photo courtesy of Jim Thrall; MatFocus.com
One of the most anticipated matchups of the Final X Rutgers card was supposed to pit defending world champion Kyle Dake against long-time nemesis Alex Dieringer for a spot on the 2019 world team at 79 kg. However, on June 4th, Kyle Dake pulled out of the competition and requested a special wrestle-off due to an existing injury. Dake had not competed since the 2018 World Championships in late October. Kyle’s world medal gave him the luxury of rescheduling the matches. After much anticipation and speculation, the wrestle-off was agreed upon to take place on Saturday, August 17th, at Round Rock High School, just outside of Austin, Texas. Like the other Final X/World Team Trials matches, this will be conducted in a best-of-three format.
Kyle Dake: Dake is coming off an incredibly dominant performance where he earned a world title without surrendering a single point. In 2018, Dake only lost one bout, at the Ivan Yarygin to Akhmed Gadzhimagomedov (Russia). He would later avenge that loss in the world semifinals by teching Gadzhimagomedov 13-0. Because of Jordan Burroughs at 74 kg and J’Den Cox at 86 kg, Kyle had been blocked from making a World/Olympic team since his collegiate career concluded in 2013. With the expansion of the weight classes at the world level before 2018, 79 kg was created, which has proven to be a perfect spot for Kyle. Dake earned his spot on last year’s team by going through Zahid Valencia during Final X State College. Of course, Kyle has one of the most unique careers in the history of college wrestling. His four NCAA titles at four different weights is a record that is difficult to fathom ever being broken. He also is the only four-time NCAA champion that never redshirted or came from outside of the Big Ten/12. After Dake capped his NCAA career with a win in the national finals over David Taylor, he was awarded the 2013 Hodge Trophy.
Alex Dieringer: Alex Dieringer is on perhaps the best streak of his international career, to date. Dieringer was expected to meet up with Dake last year in Final X; however, he was upset by Arizona State’s Zahid Valencia. A possible injury is rumored to have slowed him down at the time and it seems like that was a real possibility since Dieringer dominated Valencia in the finals of the 2019 World Team Trials. Not only has Alex has success domestically, but he has also crushed the rest of the world, as well. In 2019 Dieringer has won the Dan Kolov/Nikola Petrov Tournament, the Yasar Dogu, and was third at the Yarygin. Along the way, he has defeated U23 World gold medalist Nika Kentchadze (Georgia), U23 World silver medalist Akhsarbek Gulaev (Slovakia), and Asian champion Bahman Teymouri (Iran). Like Dake, Dieringer was a Hodge Trophy winner following his senior year at Oklahoma State. Dieringer was a three-time NCAA Champion that was undefeated his final two years of college and only lost once after his freshman season.
Here’s Takedown TV’s Breakdown of the Dake/Dieringer match
Keys to Victory
Dake: The biggest key for Dake is his health. While he may not be injured, Kyle needed to be at the top of his game to handle three matches with a hungry Dieringer. Kyle has competed once since the announcement that he pulled out of Final X Rutgers. While Dake was victorious at the Grand Prix of Spain, he didn’t look like he was in peak form, either. When he’s at his best, Kyle can completely shut down his opponents, even one that is as dangerous offensively as Dieringer. He has an uncanny knack for being able to take away his opponents best offensive weapons. As his freestyle career has developed, Dake has been better known for hitting big moves and racking up four and sometimes even five-point throws. In a series that seems like a toss-up having a four-point move to separate himself from Dieringer, or even to gain criteria is invaluable. One of those intangible factors that Kyle possesses is always coming into a match with a chip on his shoulder. There’s the running joke that Dake is 0-for his lifetime in hypothetical matches against the likes of David Taylor, Jordan Burroughs, and many others. Dake can bottle that small bit of disrespect and use it as a positive motivator during his battles.
Dieringer: Momentum is a funny thing in sports. Some believe in it, while others think it’s hogwash. If you do value such things, Alex Dieringer comes into the series with plenty of momentum. Aside from the Russian who defeated Dake at the 2018 Dogu, Dieringer is the one that has given Dake his closest match in the last year and a half (a one-point loss at the 2018 Open). The two haven’t met since then, but Alex has thrashed most everyone else in his path. There’s also the mental warfare that has been going on between these two and their camps. It was a smart decision by Dake’s crew to wait until the last second before pulling out of Final X. That likely disrupted Alex’s training schedule. Of course, if you want to spin it towards Dieringer, his coaches are probably telling him that Dake is scared and looking for any edge he can get. While Dake may be trying to shake off the rust still on Saturday, Dieringer has been competing regularly (at least for the Senior level) and has to be closer to top form. That will be huge in a series that is likely to go three matches. Dieringer also has the hunger. He has been near the top of the domestic ladder for years but has not gotten over the hump to make a world team. It sounds fundamental but you have to be able to score on Dake to win (not many can). Alex has proven that he can put up points against Dake at his best, so why not on Saturday?
Pick: Alex Dieringer in three matches