Kenneth Taylor clearly remembers his wrestling career in high school. He was the first wrestler from West to place four times at the state tournament, and the third to be a two-time state champion. He went on to become one of the first wrestlers from West to gain All-America status in college, and now he’s back at West to coach the wrestling team.
“I just want to bring the tradition back to West High,” Taylor said. “West High had real, real good teams back in the ’90s, and I was a part of those teams, so I want to bring that back.”
But not only does Taylor remember his success in high school, so does the wrestling team at West.
“I think it is special because of the fact that they can walk the hallways and see my name, my picture, and I try not to talk too much about my success at West because I want it to be about them,” Taylor said. “I want them to know that some of the things they’re going through at West is some of the things I went through at West.”
With Taylor’s name reminding West of its wrestling dominance, West athletic director Phil Daignault hopes it will keep West’s improvement steady. The Pioneers qualified five wrestlers for the Class 5A tournament last season, and Taylor hopes to qualify more than that this season.
“It adds more legitimacy,” Daignault said. “It gives more that he’s got a connection to the school, that he was a Pioneer himself, it gives them more pride in their coach,” Daignault said.
Taylor was coach at Independent before taking an assistant coaching position at Heights last year. He gained coaching experience through the team of Hard Knox, a private youth team, but hadn’t planned on taking another coaching position until the job at West opened up.
“My plan was not to be a head coach, my plan was to be an assistant coach, help out where it was needed,” he said. “But when the West position came open, I felt like that was something I couldn’t pass up. Out of all of the coaching positions that I’ve had, I feel like this is the best fit for me.”
Taylor has some ideas on how to bring success to West, focusing mainly on steady improvement each time the team practices or wrestles a match. Each of his assistant coaches also graduated from West, which has made the transition easier.
“He’s energetic, he loves the sport, and he was clear in his interview about making things happen here at West High wrestling,” Daignault said.
West returns Marcus Phillips at 132 pounds. He placed fourth at state last year and will help lead the team. State qualifiers Jesse Oliver and Trevon Mitchell return at 170 and 182, while freshman Idris Elias joins the team with success in youth wrestling. State runnerup Kalin Collins will wrestle at 160 after transferring from South.