Kyle Dake is just different.
A four-time NCAA champion, three-time EIWA champion, two-time world champion and one-time Hodge Trophy winner, Dake has done just about all there is to do in the sport of wrestling except compete in the Olympics, and he'll chase that final accolade next year.
From the start of his freshman year at Cornell University, Dake has dominated opponents with his speed and strength, posing a final collegiate record of 137-4 and ending his career on a 77-match winning streak with two undefeated seasons. He's also the only wrestler in NCAA history to win four titles at four different weight classes. Add in the fact that Dake never took a redshirt year, and his stats become almost mind-boggling. A true champion of the sport, Kyle Dake has built his brand to be one of success, and he's chasing even more on the next level.
Here's everything you need to know about Kyle Dake, the kid from Ithaca who changed college wrestling forever.
Kyle Dake biography
Growing up in Lansing, New York, Kyle Dake had plenty of wrestling role models, from his grandfather — a high school wrestling coach during the 60s — to his father — an NCAA All-American in 1985, but neither of those two men accomplished what Dake would go on to do in the sport.
The young Dake started wrestling at 5 and kept himself active off the mat as well, playing baseball, football and soccer.
“I think that, from the time that you’re five until you’re 14, you should be playing as many sports as you can. Learning to control your body is really important and obviously wrestling allows you to do that, probably to the highest degree because you have to not only control your body, but you have to control someone else’s body," Dake told a group of high school students at his Lansing High in 2018. "But there’s no throwing in it or no running in it and I think it’s very important to know those things because that’s kind of how our bodies are made — that’s why our shoulders are the way they are, that’s why our hips are the way that they are."
Dake would ultimately settle on wrestling when he entered high school and would go on to be become a two-time New York high school state champion and a three-time high school finalist.
Dake ended his high school career with a 224-14 record and titles at 112 pounds and 140 pounds, and though Dake's preps career included some loses, unlike Cael Sanderson's or Dan Gable's, his leadership, championship titles and potential for even greater success made him a prized recruit.
Dake had become a hometown hero, and the future four-timer decided to stay close by to complete his college career, committing to Cornell in 2008.
As a true freshman, Dake started for the Cornell Big Red at 141 pounds, anxious to compete. He lived up to head coach Rob Koll's high expectations for him early as he dominated some of his initial competition before taking two losses at the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational in December to Zachory Baily and Reese Humphrey.
Dake would later avenge his loss against Humphrey at the National Duals to earn the No. 1 seed in his weight class at the national tournament. He then picked up a conference and NCAA title, the first of three conference and four national titles. His performance in his first year with the Red and White earned him Ivy League Rookie of the Year and showed the rest of the country what Kyle Dake was all about.
In his second year as a college wrestler, Dake took just two more losses, the last losses he would take while in the NCAA. The first came in a dual and the second in overtime of the conference tournament, but Dake finished strong and added a second national title to his collection with another undefeated NCAA tournament.
Dake's freshman and sophomore seasons were just warmups for his perfect junior seasons with the Big Red. The champ went undefeated at 157 pounds and became the first wrestler for his program to win three titles.
Following his win the 2012 NCAA finals, Dake entered the U.S. Olympic Trials. He suffered a semifinals loss to Trent Paulson to end his 2012 Olympic dreams, but Dake's college career still had a lot of fireworks left. Following the Trials, Dake started his senior wrestling season at his fourth and final weight class, 165 pounds, where he would face off against 2012 NCAA Champion and Hodge Trophy winner David Taylor in his quest for four titles in four years. Dake pinned Taylor at the Trials, but Taylor was funky in folkstyle and would present challenges to Dake.
But Dake loved challenges. He met Taylor early in the season and beat him at the All-Star Classic and then beat him again 3-2 at the Southern Scuffle.
The hype followed Dake all season as he wrestled match after match after match. With every dual came a win, and on a Saturday night in late March, the match everyone wanted to see would happen. Coming into the NCAA tournament, Taylor was the underdog, but he was a Penn State underdog being coached by Cael Sanderson, meaning he should never be dismissed in a situation when the lights were the brightest. The over-excited Nittany Lion junior came out firing, but Dake's poise was too much for him, and Taylor fell to the champ 5-4.
Dake graduated from Cornell later that year in 2013 with a degree in Developmental Sociology, but he would continue to wrestle and build off his college success. He finished second at the World Team Trials that year to Jordan Burroughs and would finish second again in 2015.
In his second Olympic cycle attempt, Dake won the U.S. Open in 2016 and bumped up a weight class for the Olympic Trials, falling just short again by losing to J'Den Cox at 86kg. Cox would go on to take bronze in Rio while Dake would fight on for his chance to represent the United States at the next opportunity. That same year, Dake married his wife Megan and settled into their life in Ithaca while training continued.
Dake finished second at the U.S. Open in 2017 and then second at the World Team Trials with another series loss to Burroughs, but he broke through in 2018. Winning Final X at 79kg, Dake earned his spot on the World Team and earned back-to-back golds in 2018 and 2019.
In between these golds, Dake welcomed a daughter into the world, the beginning of his growing family. His face lit up in an NCAA.com interview as he held his daughter, Ella Jo, to say hello. He's a wrestling champion, but he's also a father, and the balance makes him smile.
Dake's life seems complete. He's won gold after gold after gold, and his training setup at his home in Ithaca has given him stability during COVID. But Dake is still chasing more. He's chasing Olympic glory. Burroughs will be waiting for Dake at the Olympic Trials in 2021, and the champ is already preparing.
Kyle Dake's college records
Most consecutive matches won: 77
Season winning percentage: 100%
Dual-meet season winning percentage: 100%
Most NCAA wins: 20
Highest career NCAA Tournament winning percentage: 100%
Kyle Dake's college statistics
The 141-pound title
Kyle Dake was ready right away. Nicknamed Kid Dynamite for his small stature at the time and his explosive style, Dake burst on to the college scene his freshman year with force and immediately started winning.
He captured the Binghamton Open title in his first performance with the Big Red, majoring all but one of his opponents. A fourth-place finish at the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational gave Dake his first two collegiate losses, losses that left a bitter taste in his mouth and losses that he was determined not to repeat. Dake avenged one of those losses at the National Duals, beating out Reese Humphrey of Ohio State for the title and following up that performance with an EIWA conference title and the No. 1 seed at the NCAA tournament.
Dake's first national tournament was anything but a cakewalk. He beat his first opponent, unranked Todd Schavrien of Missouri 4-1 before finding his groove and pinning Elijah Nacita in less than four minutes. An 11-0 win against Levi Jones put him in the semifinals against none other than Humphrey. For seven minutes, Humphrey and Dake battled. Back and forth. Back and forth. With the score tied at the end of regulation, the match went into overtime, then tie-breakers. Dake remembers the match vividly.
"He was a crazy athlete, he was a fifth-year senior, an NCAA finalist," Dake said in an interview with NCAA.com. "He had been great on the international scene, and I was just a snot-nosed kid basically. I was a true freshman, I had just turned 19 and we had split matched earlier in the year. I lost to him in Vegas, and then I wrestled him again at National Duals, and I beat him, so that was kind of the rubber match, and he threw me to my back early. I didn’t give up any back points, I kind of bounded off and was able to wrestle through it and then ended up winning that match."
The win against Humphrey propelled Dake to the finals where he beat Montell Marion of Iowa 7-3 for the title to end his season on a 24-match winning streak. Dake was the real deal.
Kyle Dake's Freshman Year (2009-2010)
- Rush, Boston U. FALL 3:40
- Gordon, Virginia, TF 16-0
- Wilkinson, Lock Haven, MD 12-1
- Bradley, Rider, MD 11-1
- Goeres, SUNY-Binghamton W 2-0
- Krom, Maryland W 8-3
- Carlson, Utah Valley State, FALL 2:05
- Shull, North Carolina State, MD
- Bailey, Oklahoma W 3-2
- Humphrey, Ohio State, OT L 2-4
- Drouin, Arizona State, W 4-0
- Bailey, Oklahoma L 1-2
- Hicks, Liberty, FALL 1:41
- Piccolella, Duke FALL 1:46
- Nelson, Virginia, MD 13-0
- Lindsey, Ohio U, 6-0
- Thorn, Minnesota 5-4
- Schmitt, Wisconsin, 7-0
- Humprey, Ohio State, 8-4
- Schavrien, Missouri, 6-1
- Krom, Maryland, 5-4
- Jones, Boise State 6-1
- Ciasulli, Lehigh, 6-3
- Jensen, Iowa State, 7-1
- Doyle, Columbia, FALL :33
- Banks, Hofstra, TF 15-0
- Ramos, Princeton, FALL 5:22
- Kemmerer, Penn, 7-0
Pagan, Navy 5-4
Zack Kemmerer, Penn 6-2
Jordan Lipp, American 9-2
Todd Schavrien (Missouri) W D, 4-1
Elijah Nacita (Cal-Bakersfield) W Fall, 3:48
Levi Jones (Boise State) W MD, 11-0
Reece Humphrey (Oklahoma) W D, 3-2 (TB)
Montell Marion (Iowa) W D, 7-3 2011
The 149-pound title
Coming off of his first NCAA title, Kyle Dake was the man to beat. But just to keep the wrestling community on its toes, Dake decided that he'd had enough of 141 pounds and would be moving up to 149 pounds, opening himself up to a new crop of competitors.
He once again won the Binghamton Open, this time in even more dominant fashion by not giving up a single point and then won his second Southern Scuffle tournament and his second National Duals title later that year.
A dual with Binghamton during the dual season gave Dake his first loss of his second season when he dropped 5-3 to Donnie Venson, but even champions take losses. Dake won nine more bouts before attempting to defend his EIWA title at the conference tournament. An overtime loss to Kevin LaValley at EIWAs cost Dake the No. 1 seed at the NCAA tournament in 2011, but Dake didn't need that seed to win. LaValley took the third seed, while Darrion Caldwell of North Carolina State earned the top seed and Frank Molinaro took the No. 2 spot. Dake was seeded at No. 4. He would go on to beat everyone.
In four matches against Donnie Corby, Torsten Gillespie, Jamal Parks and Ganbayar Sanjaa, Dake didn't give up a single point. He won 9-0, 8-0, 3-0 and 4-0 before facing Penn State's Frank Molinaro. The Nittany Lion All-American had finished eighth and fifth the previous two years and would be the only person to score on Dake during the entire national tournament in 2011, but his one point wasn't enough. Dake rolled past Molinaro, a man who would go on to represent the United States in the 2016 Olympics, 8-1, securing his second title. His performance during the tournament and throughout the season earned him EIWA Wrestler of the Year honors. Dake was two-for-two with two years left.
Watch Dake beat Molinaro here:
Kyle Dake's sophomore year (2010-2011)
- Smith, Bloomsburg, MD 12-2
- Rodgers, Rider, MD 11-0
- Lanzi, Brown 14-0 MD
- Santos, Columbia MD 8-0
- Jantzen, Harvard 2-0
- Corby, Central Michigan, 6-2
- Stabile, North Carolina 7-5
- Bird, Liberty, FALL 2:47
- Basich, Navy MD 16-2
- English, Penn State 4-0
- Metzler, Old Dominion, 7-0
- Molinaro, Penn State, 1-0
- Fee, Ohio State, TF 21-6
- Bradley, Missouri, 9-3
- Zilverberg, Minnesota, MD 10-0
- Stephens, Virginia Tech 10-0
- Napoli, Lehigh, 403
- Vinson, SUNY-Binghamton, 3-5 L
- Mayfield, Iowa State FALL 4:44
- Spataro, Hofstra, FALL 1:33
- DiVitantonio, Columbia, 1:35 FAL:
- Lenzi, Penn, FALL 1:00
- Ott, Princeton, TF 19-2
- Lanzi, Brown, FALL 2:06
- Marino, Harvard, MD 16-3
Andrew Lenzi, FALL 2:08
Mario Mason, MD 11-1
Kevin LeValley L 2-4 OT
Donnie Corby (Central Michigan) W MD, 9-0
Torsten Gillespie (Edinboro) W MD, 8-0
Jamal Parks (Oklahoma State) W D, 3-0
Ganbayar Sanjaa (American) W D, 4-0 Final
Frank Molinaro (Penn State) W D, 8-1
The 157-pound title
By his junior year, Kyle Dake wasn't just a freshman who won a title, or a sophomore who defended the title, he was the guy in college wrestling.
Moving up yet another weight class, then two-time champ Kyle Dake put together the first undefeated season of his college career in dominant fashion. His championship win made him the first wrestler in NCAA history to win three titles at three weight classes, and he also become the first Big Red wrestler to win three titles. Kid Dynamite was still, in fact, a dynamite wrestler on the mat. He won the Binghamton Open, the Las Vegas Cliff Keen title and the EIWAs, majoring everyone at the conference tournament except his finals opponent Walter Peppelman, who he beat 3-1.
The Kyle Dake that entered the 2012 tournament was a more confident, polished version of the wrestler who won the first two titles. He had become a man, growing each year in size and assurance as the wins pilled up and his popularity rose. This was Kyle Dake's tournament now.
As the No. 1 seed, Dake wasted no time, pinning his first three opponents in a combined time of less than seven minutes. He then shut out American's Ganbayar Sanjaa 4-0 before taking down Iowa's Derek St. John for a third title. The win gave him his 100th career victory and added pressure. All eyes were on Dake now. He would be chasing the elusive fourth title, a feat that many wrestlers had attempted and few had accomplished.
Kyle Dake's junior year (2011-2012)
- Marino, Harvard TF, 20-5
- Morris, SUNY-Binghamton, TF 17-1
- Greisheimer, Edinboro, MD 14-6
- Lister, SUNY-Binghamton, 6-2
- Deitchler, Minnesota, 5-0
- Sheridan, Columbia, FALL 1:37
- Chamish, SUNY-Binghamton, FALL 4:51
- Kemerer, Lock Haven, 10-0 MD
- Hickman, Bloomsburg, 3-2
- Taylor, Western Wyoming CC, FALL 1:52
- Aniciete, Western Wyoming CC, FALL 2:11
- Zeerip, Michigan, 6-0
- Monk, North Dakota State, 6-0
- Hepburn, Nebraska-Kearney, 4-0
- Chino, Ohio, FALL 2:08
- Kooser, Tennessee-Chattanooga, FALL 1:30
- Medved, Gardner-Webb, FALL 3:44
- Moore, Virginia, 10-1
- Vollrath, Penn State 6-0
- Alton, Penn State 3-0
- Tanen, Lehigh, TF 16-0
- Charnish, SUNY-Binghamton, FALL 6:23
- Moreno, Iowa State 6-1
- O’Hara, Columbia, MD 11-0
- Banks, Hofstra, MD 11-3
- Morse, Illinois, 6-4
Troy Hernandez, Penn FALL 1:11
John Regan, Bucknell, 8-0
Daniel Kolodzik MD 12-4
Walter Pepperman W 3-0
John Nicholson (Old Dominion) W Fall, 1:13
Joshua Kemier (Air Force) W Fall, 1:31
Frank Hickman (Bloomsburg) W Fall, 4:10
Ganbayar Sanjaa (American) W D, 4-0
Derek St. John (Iowa) W D, 4-1
The 165-pound title
If the three-time champ didn't generate enough hype in the preseason just by the prospect of him chasing a fourth title, Kyle Dake decided to make things even more interesting. He wanted a fourth title at a fourth weight class. He had won at 141, 149 and 157 pounds, but the champ kept growing, and now he wanted a shot at 165 pounds. He wanted a shot against returning national champion and Hodge Trophy winner David Taylor.
Taylor and Dake were friendly dating back to national youth tournaments, but this would be different. Only one wrestler per year can win an NCAA title at a given weight, and Dake had history on the line.
The National Wrestling Coaches Association paired up the two athletes at the All-Star Classic, and Dake took the win, but they would meet again at the Southern Scuffle. Dake's dominance once again prevailed. The Cornell senior carried his undefeated record into the EIWA championships and won another title to secure the top seed at the NCAA tournament in 2013. He would be on the opposite side of David Taylor with his weight class scheduled to be the main even at the tournament.
3-0. 11-0. 13-0. 2-0. Kyle Dake once again blew through his first four opponents at the tournament without giving up a single point as the No. 1 seed. At the bottom of the bracket though, David Taylor was making noise by pinning all four of his opponents before the end of the second period. Taylor was sharp, and he was hungry.
In the grand finale of this folkstyle rivalry and in one of the greatest matchups in college wrestling, Dake's steadiness proved to be the difference-maker. He countered Taylor and wrestled his match, surging to a 5-4 win and becoming the first wrestler in NCAA history to win four national championships at four weight in four years. He had made history.
DAN HODGE TROPHY: Read all about the award given to the most dominant wrestler in the NCAA
"It’s really difficult for me to kind of comprehend what happened," Dake said, reflecting on his career in an interview with NCAA.com. "For me, to just imagine who I was at 19 versus who I was at 22 and just be like 'wow, those are two completely different people and you were wrestling a completely differently style matchups, body types all sorts of different things and you still find a way to win,' and that’s something I'm pretty proud of."
Kyle Dake's senior year (2012-2013)
- Lepkowsky, SUNY-Binghamton, FALL 5:00
- Aungst, Drexel, FALL 2:00
- Ottinger, Central Michigan, MD 14-2
- Graham, Oklahoma, 5-0
- Cook, Utah Valley State, FALL 2:41
- McMartin, Northern Colorado, FALL 3:34
- Packard, Boise Staet, MD 12-1
- Toal, Missouri, MD 14-3
- Monk, North Dakota State, 6-0
- Toal, Missouri, 5-0
- Caldwell, Oklahoma State, 4-1
- Willet, Ohio, FALL 1:23
- Duggan, Campbell, MD 13-1
- Jones, North Carolina State, FALL 3:50
- Sulzer, Virginia, FALL 1:21
- Taylor, Penn State, 3-2
- Brown, Lehigh, 9-3
- Ziegler, Princeton, FALL :37
- Roberts, Brown, FALL 1:26
- Gobbo, Harvard, FALL 1:02
- Kent, Penn, FALL 4:32
- Thomas, Oregon State, TF 19-3
- Terdick, Hofstra, FALL 1:05
- Houldsworth, Columbia, FAL 6:02
- Lear, Bucknell, FALL :53
- Terdick, Hofstra, FALL 1:57
- Koehn, Nebraska, FALL 3:57
- Moore, Iowa, MD 13-4
Judson Zieger, Princeton FALL 1:23
Phillip Barreiro FALL 1:43
Peyton Walsh, Navy 10-2 MD
Josh Houldsworth, Columbia MD 20-5
Mark Martin (Ohio State) W D, 3-0
Ryan LeBlanc (Indiana) W MD, 11-0
Nick Sulzer (Virginia) W MD, 13-0
Tyler Caldwell (Oklahoma State) W D, 2-0
David Taylor (Penn State) W D, 5-4