Hall of Fame resume at Weaver, From 1989-2004
501-34 record with six straight undefeated seasons
Nine state wrestling titles, three second place finishes, one third place result
12 County wrestling championships
92 overall team tournament championships
221 straight dual match wins from 1991-1999
Coached 55 individual state champions, eight All-Americans
Named state coach of the year nine times
USA Wrestling Man of the Year in Alabama twice.
Gene Taylor attended Rockdale County School’s from kindergarten up until high school graduation, but continued his education learned there well into his future.
That future brought him back to the Bulldogs as an assistant coach, took him across Georgia and into Alabama as both an assistant and a head coach and ultimately put him in the Alabama High School Athletics Hall of Fame.
Taylor says he wasn’t the most athletic on the 1968 Rockdale County Bulldogs’ football team, but felt he was good at football. His coaches, first Robert Reid and then Earl O’Neal, saw his strength in talent and encouraged him to work harder on the game of football.
Taylor carried that early lesson with him into his profession of coaching and in 2009 saw that cornerstone earn him a spot among Alabama’s best.
The former captain of the Rockdale County High School football team was recognized recently by the Alabama High School Athletic Association for his many years of service and accomplishments, but in particular 15 years at Weaver High School.
In 1990 Taylor was hired as the head baseball coach, head wrestling coach and defensive coordinator of the football team at the east Alabama high school.
In his third year, the wrestling team became the first state championship team in school history and his career raced toward a legendary finish.
“I went through there when there was some really great wrestlers,” Taylor said. “The kids there were starved to win. They hadn’t been successful but wanted to be. So it sort of snowballed from there.”
Weaver’s wrestling success was where Taylor’s career peaked, but it started three decades earlier under the influence of O’Neal, Reid and Rockdale assistant coach Bill McCord.
“My whole coaching career was just learning from people,” Taylor said. “You continued to learn every year.
“They all had an influence on me, including the coaches I worked with at Weaver. Most of coaching is more of a brotherhood. You didn’t work under people, you worked with them – I learned that from Coach McCord.”
After high school Taylor stayed in Conyers until he was 19 and then enrolled at DeKalb College. After a year there, he then spent a year of active duty in the National Guard and in 1971 went to Jacksonville State.
Upon graduating in 1974, Taylor took his first coaching job as an assistant ninth grade football coach and an assistant wrestling coach.
“I’m sure Coach McCord helped me with that job,” Taylor said.
McCord’s last year coaching was in 1975, and Taylor remained with the Bulldogs for two more years, learning from Rockdale’s coaches and learning the game against some of the best talent in the state.
“I got to be there during that time when they were really good,” Taylor said. “The varsity was 9-1 and playing tough teams like Griffin, LeGrange and Newnan. I not only got to coach some great athletes, but I got to participate against some great ones (like future NFL players Willie Goff, Drew Hill and Scott Warner).”
In 1977 Taylor’s career next took him to Clayton County for two years, where he had his first ever head coaching job with the wrestling team.
“It was the first head job of any kind I had,” Taylor said. “The first match I ever saw I coached in.”
His next stop was in Alabama at Welborn, where he met another strong influence in his coaching career.
“One of the biggest influences other than Coach McCord was Mike Battles,” Taylor said. He just had a great repore with the kids and things like that. I sort of learned to handle discipline and things like that under him.”
The coaching education tour brought Talyor next to Flint River Academy in Georgia as a head football coach, then to Cherokee County High School and in 1990 to Weaver.
Once there he became a stronghold with the wrestling team, leading it to become one of the most popular organizations on campus drawing as many as 60 kids to the small classification school’s tryouts.
Over a 12 year period the Weaver wrestlers led by Taylor won nine state titles and finished in second place three times. They also had the second-longest winning streak all-time in dual meets nationally with 221 from 1992-1999.
He coached eight All-Americans, two Academic All-Americans, the state’s first six-time prep champion, was named state coach of the year nine times, USA Wrestling Man of the Year in Alabama twice and District 3 Coach of the Year in 1996.
“The thing about being a high school coach is you have to play with what you’ve got,” Taylor said. “You’re limited to what you can do with the ability of your players most the time.”
In 2004 one of Alabama’s most celebrated high school coaches suffered a stroke, which factored into his retirement.
His son Jake, who along with his daughter Misty was adopted from Romania, was also coming up through Weaver’s wrestling program, and Gene decided it was time to let his son solely hold the limelight.
“Physically I wasn’t in real good shape, and mentally I was kind of shot too,” Taylor said. “I guess you can say I was pretty burned out.”
From there it was five years until he was eligible for the hall of fame, where he reminded the audience of lessons learned along the way, including the first stop at Rockdale High School.
“It’s a very high honor, and I’m really proud of it,” Taylor said. “I got to share it with a lot of my coaching friends and especially with my mother, brother and sister. That meant the most to me, that it means a lot to my family and I think to my kids.”