When a Soviet team came to the U.S. last summer, Taylor faced the 6'8", 280-pound Medved three times. Although he lost 3-0, 3-1 and 5-1, Taylor was a worthy opponent. That he even qualified to represent the U.S. is extraordinary, for he had been wrestling only since 1968, when he took up the sport as a high school junior in Dowagiac, Mich. Taylor is just 21, and wrestlers do not peak until their late 20s or early 30s.
Overall, Taylor's record reads two draws, 13 losses and 185 wins. In 1970 he came in first in the national AAU freestyle competition and second in Greco-Roman, in which no holds are permitted below the waist. At the 1970 World Games he was fourth in Greco-Roman, and in Russia last year he was second in freestyle.
One result of his fame is a tendency on the part of strangers to test him out. At Iowa State almost everyone feels compelled to say hello to Taylor, but some add a challenge. "I try to be friendly to everybody," he says. "When a guy says, 'If you're so good, why don't you wrestle me?' I say I'm too old or something. I like to leave them feeling good, not angry. I enjoy the recognition, but I don't quite know how to cope with it. I don't mind being a giant, but sometimes I'd like to be 190 pounds or 105 to see what it would feel like. And I'd like to not always have to prove myself.
"But my main problem is clothes. I've got two, three pairs of bells, but it's hard getting things that let me dress with the In crowd. I just hope I don't get any bigger."
Any parent who has pleaded with his child to "please stop growing" can appreciate the plight of Taylor's folks. At 14 he was 6'2", 280. Then he began to grow. Within 18 months he was 6'5", 360. Twice he underwent tests at the University of Michigan medical center. Both times doctors were unable to explain his phenomenal growth, though they did find his heart to be twice as large as normal. His mom is of average size, his dad is 6'2", 225.
When Taylor played high school football, the mother of a teammate was so appalled by his dimensions that she circulated a petition to have him banned from the squad. "It didn't work," he says. "Anyway, I wasn't that much of a player."
Taylor's mother has at least a partial explanation for his ineptitude at football: "His coach told him, 'Chris, all you lack is meanness.' I told the coach, 'I doubt Chris will be mean. Not after all the years I've been telling him to stop being so rough.' "
But Taylor is becoming less peaceable. "I've learned to be meaner," he says. "Not to the point that I stomp on guys, but I am more aggressive. It's been a matter of maturity."
Even so, Taylor often curbs his aggressiveness to avoid injuring an opponent. Instead of dumping his foe to the mat and landing full force on top of him, Taylor usually breaks his own fall by landing on his palms. No one, as far as he remembers, has ever escaped his grip once he has turned him on his back and applied a pinning hold. Jerry Guth, a 206-pound heavyweight from Wisconsin, was recently pinned by Taylor. "Once he got on top I guess I could have moved my fingers," Guth says, "but the rest of me was engulfed."
There have been times, though, when Taylor has been more aggressive than he intended. He has broken one wrestler's neck and injured another's knee. And once, when Taylor's father saw him kneeling on the floor at home, he slapped a hold on him and said, "What're you going to do now?" What Taylor did was hurl his father through the air and up against the fireplace.