2022 USA Wrestling Freestyle Award winners: David Taylor (Athlete) and Casey Cunningham (Coach)
by Gary Abbott, USA Wrestling
Men’s Freestyle award winners David Taylor (Athlete) and Casey Cunningham (Coach), in center, with USA Wrestling National Coaches Bill Zadick and Joe Russell, at the 2023 U.S. Open. Photo by Tony Rotundo, Wrestlers Are Warriors.
During the 2023 Pritchard Companies U.S. Open, presented by FloWrestling in Las Vegas, Nev., USA Wrestling presented many of its major awards, including its Athlete and Coach of the Year honors in each discipline. Today, we post the men’s freestyle winners.
David Taylor named 2022 John Smith Award winner, as USA Wrestling’s Men’s Freestyle Wrestler of the Year
David Taylor (State College, Pa./Titan Mercury WC/Nittany Lion WC) has been named the winner of the 2022 John Smith Award as the Freestyle Wrestler of the Year by USA Wrestling. It is the third time that he has won this prestigious award, also winning in 2018 and 2022.
The award is named in honor of two-time Olympic champion and four-time World champion John Smith.
Taylor was the 2022 World champion at 86 kg in Belgrade, Serbia in September, defeating 2016 Olympic champion and three-time World champion Hassan Yazdani Charati in the championship finals, 7-1. It was a renewal of their rivalry, in which Taylor has the decided edge, although their most previous match had gone to Yazdani in the 2021 World finals. Taylor scored technical falls in his three matches leading up into the finals over Aron Caneva of Italy, Ethan Ramos of Puerto Rico and Azamat Dauletbekov of Kazakhstan. Taylor made the U.S. Senior World Team by winning Final X–New York in June, defeating Zahid Valencia in two straight matches, 4-2 and with a 10-0 technical fall.
Taylor won an Olympic gold medal at the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan. He was also a 2018 World champion in Budapest, Hungary. Taylor was named United World Wrestling Freestyle Wrestler of the Year in 2018. He has also won a 2021 World silver medal. A three-time U.S. Open champion, Taylor was also a 2018 Ivan Yarygin Grand Prix champion in Russia.
He was a two-time NCAA champion and four-time NCAA finalist for Penn State. He was the winner of the Dan Hodge Trophy twice (2012, 2014) as the nation’s best college wrestler. Taylor won a bronze medal at the 2013 University World Games. A native of St. Paris, Ohio, Taylor claimed four Ohio state titles for Graham High School.
PAST JOHN SMITH AWARD WINNERS AS FREESTYLE WRESTLER OF THE YEAR
2022 - David Taylor, State College, Pa., Titan Mercury WC/Nittany Lion WC
2021 — Gable Steveson, Apple Valley, Minn., Gopher WC RTC
2020 — No award (COVID-19)
2019 – J’den Cox, Colorado Springs, Colo., Titan Mercury WC
2018 - David Taylor, State College, Pa., Nittany Lion WC
2017 – Kyle Snyder, Woodbine, Md., Titan Mercury WC
2016 – Kyle Snyder, Woodbine, Md., Titan Mercury WC
2015 – Kyle Snyder, Woodbine, Md., Titan Mercury WC
2014 – Tervel Dlagnev, Columbus, Ohio, Sunkist Kids
2013 - Jordan Burroughs, Lincoln, Neb., Sunkist Kids
2012 - Jordan Burroughs, Lincoln, Neb., Sunkist Kids
2011 – Jordan Burroughs, Lincoln, Neb., Sunkist Kids
2010 – J.D. Bergman, Columbus, Ohio, New York AC
2009 – Jake Herbert, Evanston, Ill., New York AC
2008 - Henry Cejudo, Colorado Springs, Colo., Sunkist Kids
2007 - Daniel Cormier, Stillwater, Okla., Gator WC
2006 - Bill Zadick, Colorado Springs, Colo., Gator WC
2005 - Tolly Thompson, Cedar Falls, Iowa, Sunkist Kids
2004 - Cael Sanderson, Ames, Iowa, Sunkist Kids
2003 - Cael Sanderson, Ames, Iowa, Sunkist Kids
2002 - Joe Williams, Iowa City, Iowa, Sunkist Kids
2001 - Joe Williams, Iowa City, Iowa, Sunkist Kids
2000 - Brandon Slay, Amarillo, Texas, Dave Schultz WC
1999 - Stephen Neal, Bakerfield, Calif., Dave Schultz WC
1998 - Sammie Henson, Norman, Okla., Sunkist Kids
1997 - Les Gutches, Corvallis, Ore., Sunkist Kids
1996 - Kendall Cross, Raleigh, N.C., Sunkist Kids
1995 - Kevin Jackson, Phoenix, Ariz., Sunkist Kids
1994 - Melvin Douglas, Mesa, Ariz., Sunkist Kids
1993 - Terry and Tom Brands, Iowa City, Iowa, Team Foxcatcher
1992 - John Smith, Stillwater, Okla., Sunkist Kids
Casey Cunningham named 2022 Terry McCann Award winner as USA Wrestling Men’s Freestyle Coach of the Year
Casey Cunningham (State College, Pa./Nittany Lion WC) has been named the winner of the 2022 Terry McCann Men's Freestyle Coach of the Year by USA Wrestling. This is the third time Cunningham has won this prestigious honor, and second in a row, with selections in 2018, 2021 and 2022.
Cunningham has served as the head assistant coach at Penn State University since 2009. In that span, Penn State has won 10 NCAA team championships and has placed numerous individual Nittany Lion wrestlers on the top of the podium at the national championships.
He also coaches with the Nittany Lion Wrestling Club, which is Penn State’s Regional Training Center. The Nittany Lion WC is among the most successful RTCs in the nation, producing prolific freestyle wrestlers on the Senior and age-group levels.
Last summer, he helped coach U.S. Senior World Team members David Taylor (86 kg), Kyle Snyder (97 kg), Zain Retherford (70 kg) and Thomas Gilman (57 kg) — all Nittany Lion WC members – at the 2022 Senior World Championships in Belgrade, Serbia . All three found the podium, with Taylor and Snyder winning gold medals and Retherford and Gilman claiming silver medals. Cunningham coaches in Taylor’s corner regularly.
The Nittany Lion WC produced six members of the U.S. Senior Men’s Freestyle National Team, with Gilman, Retherford, Taylor and Snyder at No. 1, plus Jason Nolf (No. 2 at 74 kg) and Carter Starocci (No. 3 at 79 kg). The Nittany Lion WC also has a women’s freestyle wrestler on the National Team, Jen Page at 62 kg.
Cunningham also coached Starroci at the 2022 U23 World Championships, where he won a U23 World bronze medal.
The Nittany Lion WC has produced numerous Senior Freestyle National Team members during Cunningham’s tenure including Jake Varner, a 2012 Olympic champion and World medalist and heavyweight Les Sigman. A number of wrestlers who compete internationally for other nations also train with the Nittany Lion WC, including Olympic and World Team members.
Prior to joining the staff at Penn State, Cunningham worked with Cael Sanderson as his head assistant coach at Iowa State. Cunningham began his coaching career as a graduate assistant at his alma mater Central Michigan and spent time as an assistant coach there.
Cunningham recorded a successful freestyle career before joining the coaching ranks. He was a U.S. Olympic Training Center resident athlete. Cunningham was a two-time U.S. Open runner-up and finished second in the World Team Trials twice. In 2008, he won a Pan-American Championship gold medal.
In college, Cunningham was one of Central Michigan’s all-time greats. He won a 1999 NCAA championship for the Chippewas to become the school’s first Div. 1 national champion. He finished NCAA runner-up the year before. Cunningham is originally from Middleton, Michigan.
PAST TERRY McCANN AWARD WINNERS AS FREESTYLE COACH OF THE YEAR
2022 - Casey Cunningham, State College, Pa., Nittany Lion WC
2021 - Casey Cunningham, State College, Pa., Nittany Lion WC
2020 - No award (COVID-19)
2019 – Reece Humphrey, Dayton, N.J., New Jersey RTC
2018 - Casey Cunningham, State College, Pa., Nittany Lion WC
2017 - Mark Manning, Lincoln, Neb., Nebraska RTC and Bryan Snyder, Lincoln, Neb., Nebraska RTC
2016 - Lou Rosselli, Norman, Okla., New York AC
2015 – Mark Manning, Lincoln, Neb., Nebraska RTC
2014 – Terry Brands, Iowa City, Iowa, Hawkeye WC
2013 - Lou Rosselli, Columbus, Ohio, New York AC
2012 – Cael Sanderson, State College, Pa., Nittany Lion WC
2011 – Mark Manning, Lincoln, Neb., Sunkist Kids
2010 - Sean Bormet, Naperville, Ill., New York AC
2009 – John Smith, Stillwater, Okla., Gator WC
2008 - Sean Bormet, Naperville, Ill., New York AC
2007 - Lou Rosselli, Columbus, Ohio, New York AC
2006 - Sean Bormet, Naperville, Ill., New York AC
2005 - Mike Duroe, Iowa City, Iowa, Hawkeye TC
2004 - Bobby Douglas, Ames, Iowa, Sunkist Kids
2003 - Tom Brands, Iowa City, Iowa, Hawkeye WC
2002 - Tom Brands, Iowa City, Iowa, Hawkeye WC
2001 - Zeke Jones, Morgantown, W.Va., Sunkist Kids
2000 - John Smith, Stillwater, Okla., Sunkist Kids
1999 - Greg Strobel, Bethlehem, Pa., New York Athletic Club
1998 - John Smith, Stillwater, Okla., Sunkist Kids
1997 - Greg Strobel, Bethlehem, Pa., New York Athletic Club
1996 - Bruce Burnett, Colorado Springs, Colo., National Freestyle Coach
1995 - Bruce Burnett, Colorado Springs, Colo., National Freestyle Coach
1994 - Gene Davis, Colorado Springs, Colo., Athletes In Action
1993 - Joe Seay, Oklahoma City, Okla., Sunkist Kids
1992 - Bobby Douglas, Ames, Iowa, Sunkist Kids