Kyle Dake

It was, in many ways, a flashback to 5 years (and 1 month) ago.  Lansing High School and Cornell University grad Kyle Dake entered the most prestigious wrestling tournament he could find, rolled through the preliminary rounds without giving up a single point, fell behind in the crucial final match, and then outsmarted and outmuscled his opponent to see his hand raised in victory at the end.  

In 2013, as many locals will never forget, Dake was on the cusp of history.  In 2010, he became the first-ever true freshman to win an NCAA individual championship (at 141 pounds).  He followed up on that achievement by winning again as a sophomore (at 149), and as a junior, he made NCAA history by winning title number three at 158 pounds, the first collegiate wrestler to win at three different weight classes. 

When Dake was a senior, he carried on his shoulders not just the weight of his own legacy, but that of the sport as well.  The International Olympic Committee had stated that wrestling would no longer be an Olympic sport, and the wrestling community was both angered by the assertion that their sport was being marginalized, and thrilled that the NCAA tournament would be broadcast on national television, and that an Ivy League athlete would try to make history in the featured match of the night. 

I was among those who packed a sports bar that evening, as Dake took the mat against David Taylor of Penn State.  Both wrestlers were undefeated, and the hype and hysteria were reverberating through the sports world.  Dake and not yet been scored upon in the tournament, and when Taylor aggressively took him down early in the match, it was clear that the Nittany Lion had every intention of playing the spoiler role and claiming his second national title.  

Late in the period, my friend Dave Auble (2-time NCAA champ at Cornell and a 1964 U.S. Olympian himself) nudged me and said “Taylor’s leg is exposed,” and a nanosecond later, Dake seized the leg and the opportunity, turned the match around and cemented his place in history with an historic 5-4 win. (Wrestling remained an Olympic sport.) 

Last weekend – at the World Cup in Azerbaijan – Dake’s match against the host country’s Jabrayil Hasanov was a key component in bringing the Cup back to the U.S. for the first time in 15 years.  Once again, Dake (now wrestling at 79 kg, or approximately 174 pounds) rolled through his first three matches with scores of 11-0, 10-0 and 10-0, then fell behind 2-1 in the second period.  As is his custom, Dake did not panic, be saw what he had to do, he did it, and he came out with a 5-3 win over the 2016 Olympic bronze medalist.  David Taylor - Dake’s old college nemesis - also ran the table with a 4-0 record, as did Jordan Burroughs, and Team USA brought home the World Cup. 

My buddy Lee Wolfe – himself a former collegiate wrestler and still a rabid fan 50 years later - recently said to me, “You wrote about Kyle Dake from the time he was in seventh grade until he won his fourth title in 2013.  That must have been fun.” It still is, Lee.  It still is. 

 ***  

I wrote last week that the Cornell men’s lacrosse team was lighting up the scoreboard like never before, and that the Big Red had scored 20-plus goals in three straight games for the first time in program history.  Well, this past weekend, the unbeaten Harvard Crimson was able to hold Cornell under 20 goals, but nonetheless got stomped as the Big Red put up another football-like 15 points to run its overall record to 7-3, and its Ivy record to 2-1.  

Sophomore Jeff Teat was once again an offensive wrecking ball, scoring 12 points in the contest. Teat posted a career high with eight assists, and the 12 point outburst was the second time he has produced such a point total.  The eight assists was one shy of the school record and moved Teat into eighth on the school’s all-time list with 75. With the effort, Teat now holds  three of the top eight single-game scoring totals in school history.

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