In a shocker, David Taylor fails to make Olympic wrestling team. Aaron Brooks earns spot

David Taylor won Olympic gold in men's freestyle wrestling at the 2021 Tokyo Games. He lost to Aaron Brooks at the 2024 Olympic trials.
David Taylor won Olympic gold in men's freestyle wrestling at the 2021 Tokyo Games. He lost to Aaron Brooks at the 2024 Olympic trials.

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — One of the biggest stars in U.S. wrestling has failed to qualify for the Summer Olympics.

In a shocking twist, two-time defending world champion and reigning Olympic gold medalist David Taylor will miss out on the 2024 Paris Games after losing to fellow Penn State product Aaron Brooks on Saturday night at the Olympic trials.

Taylor, 33, got an automatic bye to the final at the Olympic trials by virtue of his past performances, needing only to win two of three bouts against Brooks to lock up his spot on Team USA. But he came out flat in the first match at 86 kilograms Saturday morning, losing 4-1. And a 3-1 defeat to Brooks on Saturday night followed, stunning the crowd at the Bryce Jordan Center on the campus where they both previously starred.

"He's one of the first guys to make this program what it is," Brooks said. "It's been a blessing, being around him and watching what he does."

Taylor did not pass through the mixed zone and field questions from reporters.

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It was an almost unfathomable outcome for the wrestler known by fans as "Magic Man," who has been arguably the most dominant male wrestler for the U.S. over the past five years. Prior to this weekend's Olympic trials, Taylor had won 26 of 27 matches dating back to the start of 2019 and beat opponents by a combined score of 226-19. His lone loss came in the final of the 2021 world championships against Iranian rival Hassan Yazdani. The two men were heavily favored to face off again in Paris, likely with a gold medal on the line.

Instead, Taylor becomes the latest U.S. star to be foiled by the country's trials system, in which even the most accomplished athletes are forced to earn their place.

Only one athlete per country per weight class is allowed to compete at the Olympic Games.

Ultimately, Team USA's gold-medal hopeful was foiled by Brooks, a 23-year-old who just wrapped up his collegiate career with a fourth consecutive NCAA title.

While Taylor got an automatic bye to the Olympic trials final, Brooks had to navigate his way through the challenge tournament − and he almost didn't survive to face Taylor in the first place. In his second match Friday, Brooks squeaked by Zahid Valencia, 7-6, under controversial circumstances. He was trailing until the official awarded him a penalty point in the closing seconds, ruling that Valencia had yanked on Brooks' singlet.

Brooks said the challenge tournament might have aided him, because he already had two must-win bouts under his belt before he took the mat against Taylor. But he's not sure, as Taylor had the advantage of resting all day Friday.

"I knew second match, he was going to come out a lot more harder," Brooks said. "It's pros and cons to both. I wouldn't pick one. Just wherever you're at, use what you've got."

Contact Tom Schad at or on social media @Tom_Schad.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: 2024 Olympic wrestling trials: David Taylor falls to Aaron Brooks