Dake vs. Taylor slated for champ finale
Cornell's Dake puts 76-match win streak on the line Saturday
DES MOINES, Iowa - It is the unstoppable force against the immovable object.
A Ferrari versus a Mack truck. A thoroughbred and a Clydesdale.
David Taylor and Kyle Dake.
Since word spread Dake, a three-time NCAA champion for Cornell, was moving up to a fourth weight class for the fourth year, the chatter from California to New York has been about 165 pounds.
Dake, an Ithaca, N.Y., native, has won 76 consecutive matches and is trying to add his name to yet another column of the NCAA record books. No other wrestler has won three championships at three weights; Dake will try to win four at four. Only two, Pat Smith and Cael Sanderson, have won four NCAA titles at the Division I level. If the Cornell senior beats Taylor on Saturday night (8 p.m. ET on ESPN), Dake, already a member of wrestling's Mount Rushmore, will put his name at the top of the list.
Dake is that immovable object, the Mack, the Clydesdale.
"[Taylor] is a goer, that is his MO," said Dake, who beat Taylor in freestyle last summer at the Olympic Trials, at the NWCA All-Star Classic, and in the finals of the Southern Scuffle. "My defense, counter offense is really good and, you know, if he makes a mistake I'm going to pounce on it.
"[Taylor] is going out and he's basically imposing his will and everyone is scared to wrestle him."
Most would agree, the All-Star exhibition match was a yawner. The Scuffle finals created a buzz that has continued for two months. A little controversy, a tough call, and an instant classic.
Friday night's semifinals was classic Dake.
Facing Oklahoma State's Tyler Caldwell, Dake went 0-0 through three minutes of tough hand fighting. Dake started the second period in the bottom position and escaped for a 1-0 lead. More hand fighting and it was 1-0 after five minutes.
Caldwell, a finalist in 2011, made the unwise decision to go bottom in the third. Getting to a minute on the riding time clock for Dake is like death and taxes. Two minutes later, Dake had a two-minute ride and a 2-0 victory.
Friday's semifinals were also classic Taylor.
The unstoppable force, the Ferrari, the thoroughbred, pinned Virginia Tech's Peter Yates in 3:25. It was Taylor's fourth pin of the tournament and first time he wrestled past the first period.
One of the most amazing statistics in sports right now shows Taylor's 100 career victories include 37 pins, 34 technical falls, and 22 major decisions. The math shows 93 bonus-point wins.
"I just need to go out and wrestle my match more than I have," Taylor said. "I believe I can win a 3-2 match. I know I am better than [Dake] in the top and bottom position and on our feet. The more I open him up the more I can exploit his weaknesses."
Opening up Dake is like cracking open a thousand-year-old clam, like trying to dig out a buried tick. It has not been done in 76 matches.
Taylor, a native of St. Paris, Ohio, has had the aid of Sanderson in trying to solve Dake. The Penn State coach is anticipating the match as much as anybody. He is not unlike the 1972 Miami Dolphins crew always keeping an eye on those potential unbeaten NFL teams.
Sanderson did not lose a match in four seasons of collegiate wrestling. He did, however, lose a match during a redshirt season. There are no redshirt seasons at Cornell.
And the spotlight will be on. The NCAA Championships traditionally starts at 125 pounds and ends with the heavyweights. On Saturday night, the 174-pounders will open the show.
Dake and Taylor will finish it.