(Ed: Bumped, because who doesn't like to read a great write-up about wrestling? -- CG)9/26/12 UPDATE!
FloWrestling's Willie Saylor is reporting that Dake will go at 165 pounds for this whole upcoming year (thanks bscaff!). This is amazing news that affects Penn State in the following ways:
1. The 165 pound title is up for grabs. Oklahoma State's Tyler Caldwell (who placed 5th and 2nd at 165 in 2010 & 2011 while wrestling for Oklahoma) deserves mention as in the mix this year after using an Olympic Redshirt last year, but David Taylor is no longer the odds-on favorite he was two days ago. Dake is notoriously difficult to score upon--both from on top and from neutral, but Taylor may have the most effective scoring arsenal from both of those positions. Three different Penn Staters have now been in on Dake's legs and had one of them in control high in the air and none have brought him down: Frank Molinaro in the 2010 Southern Scuffle Finals (a 1-0 Dake win), James Vollrath in the 2012 Southern Scuffle Semifinals (a 6-0 Dake win) and Taylor in the April Freestyle Oly Trials (a Dake pin).
2. The 157 pound title is up for grabs. Penn State's Dylan Alton placed third last year, behind Dake & Iowa's Derek St. John, and is very difficult to score upon in his own right. He's also slowly & steadily been improving his offense and confidence in his shot against the top guys in this weight class, which was evident at the national tourney in March. First, in the quarterfinals, he only barely missed finishing a takedown in overtime against St. John, who is a great counter-wrestler who turned the attempt into a 3-1 Sudden Victory decision. Then in the consolation brackets he defeated 5th-seed Ganbayar Sanjaa 7-5 and 3rd-seed Jason Welch 6-2, avenging an earlier loss to him in the January dual. But he's also had some low-scoring and close decisions over Nebraska's athletic Jordan Burroughs clone James Green, who finished 7th in March and got decked in the Nittany Lion Open by Clarion's James Fleming, who finished 5th.
3. The national team title race just got a whole lot closer. Taylor may still end up proving to have too much offense for Dake and may win another title. But with Dake in the mix there and with St. John remaining at 157, Iowa can see a much more realistic possibility of an eight-point team swing. A win in the finals gives your team four extra points that a loss does not, so if St. John wins a title and Taylor loses in the finals, that's an eight point difference. Also, Iowa has Pennsylvania's very talented Mike Evans, who disappointed at nationals last year, going 1-2 with only 2 team points, returning for his redshirt sophomore campaign at 165. Minnesota hasn't yet found a point-scoring replacement for the retired Jake Deitchler at 157 and their returning 165-pounder, Cody Yohn has never reached the All-American podium, so they're not much in the discussion at these two weights. But Oklahoma State is starting hyped recruit Alex Dieringer at 157, who went 17-1 in open tournaments during his redshirt year last year, and they've got Caldwell at 165.
So the results of Penn State, Iowa & Oklahoma State performances at these two weights in March, could have a profound effect on which team comes home from Des Moines with the team championship.
While much of the news out of the National Collegiate Wrestling Association over the past month has been controversial and debatable throughout the wrestling community, this most recent news is anything but. Yesterday it was announced that Penn State junior David Taylor will face Cornell senior Kyle Dake in a folkstyle match at the NWCA All-Star Classic to be held Saturday, November 3, at American University's Bender Arena in Northwest DC. The match will take place at 165 pounds, a weight at which Dake, an NCAA champion at 141, 149 and 157 pounds the past three years, has never competed. Taylor was the champion at 165 this past year. It remains to be seen at which weight Dake will compete this coming season (he has stated he'll do whatever's best for his team, which should probably contend for Top 5 this year, but might have a very difficult road to the Top 3), but he is already the first wrestler in NCAA history to win championships at three different weights.
It won't be the first time the two have faced off on the mat. They used to bump into each other as kids, in national freestyle tournaments after the Taylors moved from Wyoming to Ohio. Win Magazine ran an article last year that indicated Taylor beat Dake in the 2006 Cadet Nationals--in the 98 pound championship. It includes this great photo:
Dake went on to win two high school state championships in New York, his last at 140 pounds, while Taylor began to grow into his father's 6'5" frame and won four Ohio state championships, at 103, 103, 112 and 135 pounds respectively. Dake stayed home in Ithaca to wrestle for Rob Koll at Cornell and Taylor, after committing to Cael Sanderson at Iowa State, followed him to Penn State when he took the PSU job. Taylor redshirted the 2009/2010 season while he grew accustomed to college wrestling and another growth spurt to 157 pounds. He also learned some fresh lessons about losing, as Cael's younger brother Cyler, then a 5th year senior and returning All-American, was beating him in the Penn State wrestling room.
Dake, however, jumped right into competition as a true freshman and fared quite well, going 34-2 with 14 bonus wins. He suffered his first loss to returning finalist Reece Humphrey of Ohio State, but later avenged it, and he went on to defeat Iowa's Montell Marion in the 141-pound finals for his first championship. The following year, he went 31-2, with 20 bonus wins and dominated Penn State's Frank Molinaro for the 149 pound title (this match featured Molinaro's dismal 'I Choose Down' selection in the 3rd period that resulted in Dake riding Tank for 6:18 of the seven-minute match). Last year he ran the table unscathed and finished 35-0 with 21 bonus wins and defeated Iowa's Derek St. John for the 157 pound title. Three years, three weight classes, three titles. Never before seen and unbelievably impressive.
After getting schooled up to college speed during the redshirt year (the preferred path to multiple championships, actually), Taylor entered collegiate competition at 157 pounds and stormed all the way to the national finals, where he famously got pinned by former Penn State and then Arizona State wrestler Bubba Jenkins (warning, linked video contains five minutes of wrestling and three minutes of Jenkins preening). Gone were any dreams Taylor may have had of matching his mentor Sanderson's undefeated 4x championship college career. Still, he finished 38-1 with 34 bonus wins and served notice he would be a force to be reckoned with over the next three years. This past year, he went 32-0 with 30 bonus wins including a dominating national tournament where he went 5-0 with four pins and this sublime 22-7 Technical Fall win over Lehigh's Brandon Hatchett for the 165 pound title:
Taylor contributed almost the maximum points possible (31.5) to Penn State's second consecutive team national championship. In Dake's three years, Cornell has finished second, second and fourth.
This past April, Taylor & Dake both qualified for the US Olympic Trials in Iowa City at 74Kg/163lbs. Dake won two matches before losing in the Challenge Tournament's semifinals to Trent Paulson. Taylor won one match before Andrew Howe bumped him to the consolations where he defeated Ohio State's Colt Sponseller, setting up the much-anticipated showdown with Dake. Then this happened:
For those of you who prefer only text, Dake decked him in the second period. Here's video of the first period. Freestyle, the style of the Olympics, and Folkstyle, the style wrestled in American schools and colleges, differ in many ways, but a pin is not one of them. If you get put on your back for long enough, the match is over. And this one was. Additionally, Dake appeared to most observers to have manhandled Taylor physically. That perception, coupled with most knowledgeable fans' appreciation of Taylor's vast skillset in Folkstyle, make this upcoming match very widely anticipated.
Tickets are affordable (I got mine here) and should be plentiful, too, as Bender seats about 4500 for basketball & 6000 or so for concerts. The NWCA event organizers were savvy enough to book it on a Saturday night in primetime, which provides plenty of city draw both before and after the event. I've already organized a house pass and plan on having a real good time, so if you decide to join in, get at me. I can't wait to watch these two giants battle!