Kyle Dake is, by many accounts, the best American freestyle wrestler competing right now. Looking through his list of accolades, it becomes mind numbing with all the achievements Dake has locked up at the age of 28. Last weekend, he won his second World championship in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan. With that win, Kyle Dake is heading to the 2020 Olympics, representing The United States of America in Tokyo, Japan. In this interview, we got to know Dake a little bit better. We discussed his start in wrestling, his Olympic goals, and wrestling’s surging popularity.
Everyone gets their start somewhere. Elvis Presley recorded a crappy single in Sun Studios. Michael Jordan didn’t make the the high school basketball team. He wasn’t always the absolute best, but Kyle Dake had wrestling ingrained in him from the start. “Wrestling is a family affair,” says Dake. “My father was an All-American at Kent State University and the coach at Cornell University and Ithaca College. My grandfather wrestled at Bowling Green and coached at several high schools. I was essentially born in a wrestling room and have never left.”
It’s that head start that has given Dake so much success on the mat. In Malcom Gladwell’s book, Outliers, Gladwell explains that “overnight successes” are no such thing and that all the most successful people put in approximately 10,000 hours into their craft before becoming successful. The most prominent example is The Beatles. McCartney and company played bars every night of the week for hours, practicing their hits-to-be, honing their skills and becoming perhaps the best musicians in history. Kyle Dake got his 10,000 hours in early being born into the family he did. Now he’s on a trajectory for Olympic gold.
Career accomplishments and future goals
Winning his second World title, Kyle Dake joined Mark Schultz, Kevin Jackson, Terry Brands, Kyle Snyder, and J’den Cox as Americans to win as many championships.
“It’s a pretty amazing accomplishment, being able to defend your title is often harder than winning it the first time. It proved to me that the sacrifices and changes I’ve made in my life, and that my family have made, have paid off.”
Kyle Dake adds winning two World gold medals to his list of accomplishments, such as winning four collegiate titles in four different weight classes.
Now, Dake’s eyes are turned to the 2020 Olympics. Dale says, “Gold is the mission. It will be won on the daily small decisions, and if I can make enough good decisions, I’ll put myself in the best possible position to make the team and win a gold medal in Tokyo.” Dake has World Team Tryouts next year, and he will be full steam ahead with his lifestyle and commitment to the sport that is his own.
Kyle Dake vs. Jabrayil Hasanov
In his World final match, he faced off with Jabrayil Hasanov for the second time. Dake and Hasanov met in the finals last year where Dake shut him out 2-0. This year, Dake was prepared, despite missing a lot of mat time due to injury.
“I know he is a strong opponent and he is very good in tie-ups and clinches as well as front headlock,” Dake says of Hasanov. “My game plan was to pick him apart from the outside and keep him off balance. I did a great job at executing that plan and I was able capture my second gold.” Dake was able to score a couple step out points as well as a takedown. He survived Hasanov’s onslaught at the end of the match and the rest is history.
In wrestling, Russians are all the rage. They are the most dominant country in the sport and have some of the best athletes. Dake has had his fair share of Russian competition, especially this tournament. “Every guy I wrestled this tournament was former USSR, and most of them train together during the year,” says Dake. “So having to go through all of those guys was a challenge that I welcomed, and that made me sharper.” As the old adage goes, iron sharpens iron. And he is right about having opponents from the former USSR. Gadzhi Nabiev is Russian. Oibek Nasirov is from Kyrgyzstan, Rashid Kurbanov is a Russian who transferred to Uzbekistan and Hasanov hails from Azerbaijan
As for the one current Russian he faced, Kyle Dake knows Gadzhi Nabiev isn’t off of his radar yet. “Nabiev is a strong young opponent and I’m sure we will meet again.”
Wrestling’s rise in popularity
Over the last two years, wrestling has seen a giant boost in American interest. That is thanks to names like Jordan Burroughs, Kyle Snyder, J’Den Cox, and Kyle Dake himself. In other countries it’s been popular for years, namely Russia. Unfortunately America has lagged behind a little bit. But now, with all these names, people are paying attention.
“I’m very excited about our future in this sport. We are putting ourselves in a position where the young kids can become super stars. If you go to Russia or Iran, two of their biggest stars are wrestlers. They love it there, and there is no reason we can’t have the same here in the States. Social media is a game changer, and it allows for each athlete to tell their own story, and we are open books for everyone to follow along with.”
The most notable example of wrestling’s rising popularity in the States is the matchup between Jordan Burroughs and the UFC’s Ben Askren. Fans were chomping at the bit to see the match, which Burroughs dominated with relative ease. When asked about doing something similar, Dake had this suggestion:
“If Khabib wants to step on the wrestling mat I am all for it!”
You heard that, Khabib Nurmagomedov? Let’s do this.
In sports, not just combat sports, it’s customary to dream of matchups you wish you could have seen, given time travel existed: Michael Jordan vs. LeBron James, Muhammad Ali vs. Mike Tyson, 2004 Red Sox vs. 2016 Chicago Cubs. Fans wish they could go back in time and see these matchups of titans.
Kyle Dake wants to see these matchups as well, but with himself. It’s a test of ones will. “I’d love to wrestle Dave Schultz or Buvaisar Saitiev. Both have incredible skill and I would love to see how I match up against them.” Drool over that for a little while.
One of the more interesting tidbits about Kyle Dake is that he’s eliminated all blue light from his household. It’s a bit of a quirky trait but it’s actually backed by science. ” It came from the latest scientific research that proved that the frequency of light that we know as blue, has a massive impact on our hormones. The easiest impact to understand is its effects on melatonin, the sleep hormone, but it goes much deeper because all of our hormones are working together.”
Dake is not wrong. Apple introduced Night Shift on Macs in 2017 which turned down the blue light on the screen at night time to help consumers sleep. A Harvard study in 2018 backs this up as well as a host of other studies on blue and artificial light on the circadian rhythm.
Life after wrestling? More wrestling.
There comes a time in a wrestlers life where he or she cannot compete at the same level anymore. A backup plan is always needed, and Dake intends to stay within his sport after his competition days are done. “My plans right now are to wrestle and be the best father I can be. I will stay in the sport of wrestling in one way or another. But I could certainly see myself becoming a college wrestling coach.” With his pedigree, it’s hard to argue against that thought. Dake won’t have any problems finding a wrestling coach position anywhere he wants. But until then, the Olympics. Follow Kyle Dake on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook to follow his Olympic run!
Watch Kyle Dake capture his second straight World gold medal below