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Dake wins Schalles award; pinning goal helped Dake reach new level
By Mike Finn
Kyle Dake accomplished quite a bit this past college season; most notably winning his fourth NCAA championship at a fourth different weight in four straight years. Because of his historic senior season, he was also named the 2013 Dan Hodge Trophy winner and Sports Illustrated’s College Athlete of the Year.
But before the native of Ithaca, N.Y., could earn such prestigious honors, Dake knew he had to change something about his wrestling style this past winter: become a better pinner.
“I decided to challenge myself to get 20 pins this past year. That pushed me to do more in practice at times when I was down.”
And while Dake came just short of reaching his pinning goal — he ending up flattening 18 of his foes in a 37-0 season — Dake’s awareness of bringing the pin to his arsenal earned the four-time NCAA champion the Schalles Award for pinning.
“What can anyone say about Kyle Dake?” quizzed Wade Schalles, who pinned 106 career foes while compiling a 153-5-1 record at Clarion (Pa.) University, 1971-74, and created the award that is presented annually by WIN and Cliff Keen Athletic. “He’s done it all; four NCAA titles in four different weight classes against some of the country’s best wrestlers. He’s smart, charismatic and classy. I can’t think of anyone I’ve watched that’s tougher mentally than Kyle Dake. He the total package and to top it off, he’s also America’s best pinner.”
Dake, who had just 26 career pins over three seasons before the 2012-13 college season, said he did not have to change that much of his wrestling style to improve his pin totals.
“I was just looking for it more often,” said Dake. “I was wrestling my same matches, but looking to pin, rather than ride a little longer. That also meant I was putting bigger (team) points on the board for my team.”
Dake recorded 11 of his pins in dual-meet competition to help the Big Red compile a 14-4 mark.
One of those pins came in Cornell’s 37-3 victory over Bucknell, when Dake pinned Corey Lear, who was ranked ninth nationally at the time.
Dake also objects to the idea that pins are a dying art in wrestling.
“I think guys are just getting so much better,” he said. “The guys coming to college are so much better prepared. Their whole level of competition has increased. You are not facing those guys you are so much better than.”
Dake added the sports specialization has led to a larger number of skilled wrestlers.
“Before wrestlers would also play three to four other sports in high school and when they’d get to college, a lot of them were still playing two sports. Now a lot more guys are just focused on wrestling and the level of competition has increased.”
Dake said he heard plenty of stories about how Schalles created even more of a buzz as a pinner when the former Clarion star once pinned a foe on an X he’d placed on the mat before the bout.
Dake said he’d like to be remembered as a versatile wrestler.
“I had a variety of rides, crab ride, tight waist, cradle …,” said Dake, who earned also earned riding-time points in all four of his NCAA finals bouts.
“I think people are going to remember me because of my mat wrestling; the way I could pick people up and take them back down to the mat with authority.”