Summer 2024

Wrestler Aaron Brooks upsets Olympic champ to earn 2024 Olympic berth: 'Praise the Lord'

Less than a month ago, Aaron Brooks was in Kansas City, celebrating an astounding fourth consecutive individual national championship as a senior on the Penn State wrestling team.

His victory that day guaranteed him a chance to compete at last week’s U.S. Olympic Trials, which happened to take place on Penn State’s campus. He certainly made the most of his opportunity.

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In what may be a passing-of-the-guard moment on Saturday night, Brooks defeated reigning 86-kilogram Olympic champion (and fellow Penn State alum) David Taylor for a second time that day, clinching his spot on the U.S. Olympic team bound for Paris this summer. Brooks earned his way to the best-of-three final series with wins on Friday, while Taylor’s past success — he’s also the two-time reigning world champion — earned him an automatic bye to the final round.

“Praise the Lord. Like I say many times, it’s a journey with Him,” Brooks told NBC when asked after the match how he felt about securing his spot in Paris. “Just put my faith in Him. Praise the Lord.”

Brooks also made sure to compliment Taylor, who at the age of 33 has accomplished a lot for the Nittany Lions wrestling program and U.S. wrestling in general. Said Brooks to NBC, “I just told him I love him. … He inspired a lot of people, so just praying he seeks the Lord and God’s will be done.”

Rules stipulate that only one wrestler per country per weight class is allowed to compete in the Olympics, so Taylor will miss out on a chance to repeat as Olympic champion despite being perhaps one of the most dominant U.S. male wrestlers during the past five years. He had won 26 of his last 27 matches and outscored opponents 226-19 before Saturday’s results; his only loss during that span was to Iranian rival Hassan Yazdani at the 2021 World Championships. Taylor beat Yazdani for Olympic gold in Tokyo, and wrestling enthusiasts expected a rematch in Paris — before Brooks’ upset.

The friendship between Brooks and Taylor runs deeper than the two wrestlers simply having the same alma mater. While gearing up for the Tokyo Olympics (held in 2021 rather than 2020 because of the COVID pandemic), Taylor had Brooks as his training partner. Each wrestler is allowed to bring one such partner to the Games, and Taylor selected Brooks to come with him to Tokyo.

On Saturday, Brooks further complimented his friend in his post-match media availability. He said Taylor is “one of the first guys to make [Penn State wrestling] what it is. … It’s been a blessing being around him and watching what he does.”

Then, Brooks did what he’s so often done during his wrestling career: give glory to God.

“He gives me wisdom, knowledge that surpasses all,” Brooks said. “Some things that I wouldn’t have figured out myself, He showed me in wrestling. Praise to Him.”

Later, he was asked about his advice to kids who admire his wrestling ability.

“I’d say seek the Lord,” Brooks said. “He will guide your steps. Praise the Lord. Have faith in Him. That’s the best advice I can give them because it changed my life.”

Brooks, who’s written “Jesus is King” in his Instagram bio, posted photos on the social media platform after defeating Taylor, captioning them with the Bible passage “Psalm 144.” The passage begins with the words, “Praise be to the Lord my Rock.”


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A post shared by Aaron Brooks (@aaron_mbrooks)

Following his national championship victory in March, Brooks wore a headband that read “100% Jesus” as he collected his trophy. He gave glory to God when asked by ESPN after the match what was going through his head.

“It might be boring — it’s the truth. It’s the Lord, the Holy Spirit. It keeps me calm. It keeps me poised, but I remember it’s bigger than this. These four titles come and go; His Word remains forever,” he said.

Brooks was then asked what he learned most during his journey to four national titles.

“Put faith in the Lord,” he said. “The world tries to come in on you — expectations, labels, whatever it may be. Once again, the only way to Heaven is Jesus Christ, and that’s what I’m here for.”

Brooks also took to Instagram after that victory, captioning a post with “1 Timothy 4:16.” The Bible verse reads, “Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.”


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A post shared by Aaron Brooks (@aaron_mbrooks)

Following his third NCAA national championship, Brooks told ESPN that “Christ’s resurrection is everything — not just His life, but His death and resurrection. You can only get that through Him, the Holy Spirit only through Him, no false prophets, no Muhammad, no anyone else, only Jesus Christ Himself.”

He continued later: “I’m blessed. God used me. He gives me this platform for this right here — to exalt Him. So that’s all it’s for. … It’s all for Him. It’s all for His glory.”

Knowing Christ has already earned the ultimate victory, Brooks will seek to continue his streak of wrestling success at the 2024 Olympics in Paris, which start on July 26. By defeating the reigning world and Olympic champion, Brooks will be considered a medal contender.

>> Do you know Christ personally? Learn how you can commit your life to Him. <<

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