Kyle Dake's successful quest to become the first wrestler to win four NCAA Division I wrestling championships in four different weight classes, with his showdown with David Taylor in the 165-pound final, propelled this year's tournament to its second largest viewership numbers of the last quarter century.
The finals on Saturday night did a 0.61 rating and 860,000 viewers on ESPN. In recent years, the tournament finals have usually done between 500,000 and 600,000 viewers.
The only tournament that did a better number was in 2004, which did 878,000 viewers. That means Dake's attempt to win his fourth final did stronger ratings that the 2002 finals where Cael Sanderson went to become the first wrestler to go undefeated and win four NCAA tiles.
The rating was up 45 percent from the 0.42 rating of last year. The viewership numbers were up 55 percent from last year's 554,000.
Saturday's event, before 16,113 fans in Des Moines, Iowa, was the first time in the 86-year history of the tournament the heavyweight finals didn't go on last.
Dake, from Cornell, defeated Taylor, of team champion Penn State, by a 5-4 score in what was one of the most anticipated championship finals in tournament history. The two, although growing up in different states, had been friends since the ages of eight years old, having met at a youth wrestling tournament.