. I wanted the whole thing now. That's what drove me."
Taylor duplicated the fete of former teammate Hunter Timmons, who won a state title for the Raiders last season at 145 pounds after finishing second at 140 as a junior.
"Back-to-back years -- Hunter Timmons got second as junior and it motivated him to get first," Coach Mraz said. "They get that taste of the walk of champions, it's a lot easier to say 'I was a state champion' instead of saying 'I was a state runner-up twice.' I think that really pushes them."
TAYLOR ALSO followed in some family footsteps at state.
His father, Allan, is an assistant coach on the Med Valley squad. Rulon's dad also earned a medal at state wrestling competition. Son said dad wrestled at 138 pounds "Back in the day," and with a smile on his face, he said dad probably hasn't been close to that weight for a few years.
Rulon's older brother, Tyler, also placed at state for the Raiders wrestling at 145.
Taylor wasn't sure why he ended up so much bigger that his father or brother for his prep career.
"I think I'm adopted sometimes," he said, displaying that same smile as above.
Timmons and Taylor winning back-to-back state titles will be a big deal in Curtis and in the Med Valley wrestling room for years to come. The perfect 37-0 record will also open some eyes in the Raiders program.
"That's never happened at Medicine Valley, an undefeated season, so that's a feather in his hat for sure," Mraz said.
Taylor said being considered a small 220-pound wrestler has never been a problem for him. That probably goes back to his freshman year, when he stepped into the 285-pound varsity slot in the Med Valley lineup, weighing about 200 pounds.
"When I was a freshman I had to wrestle 285," Rulon said. "I won a tournament -- I beat a ranked opponent and won the tournament. I've always kind of been OK with being (undersized). That just developed from being a little guy wrestling heavyweights. I'm not afraid of a guy that's bigger or stronger than me, just because of those early wrestling year that I had."
THE FUTURE MAYhold more wrestling for the Med Valley star. Taylor said he is still undecided about college. He may attend Chadron State and either wrestle or play football for the Eagles. Taylor was an all-state linemen on the Med Valley football team that went 10-1, with the only loss coming to eventual state champion Giltner in the quarterfinals of the Class D-2 (eight-man) state playoffs.
"With the football season and wrestling, it's been an awesome senior year," Taylor said.
No matter what lies ahead in Rulon Taylor's future, that tag of state wrestling champion will always be attached to his name.