“Wrestling is tough on the body, everyone gets injured, you just wrestle through it. That was the mindset for a long time.”
For Kyle Dake, representing the U.S. at the Olympics has long been a dream. A four-time NCAA Champion at Cornell, Dake could see that lofty goal within reach at the 2012 Olympic Team Trials. But a third place finish, followed by runner-up status for the U.S World team in 2013 and 2015 kept him a step or two away. And a series of maladies, notably to his hamstring, labrum, foot and shoulder, limited Dake’s effectiveness on the mat.
“It was three or four years of me looking for something that would help with nagging injuries,” he added. “I couldn’t accept that everyone feels this way because if everyone felt this way, no one would want to do sports.”
Injuries mounting, and traditional methods of healing and alleviating the pain proving unsuccessful, the Lansing, N.Y. native turned to an unlikely source—the Internet—and found a solution in a series of videos produced by a company called Functional Patterns and its founder, Naudi Aguilar. The methods seemed to click with Dake right away.
“My injury was my hamstring and my triceps, so I went on video tutorials called Myofascial Release, or MFR,” Dake told SportsMD.com in July. “I did a couple myofascial releases and then I did a few corrective exercises and the almost instantly my hamstring was back to 100%.”
So what made MFR work for Dake when other methods failed?
“MFR is basically an extended massage,” he explained. “You have fascia running all through your body, connective tissue, several different types. You have intramuscular, between each muscle fiber, and the outer muscle, which is like the casing.
“That connective tissue will get dehydrated or calcified, and won’t be able to slide smoothly,” Dake continued. “It won’t allow your muscles to move in the fashion they are supposed to. Fascial release isn’t new, but some of the concepts [Aguilar] was employing related to their company philosophy, to train the human first.”
For Dake, it was the right message at the right time, and feeling healthy meant he could focus on that elusive World and Olympic team berth. The philosophy made complete sense to the then-25-year-old.
“As a human, you are a primary walker, runner and thrower,” he noted. “Those three things are the basis, the foundation of all human movement. If you are proficient and efficient at those things, you can adapt your body to new stimuli. You can use those to figure out how to wrestle, how to box, how to play other sports.”
Though Dake was back to feeling his best, he had a huge obstacle in front of him at the 2016 Olympic Team Trials at 86kg: J’Den Cox. In the best-of-three finals, the two split the first two matches, and in the third, Cox staved off a late Dake surge to claim the spot in Rio. It was a disappointment for Dake, but he used the experience to gear up for a run at the 2020 squad, of course delayed a year by COVID-19.
But now his opponent would be an even more formidable foe, maybe the best wrestler of all time in Jordan Burroughs. Dropping to 74kg following two World titles at the non-Olympic class of 79kg, Dake defeated the 2012 gold medalist in two straight in the best-of-three to claim his spot in Tokyo.
It’s more than training that earned Dake the spot, but he continues to credit Functional Patterns and applies the lessons to his daily regimen. The key, he says, is including other muscles in the connected chains to help in healing and recovery, in the context of the walker-runner-thrower concept.
“With Functional patterns, it was proactive,” said Dake, “and that was something that was enticing to me. From massage to acupuncture to chiropractic care, I tried but couldn’t find anything that worked. Every system I could find I would go through, I couldn’t even tell you the number I went through searching for answers.”
For Dake, the commitment to the system has made the difference. By late 2015 into 2016, though he had begun, he was still doing traditional weightlifting and physical therapies that had been prescribed; he claims that though it helped he didn’t have enough time to derive all its benefits by Team Trials that spring. Now with five-plus years working with Functional Patterns, he’s seen the results come to fruition.
“When I fully committed, it just took a lot of time to undo the dysfunctions that I had developed over the decades that I had spent wrestling,” he explained. “I was doing it all based off the free material that I could get online and [Aguilar’s] book. Finally I was able to go out and train with Naudi and there was a big difference.”
One that can be seen when Dake takes to the mat in Tokyo on Thursday, August 5, at 11:30 a.m. Japan time (Wednesday, August 4, 10:30 p.m. ET). He’ll be one of the favorites among the Team USA contingent of 15 wrestlers which includes five men’s freestyle, six women’s freestyle and four men’s Greco-Roman athletes. The rounds up through the semifinals are held that first day; should he advance to the medal round, the bronze or gold match would be late morning Eastern time on Friday.