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FRIENDS FOREVER: Fathers of David Taylor and Kyle Dake talk about their son’s friendship

(Note: This story was published in WIN’s 2011-12 NCAA Preview issue in October.)

By Mike Finn

When it comes to the 163-pound weight class at this year’s U.S. Olympic Trials in Iowa City, most wrestling fans will probably be focused on Jordan Burroughs, who recently won a World championship at that freestyle weight this past summer.

But there could also be another match at that weight in Carver-Hawkeye Arena next April that current college wrestling fans, especially the families of David Taylor and Kyle Dake, will be closely watching. For that bout may indeed feature a meeting of the two top-ranked wrestlers for their respective schools: the 165-pound Taylor at Penn State and 157-pound Dake at Cornell, rival schools that finished first and second at last year’s NCAAs.

Penn State's David Taylor and Cornell's Kyle Dake (right) have seen each other the past two winters at the Southern Scuffle.

So what would the reaction be of these wrestlers who may each carry a 2012 NCAA title from their respective college weight classes to this possible freestyle event?

“They go out there and shake hands,” said Doug Dake, the dad of Cornell’s two-time NCAA champion. “Whoever won, won. There would not be hateful feelings. I feel they are old enough and mature enough for such a match.”

It also helps that both wrestlers have been good friends for nearly a decade.

“It would kill me to have them wrestle now but they will some day,” added Dave Taylor, the father of the Penn State sophomore who finished second nationally last March. “But I’m sure it would be a lot easier than when they were kids.”

Many such moments did indeed happen when both young men from different parts of the country — Taylor originally from Wyoming and Dake from up-state New York — met in many kids’ tournaments; the first coming in 2000 when they appeared in the Ohio Tournament of Champions after Dave Taylor moved his family to St. Paris, Ohio.

The Buckeye state was indeed the perfect place for Taylor and Dake to battle as kids who later become buddies. Though the Dakes were living in Ithaca, N.Y., where Doug Dake grew up, he was eventually an  NCAA All-American in Ohio while attending Kent State.

David Taylor (left) stood two steps ahead of Kyle Dake at the 2006 Junior Nationals.

“They became such good buddies that David spent a week or two one summer with Kyle and went boating and stuff with his parents,” recalled Dave, who is a commercial airline co-pilot out of Cincinnati.

“When Kyle’s family would come to Ohio for the holidays, we’d meet Doug and Kyle somewhere up the road and bring Kyle home and let him stay with us four or five days, where they would train together at the house.

“He was just like part of our family. He’s like the favorite kid that I’ve ever had in our house. He really is like having another son. They are like two peas in a pod and still love to get after it when they wrestle.”

“They are two little goofballs who have a completely different level of energy than your average kid back in those days.”

Oddly, the young men became even better friends in the summer of 2006, when they were both competing at 98 pounds in the Cadet Nationals in Fargo, N.D., where Taylor won both freestyle and Greco styles, and Dake settled for third, despite score a five-point throw against Taylor during the week-long event.

“It was always a mutual respect,” said Doug. “They always got a long. They seemed to be good kids who saw things the same way.”

While Taylor went on to also win four Ohio state championships competing for St. Paris Graham High School, Dake became a six-year letterwinner and two-time New York state champion competing for his father, the head coach at Lansing High School in Ithaca, N.Y.

Even though they came out of high school the same year, Dake competed immediately for Cornell in 2009-10 and won the NCAA title at 141 pounds … while Taylor redshirted that season.

Last season, it was Taylor who having the most success, until the NCAAs where Dake beat Penn State’s Frank Molinaro for the 149-pound crown. Taylor also reached the finals but lost to Arizona State’s Bubba Jenkins at 157 pounds.

Soon, the families — including the mothers, Kathy Taylor and Jodi Dake — met each other in the arena, realizing that friendships go beyond what happens on the mat.

“I walked out of the dome in Philly with Doug and Jodie,” recalled David. “I congratulated them because Kyle put a lot of criticism to rest that weekend even though he had to beat one of David’s teammates to win the championship.

“I know they felt some pain too for David. Doug probably contacted me as much as anyone throughout the year as I did for him the year before when Kyle was having his great freshman campaign.”

The older Dake, who has coached at the high school for over 25 years, believes he knows why both young men will continue to be so successful.

“They both always had an eye on the prize and in the end there was always that drive,” said Doug. “They are both very accomplished and they know how to get there while having fun along the way.”

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