A GRAND VIEW
WICHITA, Kan. — At the beginning of the year, Carson Taylor got kicked around when he first set foot in the Grand View wrestling room.
The former Fort Dodge Senior High state champion entered the nine-time defending national champion room as a true freshman, competing with the upperclassmen.
“At the beginning of the year, I got beat up in practice by the older guys on the mat,” Taylor said. “As the year went along, I could feel myself getting better and better.
“The reason I kept working and didn’t give up was because Coach (Nick) Mitchell told us no freshman has ever come in and kicked the older guys’ butts before. It takes time.”
In the process, Taylor etched his name into the Vikings’ record books, becoming the first true freshman in school history to win a Heart of America Athletic Conference/regional title at 133 pounds.
The season that the Dodger state champion and two-time finalist has had helped him earn the No. 2 seed and a bye in the first round of the NAIA National championships.
Taylor looks to become the first FDSH graduate in 52 years to win a national championship at a four-year school. Kent Osboe won national crowns for Northern Iowa (as a D-II program) in 1968 and 1969.
“It was actually sweet looking at the bracket and seeing I was the two seed,” Taylor said. “I know that seeding doesn’t really matter because you have to beat everyone to win, but it’s still a sweet feeling.
“I’m approaching this tournament like every other one. I’m not putting more stress on this one than any of the others. It’s just another tournament. The only difference is it’s our last one.
“We’ve worked hard all year and I feel ready as ever.”
Action will start on Friday at 9 a.m. and will be live streamed on TrackWrestling.
Taylor (22-3) faces Darien Malone (16-11) Dakota Wesleyan in the second round. Both wrestlers earned first-round byes.
The 2020 FDSH graduate will be one of 12 Viking competitors who are looking to become college wrestling’s first team ever to win 10 straight championships at any level — including Dan Gable’s Iowa Hawkeyes.
“I just kept putting in extra work and now I’m here at nationals as the No. 2 seed,” Taylor said. “This year we are competing for our 10th straight national championship as a team. We don’t try to work for just the 10th one, we work to see how good we can be, and that’s what has put us in this position to be able to compete for it.
“It’s going to be a fun tournament. We are all excited. Hopefully we will see all 12 (GVU) guys in the finals.”
Senior Justin Portillo (125) and sophomore Tanner Abbas (157) — both Clarion-Goldfield/Dows graduates, will also be competing.
Portillo (17-0) is the top seed, coming off a runner-up showing a year ago. He was fifth as a sophomore and third as a freshman. Portillo won two state titles for the Cowboys.
Abbas (21-2), who was fourth for GVU a year ago, is excited to be back.
“Making the team my first year was a huge honor and getting to compete for Grand View at the national tournament was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had,” Abbas said. “Taking fourth the year before was definitely a motivator, but I’m more focused on my effort and fight than anything.
“Regardless of the outcome, I want to make it as apparent as possible who out fought who. Winning is a bonus.”
Abbas had a stellar career at C-G/D. He was a four-time state medalist, with three fourth-place finishes and a sixth. He was 169-31 in his career.
Now, the Cowboy graduate has his sights set on much more.
“I’m really just looking to see how good I can be and put the best version of Tanner Abbas out on the mat,” Abbas said. “At the end of the day, I’m a champion by the way I live. I’m looking forward to representing Grand View for the second year.”
NOTES: Here is a look at Fort Dodge’s four-year college national champions — Kent Osboe (1969 and 1968 at Northern Iowa); Dee Brainerd (1963 South Dakota State); Jim Sanford (1963 Northern Iowa); Sherwyn Thorson (1962 Iowa); Bill Koll (1946, 1947, 1948 Penn State); Dale Brand (1937 Cornell).