Taylor had been in declining health for several years and his health issues were exacerbated by an automobile accident several weeks ago.
Taylor led nine Weaver wrestling teams to state championships between 1993 and 2004 and three other Bearcat teams finished as state runner-up during his tenure at the school. Under Taylor’s guidance, Weaver won 10 straight Calhoun County wrestling championships. Before his arrival at Weaver, Taylor won two Calhoun County championships while coaching at Wellborn.
Banyon Allison, currently an assistant principal at Alexandria, took up wrestling as a senior at Weaver in 1990-91, Taylor’s second year at Weaver, after Taylor was his position coach for two years in football.
“Coach Taylor had a way when he coached of making you feel special. Whatever you were, whatever you needed to hear, he could bring that out in you. If you were poor he could make you feel rich. If you were not smart he could make you feel smart. If you weren’t tough he could make you tough and then, if you thought you were tough, he could bring you down a little bit,” Allison said. “He just had that air about him -- I can’t really explain it -- and people loved to perform for him.”
His pupils didn’t just perform -- they consistently performed at a high level. Eight of Taylor’s wrestlers earned All-America recognition, and 55 won state championships. His Weaver teams were 385-11 in dual meets. Taylor’s career record as a head wrestling coach was 500-34.
“He was a father figure. He was a disciplinarian. He was tough on us but you never doubted that he loved you and that he cared about you. The gruff exterior kind of hid the soft heart he had,” said Piedmont wrestling coach Harley Lamey, who led the Bulldogs to the 1A-4A state championship in 2009.
Lamey, who wrestled for Taylor as a junior and a senior in 1991-92 and 1992-93, said his inspiration for becoming a coach came from Taylor.
Current Weaver wrestling coach Andy Fulmer wrestled for Taylor from 1995 through 1998. Fulmer recalled his former coach as a person with a passion for competition and a commitment to instilling values in his wrestlers -- family first, hard work pays off, doing the right thing, being a good person -- that would serve them long after their wrestling careers ended.
“I try to do that raising my two kids and also in coaching the young men that I’ve got,” Fulmer said. “His biggest legacy, I think, is not only just the championships but the kind of person he was and the character that he possessed that he was trying to instill in us as young boys growing into men.”
Lamey called Taylor’s work to expand the state wrestling tournament from two to three groupings a major influence in the growth of high school wrestling in Alabama.
“In an indirect way, he’s responsible for all the new teams in the area like Saks, us, Ohatchee and Alexandria because he was part of the first group of coaches that pushed for the wrestling tournament to be split into 1A through 4A, then 5A and 6A separate. It used to be 6A then 1A through 5A,” Lamey said. “It kind of evened the playing field for some of the small schools and a by-product of that was new programs.”
Following Taylor’s retirement, he remained interested in wrestling. Fulmer said Taylor liked to attend practices regularly and made virtually every match and tournament. He never interfered but was always willing to answer questions or offer suggestions when asked.
“He stepped aside. He was just a spectator. After his career coaching ended he really enjoyed that part of it,” Fulmer said.
Taylor was inducted into the Alabama High School Sports Hall of Fame in 2010 and into the Calhoun County Sports Hall of Fame in 2011. He was named Alabama’s 1A-4A coach of the year nine times. USA Wrestling designated him Alabama wrestling coach of the year in 1996 and 2004. In 1996, Taylor was USA Wrestling’s coach of the year for the southeastern United States.
Taylor held both undergraduate and master’s degrees from Jacksonville State University. In addition to wrestling, he coached as an assistant in football for 20 years and had a 201-130 career record as a head baseball coach.