By Gabriela Flis
On Sept. 16, The New Jersey Chapter of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame and Museum honored former wrestling coach, Gary Taylor, for 39 years of hard work at Rider by presenting him with the Lifetime Service Award.
The award is given to the most dedicated and worthwhile coaches in the state of New Jersey. A committee of 26 members choose and vote on their top choice nominees.
“There is a reviewing process,” said Taylor. “[The New Jersey State Chapter] looks through the state every year and decides who is eligible for a Lifetime Award — longevity and success are the two most important characteristics, and that is how my name was put on a ballot.”
The New Jersey State Chapter of the National Hall of Fame and museum hosts an award banquet for all the nominees, where the awards are presented by the president of the chapter. Following this, the name of the recipient is placed in the National Wrestling Hall of Fame and Museum in Stillwater, Oklahoma.
Taylor defined his success at Rider through the amount of student athletes who became All-Americans throughout the course of his career.
“My first statement when I got to [Rider] was to bring eastern and national recognition to Rider. I fully expected this to happen,” Taylor said.
Since setting foot on Rider’s campus in 1978, Taylor had his heart set on creating a victorious program.
Having been the head wrestling coach for 39 years, Taylor was very well known in the athletics department for producing All-Americans and a nationally ranked team, which Rider never had prior to his employment. Although he retired in July 2017, his legacy is continued by his former assistant coach, John Hangey.
Hangey has now taken the position of head coach for Rider’s Division I wrestling team and has produced 17 All-Americans and 14 Conference National champions. Don Harnum, Rider’s athletic director, spoke highly of Taylor in regards to the change.
“The past years have been good, we’ve produced All-Americans and we’ve been very successful,” said Harnum.“So it made sense to hire [Hangey,] his long time assistant, because I don’t want a lot of aspects to change.”
Taylor was able to produce a variety of talented and triumphant athletes, something he takes a lot of pride in.
“My definition of success in terms of being a head coach of any sport is to help the student athletes in various areas to reach their goals,” said Taylor. “Athletically, it would be to reach their potential within the sport that you are coaching them in. The primary goal of coming to college is to graduate and get a degree, so that is at the forefront of everything else.”
However, the Lifetime Achievement Award wasn’t the only way that Taylor was honored for his services at Rider. All of the Rider alumni who had any sort of connection to Taylor showed their support for him by coming to school events and simply acknowledging his talent.
“It’s when you get a lot of feedback that you can tell how many people have supported the things we have tried to do with his retirement. [We’ve had] receptions, which were packed, alumni events and fundraising efforts through wrestling,” said Harnum.
Through fundraising, the athletics department was able to make Rider the first school in the country to purchase a wrestling mat in honor of Taylor. They surprised Taylor with the purchase to show how highly they thought of him and his legacy.
Taylor had a successful 39 years at Rider and lead the Broncs with 442 wins, 14 conference championships, was named conference Coach of the Year nine times, helped 173 wrestlers qualify nationally, generated 17 students as All-Americans and built a reputation for Rider Wrestling.