ITHACA, NY -- Indeed, it was a long time coming...
No Cornell wrestler had earned an Olympic medal since Charles Ackerly won gold at the 1920 Olympic Games in Antwerp, Belgium, but that century-old drought ended when Kyle Dake stepped onto the podium in Tokyo after winning a bronze medal. What a roller-coaster journey it was.
Fans watched with delight at 10:45 p.m. last Wednesday as Dake opened his Olympic competition with a surgically precise Round of 16 victory, where he matched up against Mostafa Hosseinkhani of Iran and took care of business by a score of 4-0.
Many fans — including me — were not awake at 5 a.m. the next day to watch Dake take on Mahamedkhabib Kadzimahamedau of Belarus, and when I looked at the updates to learn that Dake had lost in the quarterfinal and that his medal chances were in the hands of the man who had defeated him, I wanted to go back to sleep and try again.
The rules dictate that Kadzimahamedau had to make it to the final to give Dake a chance to compete via repechage, and he did so by beating Italy's Frank Chamizo to advance. That small window of opportunity was all Dake needed, as he dominated his next two matchs by a combined score 15-0, winning 10-0 over Geandry Garzón of Cuba and 5-0 over Chamizo, with the latter bout featuring a pair of two-time world champs. (Dake aslo beat Chamizo in their only other match-up, at the World Championships.)
Wrestling fans have been watching Dake on the national stage for a dozen years — local fans for longer — and his long and arduous journey to a spot on Team USA was well-documented. He came up short twice against Jordan Burroughs — who had dominated the weight class for a decade and had won an Olympic Gold — but in April, the Lansing native and Cornell alum (class of 2013) broke through with a convincing pair of wins over Burroughs. It has been an exhilarating run, and I join those who look forward to whatever comes next. Congratulations, Kyle.
More updates on former Cornell athletes at the Tokyo Olympics...
Hammer thrower Rudy Winkler, who is the American record-holder and a two-time Olympic Trials champion (2016, 2020) in the event, finished seventh out of the dozen best throwers in the world. Winkler was a five-time All-American and the 2017 NCAA hammer throw champion while at Cornell, and his best throw of 77.08m (252' 10") guaranteed him a finish that was far better than his 18th place finish in Rio in 2016.
Poland's Wojciech Nowicki won gold with a mark of 82.52m (270' 9"), which was actually shorter than Winkler's winning heave at the Trials 82.71m (271-4). Timing, as they say, is everything.
Very pleased to report that the Racker Rivals Big Red ice hockey exhibition/fundraiser is back on for this summer. The popular event — bringing to Lynah Rink current and former NHL players, illustrious alumni and skaters representing a wide range of experience and ability — will be held this Saturday, Aug. 14, at Lynah.
Some important details from Racker's website: “Cornell University has generously allowed us to hold Racker Rivals Big Red in person this year, for which we are very thankful… To keep people as safe as possible, Cornell has asked that we adhere to the following guidelines for attendance at the game: Children up to the age of 11 can attend but should wear a mask at all times and be accompanied by an adult. People aged 12 and up can attend only if they are vaccinated and must bring proof of vaccination (vaccine card or Excelsior Pass). All attendees must wear a mask.
People often say that finding a way to spend time on or near Cayuga Lake is one sure way to really experience Ithaca. I will add that spending some time in Lynah Rink is another.
Details can be found at www.racker.org