Tampa Bay Sports Day

From Garden to Gold, Cornell’s Four Time NCAA Champ Dake Dreams Big

Ask Cornell’s four time NCAA Champion where his MVP Award from December’s “Grapple In The Apple” college wrestling extravaganza at Madison square Garden ranks among his biggest nights and he pauses and exhales.

“It doesn’t get any bigger than being on center stage at Madison Square Garden for a venue,” he said. “It is a place where we should always find a way to highlight our best, maybe bring the NCAA’s or the nationals there. It would be great for our sport.”

What’s great for the sport of wrestling these days is Dake, who performed his own version of March Madness this past weekend in becoming the first wrestler in NCAA history to take an individual title four years in a row — at four different weight classes.

The Central New York native, who helped lead Cornell to a fifth place finish in Des Moines Iowa this past weekend, defeated Penn State’s David Taylor in the 165 pound final to take his title Saturday night.

“Winning four titles in four years in four weight classes was not something I started to do, but it has been a great ride,” he added on Monday as he returned to class in Ithaca. “It is a great stepping stone to what comes down the line, which is to not just make the Olympic team for Rio, but to win a gold medal against whoever the competition is.”

As far as how his time in The Big Apple helped set the stage for the glory of another NCAA title, Dake added that his win over Oklahoma State’s Tyler Caldwell back in December certainly was motivation. “Being in front of that size crowd in such a historic venue as MSG really helped show how big the sport can be in the US, and those are the type of things we as a sport need to do to help get more attention.”

It is a lack of attention to detail, many believe, that has wrestling currently on the outside looking in for the 2020 Olympic Games, something which the senior feels could be devastating for the future of a game which has given him everything.

“My goal is Olympic gold, that’s my dream,” he added. “Without that in 2020, the sport will suffer, so we have to work hard to make sure that the young people in the game get the opportunity to succeed at that level, an opportunity which I hope will happen for me in 2016 and beyond.”

For now, Dake plans on wrapping up his senior year at Cornell and getting an Ivy League degree which will take him way beyond the mat, once hos dreams of Olympic competition are a memory. However until that point, the NCAA recordholder will look to dream even bigger, and focus on the brightest lights of competition, not on Seventh Avenue in Manhattan, where he has already hit a high note, but in the arenas of Brazil not too far down the road.