Indiana standout Taylor Walsh utilizing experience, change in philosophy to pin his name into record books
| Photo Courtesy of Indiana University Athletics
At last year’s NCAA Wrestling Championships Indiana standout Taylor Walsh pulled off one of the biggest first round upsets of the tournament, knocking off Lehigh’s third seeded Joey Napoli at 157 lbs. However, Walsh still fell short of earning All-American honors in his second trip to the big show.
The redshirt junior from Cherry Hill, N.J. is looking to take the next step in his mat performance, and is posting a record setting season in the process this year.
Walsh has 23 pins in his 26 wins through just the halfway point of the 2013-14 NCAA season, including a stretch of 15 straight pins heading into the Midlands finals against defending 157-pound National Champion Derek St. John of Iowa. Walsh was unable to pull the upset over St. John, but has built the necessary confidence to compete for the National Championship this March.
“Before this year I was waiting around to play the defensive card, which I’ve used in the past, letting guys wrestle too much of their matches and waiting to use defense to score. But after nationals last year, I realized I needed to push the action and wrestle more my matches,” Walsh said.
This impressive streak of 15 falls in a row began November 9, 2013 in the finals of the Michigan State Open and spanned nearly two months until the streak was ended by St. John in the Midlands finals on December 30, 2013.
Walsh is no stranger to winning in this fashion. Before making his mark in the college ranks he picked up 99 victories by fall for Camden Catholic High School en route to winning two individual state championships.
The transition to college was not a seamless one for Walsh in the pinning department as he only recorded eight falls during his redshirt year, 13 as a freshman and eight once more during his sophomore campaign last year.
His experience at the 2013 NCAA Championships forced Walsh to redefine his game plan to a more aggressive approach, and in turn making him one of the most exciting wrestlers in the college ranks today.
“As I am able to pick up more points it makes it easier to go for pins,” Walsh said. “I think that building my lead and trying to break guys instead of going for big moves right off the bat definitely changed up and helped me a lot.”
Hoosier Head Coach Duane Goldman has guided Walsh through this period of philosophy change in his game and is confident that Walsh has the goods to compete for a National Championship.
“He learned a lesson from [NCAA’s] that he has got to dictate the match each time and wrestle the matches on his terms,” Goldman said. “I think, in the past, he was looking for opportunities to pin just seeing what came about as the matches went on. Now he is aggressively going out and looking for his own positions trying to bring his opponents into his game and capitalize from it.”
To this point in his Hoosier career, Walsh has accumulated 44 victories by fall, three shy of tying the school record of 47 falls set in 2002 by Indiana All-American Viktor Sveda.
This season Walsh is inching his was towards the NCAA Division I single season record for falls set by Iowa State heavyweight and eventual Olympic Bronze Medalist Chris Taylor at 44 falls in 1973.
Indiana will compete in 10 more duals this season in addition to the Big Ten and NCAA Championships giving Walsh a plethora of opportunities to improve on his already impressive 23 falls this season.
Unlike many pinning machines who rely on one move to earn the majority of their falls, Walsh can score the pin from a variety of positions, whether it be a three-quarter nelson, cross face cradle or even reaching back from the bottom position.
“He takes a lot of risk, but by the same token the rewards can be great,” Goldman said.
This risk and reward factor conversely makes for an exciting wrestling environment no matter what team you support.
“Even at the Midlands, whether you are rooting for him or not, the fans enjoyed watching him because they know something is going to happen. Whether he comes out on top or not he is going to give it a good shot and its nice to have guys like that on your team,” Goldman said.
The Indiana Hoosiers will square off this weekend against some of the Big Ten’s best at Nebraska on Friday and at Iowa on Sunday.
Walsh will have his hands full with Nebraska All-American James Green and Iowa’s National Champion Derek St. John, but he is excited for the opportunity to showcase his talent and make his mark on this season.
“Going into the end of the year I think I am going to be ready. I don’t ever count myself out of any matches. I am ready for it and very excited,” Walsh said.