History was made Saturday when Graham’s David Taylor met up with St. Edward’s Collin Palmer in Ohio’s first meeting ever between three-time state champions. A standing room only crowd watched Taylor rally from a deficit in the third period to take the 8-5 decision. There were, however, no losers on this day.
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There have been several wrestling greats walk the halls of St. Paris Graham High School. David Taylor is arguably the best. Count St. Edward’s Collin Palmer among the believers.
In one of the most memorable matches in the history of Ohio High School wrestling – and the first between two three-time state champions – Taylor beat Palmer 8-5 at 140 pounds Saturday in a match up of elite wrestlers at Graham. Taylor usually wrestles at 135. Both are No. 1 in the country at their respective weight classes.
This match – witnessed before a standing room only crowd – was memorable, historical and any number of other adjectives.
It was also arguably the biggest ever between two Ohio kids.
For years, Taylor and Palmer have been on the same course. Saturday they finally collided.
“David Taylor has a lot of guts,” Graham head coach Jeff Jordan said. “He moved up to wrestle a legend in Collin Palmer. It was a great match. And it gave the crowd and wrestling (community) what they wanted to see.”
Both wrestlers won three junior high state titles and for the last three years have manhandled the competition. In March at the state championships, Taylor should become the 17th four-time title winner in Ohio history minutes before Palmer becomes the 18th.
To put it bluntly, Taylor is a machine. And a fine-tuned one that runs smooth, strong and stealth. He’s a hybrid. One of the most decorated wrestlers ever at Graham with three state titles, five Junior & Cadet National Championships, two Super 32 Challenge titles and a Beast of the East crown, Taylor became the only four-time winner in the history of the nationally renowned Walsh Ironman event earlier this year.
In three years at state, Taylor has been taken the full six minutes once – in the final his freshman year, which he won with a major decision (10-2). Of his 12 career state meet bouts, three were won via pin. In the other nine (eight by technical fall and one by major decision) he outscored his opponents 147-16.
At the Top Gun Tournament in Alliance, Taylor never was pushed the distance en route to multiple titles. In fact, since the start of his sophomore season only four opponents have gone six minutes with Taylor. Palmer made it five. Incredible.
Taylor, who used to drive an hour and a half just to find suitable competition when he lived in Wyoming, visits the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Co. once a month in the off-season. He’s headed to Iowa State.
Palmer is a legend in his own right.
Only one wrestler in Ohio history – Graham graduate C.P. Schlatter – has gone undefeated against Ohio competition. Palmer was vying to become the second.
The loss was Palmer’s fourth in his high school career with the other three all coming at the Ironman to out-of-state nationally-ranked wrestlers.
Palmer’s closest match to an Ohio competitor coming in was a 5-2 decision over Maple Heights’ Tim Peskar his freshman year.
Until this season, weight has been the only thing separating the two giants.
Taylor wrestled 103 as a freshman and sophomore and 112 last year. He’s “ballooned” to 135.
Palmer wrestled 112 as a freshman, 125 as a sophomore and 135 as a junior.
The sudden proximity made Taylor start thinking of such a meeting in the summer. Last Saturday he pulled the trigger.
“I didn’t want to bring it up to Coach Jordan (earlier in the season) or anything because I didn’t want it to be a distraction,” Taylor said. “But after Top Gun, when this was the next thing we had coming up, I told coach I had something I wanted to talk to him about.”
Said Jordan: “We’re freezing on the bus coming home from Alliance and David just comes up and sits in my seat and says ‘Coach I need to talk to you.’ He said he wanted to move up to 140 to wrestle Palmer. I went ‘Wow.’ That was the last thing I was thinking.”
After discussing the opportunity with Graham’s regular 140 Matt Stephens, who gave his blessing, the wheels were set in motion.
“We decided Sunday at noon because I wanted to make sure that everyone knew and I wanted to be fair to Collin and didn’t want to surprise him,” Jordan said. “We made the decision and called some people in Cleveland to make sure they got the word out.”
It didn’t take long for the fire to spread and Saturday’s packed gym was evidence of the appeal and importance of the event.
Palmer exploded out of the gate and held a 2-1 lead after one. In the second period both wrestlers scored two points.
Taylor entered the final frame down 4-3. He came away with the win.
“I knew I needed to take him down and turn him,” Taylor said. “I got a take down and a turn. I wasn’t expecting to get taken down myself, but whew…Ever since I was little my first coach told me you wrestle the whole match no matter what happens. I wrestled the whole match. This is an awesome feeling.”
Said Palmer: “Once I got on the bottom (in the third period) I could just feel myself getting tired. I should have kept going and fighting through it, but that’s just something I have to work on.”
Taylor expected his conditioning to play a part.
“He’s real strong but he kind of gets tired in some of his matches and I knew that something to my benefit was conditioning,” Taylor said. “It came down to that at the end. I am 100-percent convinced that there is not a better wrestling room in this country than at Graham. There’s not one day when you go in that room and don’t get taken down. No matter what, you’re never going to be the king of the room.”
Taylor has been in – and won – big matches before. His sophomore year he handed Monroeville’s Logan Stieber the only loss of his high school career in the 103 finals of the Ironman. Like Saturday, Taylor fell behind quickly but posted a 7-3 win.
Stieber, the nation’s No. 1 junior at 125 pounds, is a two-time state champion who committed to Ohio State two weeks before Palmer this summer.
Now the two future Buckeyes have something else in common as well.