By Jordan Hall
At Rider, Gary Taylor has been invaluable. The wrestling head coach has not only transformed the university’s program from an unknown to a national power, but has made a difference in both the classroom and on campus.
In his 33rd season as the Broncs’ leader, Taylor has compiled a remarkable 363 Division I wins, second highest among America’s active coaches. He also served Rider as an adjunct professor for 10 years and currently works with facilities in the summer as a project manager, overseeing construction and renovation.
Taylor earned the Frank N. Elliott award this year, speaking volumes about what he has accomplished and meant to Rider. The honor is given to a member of the University’s administration, support staff and faculty who has demonstrated extraordinary service to Rider. Taylor has fit this description since 1978, the year of his arrival.
“It’s certainly a very humbling experience to be recognized,” Taylor said. “It’s a good feeling and appreciated very much.”
When Taylor became a Bronc and took over the wrestling coaching duties, the program was nearly non-existent. Rider never featured a nationally ranked wrestler or team, but now these honors are par for the course.
“We’re still trying to produce the first national champion here and we solidly believe that we’re capable of doing that,” Taylor said. “We were close three times so we’ve been knocking on the door and we very much want to see a national champion at Rider. That would be a great accomplishment and that’s what were shooting for.”
Taylor has generated 95 conference champion wrestlers, brought 143 wrestlers to the NCAA Championships and had 13 of his wrestlers earn All-American honors. In 1997, the Broncs were ranked as high as seventh in the country as a team — impressive accolades for a small, private university, but that’s an aspect Taylor has embraced.
“Rider athletes are very competitive across the board and they don’t have all the facilities that some of the bigger schools have,” he said. “I respect that. It’s kind of like the David and Goliath type of story and that has always appealed to me.”
In high school, Taylor’s passion for wrestling grew and former mentors at all levels throughout his wrestling days instilled in him a desire to coach the sport.
“Many individuals had a great influence on me and when I was in college and I saw the coaches and what they did, I thought I would like to do that,” Taylor said.
The veteran coach wrestled at Clarion University and later received his bachelor’s degree from East Stroudsburg University, the place that led him to Lawrenceville. Taylor was a student assistant coach for Red Witman and the Warriors and following graduation, Witman mentioned Rider’s job opening, believing Taylor was the perfect fit.
“I trusted him a lot,” Taylor said. “He was a person I respected and he said they had a good base to build a program and had potential. I applied and I was fortunate to get the job coming right out of college.”
As a Bronc, Taylor has constructed a winning program and placed Rider on the national map, something that’s not seen or done at many smaller institutions. Taylor has won 13 conference championships as a team and with each new year, his goals grow.
Overall, Taylor has benefitted the Broncs through multiple facets, but he appreciates Rider just as much, the place he has called home for over 30 years.
“All of my coaching has been at Rider,” he said. “I plan to finish up my career here as I started it here.”