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The Climb Continues For Kyle Dake

Wrestling Legend Kyle Dake Is Still Chasing The Best Version Of Himself

What’s the best way to become an unprecedented four-time NCAA National Champion in four different weight classes? Only one man would know.

“I was really good at failing,” Dan Hodge Trophy winner, Kyle Dake said. “Every time I failed, whether it was a loss from a wrestling match, or I couldn’t accomplish a small goal that I set for myself in the practice room, I never got too down on myself. I dusted myself off, got back up and went back at it.”

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Despite being in the conversation for most accomplished wrestler ever, Dake feels that his accomplishments have never stemmed from superhuman wrestling genetics or a God-given ability that only he was blessed with. Regardless of what failure he may have run into the day before, he’s always been one of the hardest working athletes in the gym.

As much physical discipline as it has taken Dake over the years, he also credits his mental discipline for getting him where he is today. All the matches that some may have lost before they started were just another day at the office for the Cornell grad.

“I would say that I’m just like any other human but I’m just extremely focused on completing a task, challenging myself and dealing with adversity,” Dake said. “When I won, I just viewed it as just another wrestling match. I didn’t make it bigger than it was, and in doing so it allowed me to perform at the highest level I could possibly perform at; whereas if I made it this huge thing and got caught up in the madness of it, I feel like I probably wouldn’t have had much success”

When some people fail or lose, they can attribute it to a certain flaw or bad habit that they’ve picked up, whether mechanically or in their personal lives. Steering clear of introducing distractions and bad habits before they ever have an opportunity to derail success has always been another mindset that’s set Dake apart from others.

You can’t shove a stick in the spokes if you never stopped to pick it up to begin with.

“I talk about my priority filter. ‘Will this help me become the best version of myself, yes or no?’” Dake explains. “If it does, I do it, if it doesn’t, then I avoid it and that’s how I live my life. Some people might think it’s boring or it’s too much but for me, it’s just my life.”

Dake disregards opinions of his life being “boring” and you can’t blame him because with a Dan Hodge Trophy, world champion status, an Olympic bronze medal and an unprecedented four National Championships in four weight classes in NCAA, it’s hard to not call that exciting.

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It's been almost a decade since Dake graduated. Nobody has even attempted his collegiate feat, and while it wasn’t done for the sake of “being the first to do it” at the time, he’s now finally able to sit back and appreciate what he was able to do in his four years at Cornell.

“One of the other things that I had as a feather in the cap is that I won four NCAA titles without taking a redshirt,” Dake said. “For those who don’t know what that is, it’s like having a gap year to mature a year, get used to college, get used to that style of wrestling and then compete the following year after that when you have some experience. I was able to come out of high school and win as a true freshman and I never took a redshirt. I was a true senior after I won my fourth title.”

East coast living makes it hard to catch UFC events live for Dake but he follows the sport of MMA relatively closely and it’s hard not to notice the elite status fighters put themselves in when they reach “champ-champ” status.

The ego that might get the better of most people if they held “champ-champ-champ-champ” status as Dake did in his career is non-existent in him.

There’s been more than a few accomplishments that get compared to his. Whether he’s paid attention to them or not, mixed martial artists dominating two weight classes while he nailed down four in college is hardly the first time he’s had his body of work compared in apples to oranges hypotheticals.

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“One of the debates is between, ‘what’s harder, winning in four different weight classes, or going undefeated?’” Dake explains. “I don’t know the answer to that, honestly. I feel like if you go to four different weight classes you have to be good for four weekends but if you’re going to be undefeated then you have to be good for four years, so I’m not sure which one is harder.”

Debates in sports are one of the most fun parts about being a fan. There’s never enough valid points on the table to give a clear cut answer and it’s precisely that fact that makes them so fun.

Four titles in four weight classes, UFC double champion and a spotless record are fun to debate but, at the end of the day, statistics show that all three are nearly impossible and cause for the utmost respect.

While the statistics may say they’re impossible, Dake has always maintained hard work and discipline can make anybody successful. How bad do you want it?

“I don’t feel like I’m that special, relative to everyone else,” Dake said. “I feel like I just have that attitude of, ‘Hey, you have to humble yourself if you want to be great.’ If you get too arrogant, then you can slip up and fall and it’s a long way down. Just keep climbing and keep yourself grounded in any way.”

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