It was billed as the Match of the Century:
Former Graham High School four-time state champ David Taylor, seeking to defend his NCAA Division I 165-pound title, and Cornell’s Kyle Dake, the only person to defeat Taylor this year and looking to make history in winning four championships at four different weight classes.
Saturday night in the finals at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines, Iowa, the daylong commercials touting the match on ESPN (which aired the finals live) came to a conclusion.
Taylor, a junior at Penn State, had an early lead but ended up falling 5-4 on riding time as Dake won his 77th consecutive match and became the third four-time national champ.
It took Taylor less than 20 seconds to get on the board, using an ankle pick for a quick takedown and a 2-0 lead. Dake came back with an escape and a late takedown to lead 3-2 after the first period. Dake added an escape in the second period to take a 4-2 lead into the final two periods.
Taylor recorded an escape and received a stalling point in the third period, but Dake had rung up over a minute of riding time to take the 5-4 win.
Taylor’s first meeting with Dake this year ended with the Cornell senior taking a controversial 3-2 decision in the finals of the early-season Southern Scuffle at the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga.
“He is driven to be the best,” Taylor’s high school coach, Jeff Jordan, said Saturday night. “He has that ‘it’ factor that separates him from others. He has an incredible work ethic and has a great understanding of wrestling.”
Jordan was getting constant updates from friends at the event and was busy trading texts with the five former Falcons at the championships.
“It was really neat,” Jordan said. “All of them still keeping in touch while they are at nationals has been really nice.”
Taylor wasn’t the lone former Falcon to earn All-American honors. Zach Neibert, Nic Brascetta and Zac Thomusseit also finished in the top eight.
Thomusseit, a senior 285 at Pittsburgh, entered the tournament as the ninth seed but finished fifth with a 3-2 win over Central Michigan’s Jared Trice in the finals. Thomusseit’s two losses were to the top seed and third seed, each by one point.
“I’m extremely happy for Zac,” Jordan said. “He is going to get his business degree and he is going out in style. He wrestled 103 for me as a freshman and is a heavyweight now and an All-American. What a great accomplishment for him.”
Brascetta entered the tournament as the eighth seed at 149 and won four in a row after dropping his second-round match to finish eighth. The Virginia Tech sophomore finished the season 36-10.
Neibert was unseeded at 141 but won three straight in the consolation, including a 4-2 sudden victory win in his placement match, to finish eighth. Neibert finished his junior campaign 24-15.
“You talk about unbelievable,” Jordan said. “Ten wrestlers who wrestled high school in Ohio were All-Americans and four of them are from Graham. That is an awesome feat for those kids.”
Another former Falcon just missed as Max Thomusseit (Pitt) advanced to the quarters before losing his next two matches to just miss placing at 184.
Troy Christian’s three-time state champ Zach Toal went 2-2 at 165 for Missouri while former Northmont standout Casey Newburg (Kent State) finished his season 33-12 after going 0-2 at 184.