Updated Sunday with quotes from senior captain Kyle Dake and head coach Rob Koll.
As the lights go down on senior captains Kyle Dake and Steve Bosak’s time wrestling with Cornell, their stories end with a multitude of successes as made apparent by the history made this past weekend.
The seven Cornell individual wrestlers who qualified for the NCAAs — Dake, Bosak, freshman Nahshon Garrett, junior Mike Nevinger, junior Chris Villalonga, sophomore Jace Bennett and senior Stryker Lane — all traveled to Des Moines, Iowa, to compete against the best wrestlers in the country early last week.
Going into the tournament was different than ever before for the Red. Dake had won NCAA titles at 141 as a freshman, 149 as a sophomore and 157 as a junior and was looking to take his fourth title at 165 as a senior, which he ultimately did. Winning four titles in four different weight classes was an accomplishment that no other collegiate wrestler has ever done, but Dake was able to do it.
“The kid he was wrestling is arguably one of the greatest wrestlers in the sport. The reason that it was such an epic battle is not that Kyle was going for his fourth national championship; he was going against the guy that was deemed the most outstanding wrestler in any weight class last year,” head coach Rob Koll said.
Dake had a target on his back from the start. His opponent for the final round, Penn State’s David Taylor even went as far as saying in a statement before the tournament really even began that, “I believe I’m the best wrestler in the country.”
As of the quarterfinals on Thursday, of the original seven for Cornell, only Garrett, Dake and Bosak advanced to the semifinals, thanks to a 10-0 major decision for Dake; Garrett and Bosak had wins by decision to advance, with Nevinger advancing through the consolation bracket after a tough starting loss that went into overtime. In the semifinal matches though, the tides turned for the Red.
Garrett faced off against Illinois’ No. 2 Jesse Delgado. At the first whistle, Delgado went on the offense and held a 4-2 advantage over Garrett after the first period with two takedowns. Delgado added another point with an escape and added two more takedowns in the second. Delgado ended up with a 10-5 decision knocking Garrett into the consolation matches to vie for third.
“Nahshon is a constant optimist in anything he does. He is always smiling and positive. That is the kind of person that you want to surround yourself with … He is immediately one of the team favorites,” Koll said.
“It’s awesome to see Nahshon to come in as a freshman and step right up to compete on a national level and be one of the best in the nation,” Frankie Perrelli ’12 and former Cornell wrestler said. “It’s important for the team to have a young guy that does very well and can be seen as a leader even by the older guys.”
At 141 pounds, Nevinger advanced to take on Mark Ballweg of Iowa — Nevinger needed the win in the consolation bracket to become an All-American for the second time in his career. In the first period, Nevinger took down his opponent and added two back points. Neither of the two scored in the second period and in the third, Nevinger escaped from down in the third. Nevinger ended the third with 12-8 decision and advanced to the consolation semifinals after being named an All-American.
At 184 pounds, senior captain Steve Bosak faced Penn State’s No. 1 Ed Ruth in the semifinals. 12 seconds into the bout, Ruth took down Bosak but he escaped. Ruth escaped in the second. Bosak was unable to escape in the third and with 1:51 in riding time, Ruth won a 4-1 decision to knock Bosak into the consolation semifinals.
“Steve wrestled great. There was one wrestler in the weight [Ruth] that beat him but he dominated everyone. He didn’t dominate Steve, he just beat him … I honestly thought it was a travesty that Steve was seeded fourth, he should have been seeded third,” Koll said. “Had he been seeded third, he would have had the honor and opportunity to wrestle in the finals … At least he would have been able to wrestle in front of the big show. He deserved that honor.”
In the semifinals at 165 pounds, Dake and Tyler Caldwell of Oklahoma State were scoreless after the first period. Dake started the second down and escaped after eight seconds for the only points in the period. Dake pushed through the third and racked up 1:52 in riding time in the third. With riding time, Dake won a 2-0 decision to advance to his fourth NCAA finals where he faced Taylor in a grudge match.
“The beginning matches were tough. I didn’t score as many points as I wanted to. I got the job done and wrestled tough,” Dake said. “The guys had really good game plans coming into the matches to keep the match score low and that’s what they did. That’s what I had to deal with.”
In the consolation bracket Saturday morning, Garret, Bosak and Nevinger all stepped on to the mat to fight in their respective weight classes. Garrett took down the fifth seed Jarrod Garnett of Virginia Tech in a 13-9 decision in the first match of the morning to go against Alan Waters of Missouri. With a 6-1 decision, Garrett won which put him in third place for the entire tournament, securing his All-American standing and breaking a Cornell record for the most wins in a season with 43.
“The coaching staff has been talking Nahshon up since day one. … He is just a kid that gets better every single time he steps on the mat. He is a student of the sport and is extremely disciplined,” Koll said. “Good things happen to kids who work hard, and he got what he deserved. It’s a testament to his work ethic. His goal is to have people saying, ‘Kyle Who?’ You are just seeing the tip of the iceberg with Nahshon.”
At 141, Nevinger faced Hunter Steiber of Ohio State where he lost a 9-0 decision to send Nevinger to the fifth place match. He faced fifth seed Evan Henderson of North Carolina and won a 9-2 decision to come in fifth place overall for the 141 weight.
“Mike struggled throughout the year and was the eleventh seed. Nobody but the coaches expected him to place, but we did. … He lost the first match in overtime, which put him in the consolation bracket. I think he ended up wrestling eight matches and it was a tough road,” Koll said. “Mike knocked off some really talented athletes and came back to take fifth in the country, which was better than he did last year. We couldn’t be more thrilled with Mike and he still has another year.”
In his first match of Saturday, Bosak faced Maryland’s Jimmy Sheptock and won a 3-0 decision to advance.
In the second match Bosak faced the No. 2 seed, Ben Bennett of Central Michigan and Bosak ended up winning the match in a 2-0 decision. The win put Bosak in third for the 184 weight and also gave him his third All-American honor with a career record of 131-30 for the Red.
“I couldn’t be more proud of how he wrestled. He had wrist surgery earlier in the year and got a nasty staph infection that put him out for two months. He battled back into prime form and wrestled great,” Koll said. “He was a three time All-American and a National Champion. He goes down as one of our all-time greats. I love the kid and his is one of my all-time favorites, and we are going to miss him dearly next year.”
The big show on Saturday night was the culmination of Dake’s four-year career with the Red. Starting off the highly anticipated match, Taylor came out fighting and took down Dake almost immediately, but Dake responded within a point with an escape.
“Kyle was probably irritated at himself because he gave up the two but he doesn’t dwell and he focused on what he had to do to win. He quickly escaped and took him back down,” Koll said. “I want to give credit to his opponent; it was a beautiful shot.”
Dake grabbed a takedown later in the period to take the lead, 3-2. To start the second, Dake escaped for the only point of the period. Taylor chose to start the third period down and managed to escape and the score was tied, 4-4, when Dake was hit with his second stalling call. However, Dake pulled out the win, 5-4, with 1:13 in riding time.
The win at 165 pounds as a senior makes senior captain Kyle Dake the only wrestler to ever win four national titles in four weight classes and only the third to ever win four titles in their collegiate career at all.
“I was just filled with joy. All of my dreams finally came true. For the past 20 years of my life, I wanted to be a national champion. When I got to college, I wanted to become a four time national champion. To finally have it done and have my family, coaches, friends and teammates there to support me … I was just ecstatic,” Dake said.
Original Author: Haley Velasco