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It's been happening for years. Message board posters, media personalities, and wrestling fans of all sorts have been picking against Kyle Dake for nearly a decade now.
Saturday, August 17 | 2:00 PM Eastern
Dake has been losing hypothetical matchups and proving people wrong since at least he moved into the same weight class as David Taylor. So what's one more fool backing the other horse in the race?
I've tried to make this as much about Alex Dieringer as possible. It shouldn't be terribly unreasonable to pick Ringer to win, and there are more than a few people in the wrestling community, from media to coaches, making that same choice.
So let's start there, why the all-time Cowboy great can win this thing. The three-time NCAA champ has a Hodge trophy, he's been on the national team since 2016, and was a Junior world silver medalist. Those should be the credentials of someone who can a world team spot. America has certainly sent wrestlers to worlds with fewer accolades.
It's not just that Ringer has an impressive trophy case, it's that he has been completely housing people at 79kg. And yes, this is the same trap people fell into with Dake and Taylor, but it seems even more pertinent on the senior level.
Since the weight class was created, Dieringer is 33-4 overall and outscoring opponents 297-41. That means he's winning matches by an average of over seven points per match, notching 22 techs and a pin in that time.
Included in his list of victims: the European titleist (Jabrayil Hasanov), the Asian champ (Bahman Teymouri), and last year's U23 gold medalist (Nike Kentchadze). Considering he's facing the defending world champ, and last year's bronze medalists are either out with injury (Gadzhimagomedov) or up to 86kg (Shabanau), Ringer is probably the best in the world at the weight right now.
He's already emphatically avenged his losses to Zahid from last year, and we've covered that he keeps making it closer and closer with Dake. Ringer has figured out how to keep the four-time NCAA champ from getting to his offense, and trusts his own gameplan more than basically anyone in the country right now.
Coming back around to Dake, it's never fun or wise to pick against him (unless he's facing Jordan Burroughs). He'll look less impressive on paper against common opponents, and then still go out and get it done.
It seems different this time though. He's got his world title, so is he less hungry now? Seems unlikely, but it happens all too often to rule it out completely. He's got a child now, is his beautiful young daughter making him less selfish and focused on his own wrestling? Again, crazier things have happened.
Then there's the injury. He's always bounced back just fine, and has dealt with time off throughout his senior level career. But at some point, the injuries either add up or you run into someone that can take advantage of the face you've been off the mat for so long.
He certainly didn't look like a world-beater when he wrestled in Spain, his first time wrestling real matches in almost nine months. But that was 40 days out from competition, and he obviously isn't peaking for the Spanish Grand Prix. However, it was just jarring enough to give me pause.
Is Alex Dieringer as good as Kyle Dake? The data suggests otherwise, and Dake will almost assuredly be remembered before Ringer for most wrestling fans. But Saturday isn't about legacy, or their position in the history of wrestling. It's about winning two matches before the other man does.
Is it a foolish pick probably? I don't care. This is Ringer's year, and honestly, whoever wins this special wrestle-off is going to be the favorite to win gold in Kazakhstan at the world championships.
There's one final reason I'm taking Ringer. We know he's going up to 86kg as a necessity for the Olympic year, even though he's been very clear that he feels 79kg is a perfect weight for him. So he's probably very aware that this is his moment, not just from a performance standpoint, but a monetary one.
A gold medal in September means $50,000 from the Living The Dream Medal Fund. It means his performance escalators get activated in contracts with say, APS Wrestle or Titan Mercury. It means he now gets to put "world champ" on his resume for every clinic, speaking engagement, and boosts his value if he chooses to go into coaching. He can add at least six figures to his bank account this year, and who knows how much more down the road.
So mark me down as firmly in the Cowboy camp this weekend.
It takes a bold man to predict that a senior-level athlete will defeat an opponent that he holds a 4-0 lifetime record against. Some would call that courageous; others, heroic. I do not care for the inevitable approbation I will undoubtedly receive for doing so, but nonetheless, I am stating on the record that no one, including Alex Dieringer, is taking Kyle Dake's world team spot away from him.
But in all seriousness, I do commend my friend and colleague Daniel Nomad for finishing his article first and taking the somewhat contrarian position that Alex Dieringer will reverse his current losing streak and beat the defending world 79kg senior men's freestyle gold medalist in a two out of three series this weekend in Austin. I respect that take, I do, I just see too much evidence to the contrary.
But First, The Due Respect To Dieringer
Articles like this are never easy, because as the writer you lose no matter what. As a consummate and objective professional journalist, I just want to see great wrestling matches this weekend in Round Rock. I will be thrilled for whoever wins and, as a totally subjective and biased fan, will go berzerk rooting for them to win gold in Kazakhstan.
And there is a lot of reasons to pick Dieringer! As young Danny Nomes mentioned, Ringer has been housing people lately, he's been getting closer and closer to Dake every time they wrestle, and Alex Dieringer is by all available accounts an excellent person and wrestler.
I won't lie: I find the position staked out by Daniel Nomed to be very persuasive!
But no matter how many times I consider the matchup, I always ultimately arrive at the same conclusion: that the 79kg spot on Team USA belongs to Kyle Dake, and he's not going to let anyone take it away from him. Below, I will explain why I feel this way.
Dake's Incredible Track Record
Dake is perhaps most famous for his one-sided rivalry with David Taylor, a man who is also a world champion and all-around ultimate badass. To be 8-0 (or thereabouts, please correct if the fruits of my cursory research are inaccurate), over a guy who just blitzed his way through a stacked weight class in Budapest is one of the most impressive American feats of the day.
The Magic Man wasn't just a one-tournament wonder; his hit list is one of the best of any domestic senior athletic. That article needs to be updated (which I'm sure it soon will be), but the point is still made.
Now throw in the fact that Dake has beaten three other world champs in Jordan Burroughs, J'den Cox, and Denis Tsargush? You can just read his hit list to get the complete picture, but I'll post the videos below, just to give everyone the opportunity to see why it should have been no surprise to know that Dake outscored his opponents 37-0 in Budapest.
Dake over Tsargush! (I can't find this online anymore but it happened at the 2013 Golden Grand Prix in Baku, Azerbaijan.)
Dake over Cox!!
Dake over Burroughs!!!
Dake's Unreal Skillset
This one is tougher to explain since I am not a technician and have a much tougher time breaking down the minutiae than, say, our own Monstupolous Mike Mal, but I am confident Kyle Dake is the most adaptable wrestler I have ever witnessed.
Just when you think you have his style pegged, Dake shows up with a new bag of tricks. I distinctly remember a time when you could read chatter on the internet about how Dake's whole deal is to just sit back on all fours and stall his way through matches. Yet in hindsight, I would contend that "style" to be merely a temporary tactic deployed in an effort to figure out a way past his nemesis Jordan Burroughs. And when the main obstacle to your primary goal is Jordan freaking Burroughs, as I say keep all options on the table, including wrestling ugly.
The best evidence I have to Dake being a multi-talented human Swiss-Army Knife of wrestling moves is A) his matches — I mean just watch them, it will be easier than me trying to describe his versatility — and B) how proficient he is in all styles.
Dake is one of the all-time greatest folkstyle wrestlers in history. He mastered the rideout, the mat return, and every other nuance endemic to the American style. He also summited the peak of freestyle, winning world gold by suplexing elite talent, a technique that's not even legal in folkstyle. Dake's destruction of Gadzhimagomedov via back arches and crotch lifts in the semis of Budapest was particularly satisfying to watch.
In fact, let's all enjoy Dake overcoming a nasty and deliberate headbutt to humble Gadzhimagomedov in front of a raucous Hungarian crowd right now:
Anyway, I can't adequately describe all the ways Kyle Dake is really good at wrestling. I just know that if you try to pigeonhole Dake's style into one category or another, I will be able to produce high-level match evidence that Dake can in fact wrestle in a completely opposite manner.
Kyle Dake Will Not Be Denied
It's safe to call anyone who reaches Final X a tremendous competitor. The amount of sacrifice and dedication it takes to reach the pinnacle of wrestling achievement does not come easy. Alex Dieringer is one of the most competitive people on the planet, and I'm certain any discussion you have with him on his prospects of winning not only FInal X, but a world title in Nur-Sultan, will leave you brimming with confidence.
So it is not blithely that I say Kyle Dake's will to win may very well be the difference-maker in this matchup.
Dake has been proving doubters wrong since his freshman year of college, and he hasn't stopped since graduating, either. The number of fantasy matchups Kyle Dake has lost is the stuff of message board lore. But Dake keeps proving everyone wrong, all while battling injuries throughout his senior career, and only being denied additional shots at world and Olympic medals by two living legends in Jordan Burroughs and J'den Cox.
Then there was that time Dake wrestled Julfalakyan in Greco in Madison Square Garden. So that happened.
The point is Dake has believed in his ability to beat the best for a long time, and he's backed it up with results.
There are always caveats to prognostication, such as Dake's most recent injury, which led to the delay in this final Final X match. But I don't think Dake would be wrestling this series if he wasn't ready to win another world gold medal. And that's what I will be predicting him to do, assuming my Final X prediction pans out.
I also hear that Dake is pretty good at Settlers of Catan, so that's one more point in his favor.