Cornell senior Kyle Dake made history on Saturday night, becoming just the third man in NCAA history to win four Division I wrestling titles. But unlike previous four-timers Pat Smith and Cael Sanderson, Dake won his titles in four different weight classes. He started as a freshman at 141 lbs., then 149, 157 and 165 in his senior year.
To make history, Dake had to beat Penn State's David Taylor, the defending 165-lb. champion. Their match was anticipated for nearly a year. The NCAA changed the order of matches for Saturday night's final so that their bout would air last, instead of ending at heavyweight.
It was a risky move because both men had to get through the tournament without being upset. As anyone who has turned into college basketball this week knows, even the best athlete can be upset.
But no. 1 seed Dake and no. 2 Taylor made it through the tournament unscathed, and faced off in a memorable bout. Taylor struck first, getting a takedown right off the opening bell and earning two points. It was the first time Dake was scored on all tournament.
Dake responded with an escape and takedown, and then rode Taylor out for long enough to earn a point for riding time. With a score of 5-4, Dake took the win, then thanked Taylor in his post-match interview.
"He made me a better wrestler. He really pushed me," Dake said. "I owe him a lot."
He never set out to win four titles in different weight classes. Dake started his freshman year as a gangly 141-lb wrestler, and grew each year.
"I was a boy when I came into college, and I just kept growing and growing. It just happened," Dake said on Sportscenter.
The impressive part is that his wrestling was not affected as he grew. He finished his college career with a record of 132-4.
Now, he has his sights set on Olympic gold, and a star like Dake couldn't come along at a better time for wrestling. In February, the International Olympic Committee excluded wrestling from a core group of sports for the 2020 Olympics. The sport that has been a part of the Olympics since antiquity will have to fight to make the 2020 schedule.
Dake is up for the fight. He happily spoke to media and did interviews for the ESPN cameras just seconds after winning his fourth title. He also followed in the path of all star athletes, and took to Twitter and Instagram to push wrestling.
— Kyle Dake (@kyledake444) March 24, 2013
He picked up more than 1,000 Twitter followers overnight. Expect him to pick up more, and to hear the name Kyle Dake again.