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Kyle Dake can complete his wrestling story at Paris Olympics

When Kyle Dake moved into his freshman dorm at Cornell in 2009, he found a little red notebook that his mom, Jodi, had left for him.

On the first pages, Jodi wrote a letter to her oldest child, encouraging him to chase greatness.

“It said all these things about me being a national champ and achieving my goals and becoming a graduate,” Dake said years later, “and becoming an Olympic champion.”

Every day as a Cornell student, Dake wrote in the notebook his goal for that season, repeating like Bart Simpson on a chalkboard: become NCAA champion. He usually wrote it more than once a day. Sports Illustrated counted — 2,978 times total.

Dake always met the goal. He became the first (and still only) man to win an NCAA wrestling title in four different weight classes. Dake also did it without taking a redshirt year, finishing his feat in 2013.

Dake has spent the last 11 years pursuing that next goal of winning an Olympic gold medal.

He can complete the task in Paris on Aug. 10 — exactly 12 years after Dake was in the arena crowd in London on the day Jordan Burroughs won gold in the same 74kg division.

Dake, then 21, was at the 2012 Olympics as a training partner for Jake Herbert.

Now age 33, he can become the oldest American to win an Olympic wrestling title.

“Regardless of what happens (in Paris),” said filmmaker Greg Accetta, “his life doesn’t accumulate down to a one-day tournament.”

Accetta, who wrestled at New York University, began following Dake with cameras for that senior year at Cornell and produced a documentary — Four for Fouron the unprecedented NCAA run.

Accetta continued shadowing Dake for much of the last 11 years for another film he plans to finish shooting this summer.

He was there for Dake’s early lows — loss after loss to Burroughs and a 2016 Olympic Trials defeat to J’den Cox surrounded by foot, shoulder and knee surgeries.

The highs: In 2018, Dake made his first world championships team at age 27. He steamrolled through the tournament, becoming the first U.S. man to win an Olympic or world title without surrendering a point in at least 30 years.

Dake finally dethroned Burroughs at the Olympic Trials in 2021.

Then at the Tokyo Games, he lost in the quarterfinals while nursing a physical ailment he declined at the time to divulge. The next day, he rebounded through the repechage bracket to earn bronze.

“I feel like I’m on a really strong trajectory to complete my journey, my story,” Dake told Flowrestling afterward. “Obviously, nothing is perfect. If it was, then I would have won the gold medal.”

Dake earned his third and fourth world titles in 2021 and 2022. He took silver at the 2023 Worlds with a loss to Tokyo Olympic gold medalist Zaurbek Sidakov from Russia in the final. Due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Sidakov will only be able to compete in the Paris Olympics as an independent neutral athlete if cleared by an eligibility panel made up of three IOC members.

On April 11, Dake’s father, Doug, died at age 62 after a weekslong health struggle. Doug, an All-American at Kent State, introduced Kyle to wrestling and coached him in high school.

Dake wrestled at the Olympic Trials nine days after his father’s death and made his second Olympic team.

“It’s the first time that I had to do this without him,” a tearful Dake said. “I just really miss him and wish he was here. I wanted to do him proud, and it’s hard to find the words to say how much he means to me.”

Dake continued, saying his wrestling journey was a shared one with his grandfather, Bob, a longtime wrestling coach who died in 2010, and his dad.

“I’m still carrying the torch,” he said, “and giving myself another chance to go out and try to win that Olympic gold medal.”