Final X Preview: Kyle Dake vs. Zahid Valencia, 79 kg men’s freestyle

By Taylor Miller, USA Wrestling | June 11, 2018, 6:24 p.m. (ET)

Photo: Dake image by Tony Rotundo. Valencia image by Richard Immel.

Who: Kyle Dake vs. Zahid Valencia
What: Final X
Where: State College, Pa.
When: June 16
Why: Men’s freestyle World Team spot at 79 kg
Tickets: FinalX.tv

Kyle Dake
How he got to Final X:
Without a returning medalist at this weight, Dake advanced to Final X by winning the 2018 U.S. Open at the weight, defeating Alex Dieringer in the finals.

Background:
Despite having never made a freestyle World Team at any level, Kyle Dake enters Final X in State College as the favorite at 79 kg.

Dake has been No. 2 on the National Team ladder for four of the last five years, producing runner-up finishes at the World Team Trials in 2013, 2015 and 2017 at 74 kg and a second-place performance at the 2016 Olympic Team Trials at 86 kg. Dake has spent most of that time sitting behind Jordan Burroughs, a five-time World and Olympic champion who is on track to become one of the greatest American wrestlers ever.

Last year, United World Wrestling announced the two new weight classes for men’s freestyle that would go into effect in 2018. One of those weight classes was 79 kg. With the announcement, many in the wrestling world started penciling in Kyle Dake as the 79 kg representative.

Since then, Dake has shown that he is more than capable of fulfilling that role and making a huge impact at the international level. At the weight so far, he has produced a silver medal at the Ivan Yarygin Memorial, went undefeated at the 2018 World Cup, won the 2018 U.S. Open and defeated three-time World medalist Livan Lopez Azcuy of Cuba.

Dake has a great reputation as a wrestler. He was the first and only wrestler to win four NCAA Division I titles at four different weight classes. He was also the 2013 recipient of the Dan Hodge Trophy, presented to the best college wrestler of the year.

In freestyle, he has two U.S. Open titles and has claimed two other international medals in addition to his Yarygin silver. Prior to that, he made the 2008 Junior Greco World Team and represented in the World Championships in Istanbul.

Dake’s World Championship experience:
2008 Junior World Championships (Greco) in Istanbul, Turkey – did not place

Zahid Valenica
How he got to Final X:
Valencia defeated tournament favorite Alex Dieringer in the finals of the World Team Trials Challenge Tournament in Rochester, Minn., in May to advance to Final X.

Background:
Not many expected Zahid Valencia to advance to this year’s Final X. But after he put up a dominant performance over two-time National Team member and past Junior World silver medalist Dieringer at the World Team Trials Challenge Tournament, many think he could be a serious problem for Dake this weekend.

It’s been no secret that Valencia is a great wrestler. A three-time Junior World Team member, Valencia finally broke through last summer on the World stage, making it to the podium with a silver medal finish. In his other two appearances at Junior Worlds, Valencia had top-10 performances.

This is his first season on the Senior level nationally. Since he was already qualified for the World Team Trials Challenge Tournament by way of winning this year’s NCAAs, Valencia elected to not compete at the U.S. Open.

Zahid has competed internationally as a Senior-level athlete, traveling to the 2015 and 2016 Grand Prix of Spain tournament. He earned silver in 2016.

As a collegiate wrestler for Arizona State, Valencia is one of the most exciting wrestlers to watch in the NCAA with his relentless style. A rising junior, Valencia is a two-time All-American, taking third in 2017 and winning the 2018 title at 174 pounds handily over two-time Junior World champion and defending NCAA champion Mark Hall of Penn State to finished the season undefeated.

Valencia’s World Championship experience:
2015 Junior World Championships in Salvador, Brazil – TENTH
2016 Junior World Championships in Macon, France – SEVENTH
2017 Junior World Championships in Tampere, Finland - SILVER

Notes:

  • This weekend marks Dake and Valencia’s first head-to-head match.
  • The last World Team member from Arizona State was Kelsey Campbell, who made the 2011 women’s freestyle World Team. In men’s freestyle, it was Danny Felix in 2009.
  • 1960 Olympian Dave Auble is believed to be the last Cornell grad to represent the U.S. on the World level.
  • Follow Kyle Dake on Instagram and Twitter @KyleDake444
  • Follow Zahid Valencia on Instagram and Twitter @Z_Money_97

79 kg/174 lbs. MEN

Kyle Dake, Ithaca, N.Y. (Titan Mercury WC/Finger Lakes RTC)
College: Cornell University High School: Lansing, N.Y. Born: Feb. 25, 1991
• 2016 and 2018 U.S. Open champion
• Four-time NCAA champion for Cornell (2010-13)
• First to win four NCAA titles in four different weight classes
• 2016 U.S. Olympic Team Trials runner-up (2016)
• Three-time U.S. World Team Trials runner-up (2013, 2015, 2017)
• 2017 Paris International champion (France)
• 2014 Cerro Pelado International champion (Cuba)
• 2013 Dan Hodge Trophy recipient, as nation’s top college wrestler
• 2008 U.S. Junior World Team member in Greco-Roman

Zahid Valencia, Bellflower, Calif. (Sunkist Kids)
College: Arizona State High School: Bellflower, Calif. (St. John Bosco) Born: May 11, 1997
• 2018 World Team Trials Challenge Tournament champion
• Second in 2017 UWW Junior World Championships
• Seventh in 2016 UWW Junior World Championships
• Tenth at 2015 UWW Junior World Championships
• Three-time UWW Junior World Team Trials champion (2015-2017)
• Three-time UWW Junior Nationals champion (2015-2017)
• 2018 NCAA champion for Arizona State
• Third in the 2017 NCAA Championships
• Second in 2015 Grand Prix of Spain
• 2015 ASICS High School Wrestler of the Year