Kyle Snyder–A Buckeye World Champion

Kyle Snyder capped an amazing year for a nineteen year old redshirting sophomore from Ohio State. On September 11 he became the youngest American to win World Wrestling Gold at the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas.

Snyder came into the World Championships ranked fifteenth in the world after his shocking victories over fellow American and 2012 Olympic Gold Medalist, Jake Varner. He beat returning bronze medalist and sixth ranked Javier Cortina in New York’s “Beat the Streets” Times Square wrestling festival and then went on to win a PanAm gold.

The blind draw of the World Championships came up favorably for Snyder. His path to the finals projected to present major hurdles with Cortina and eighth ranked Radoslaw Baran of Poland, but he would avoid the horror of the top bracket which contained the first through fourth ranked wrestlers including defending champ, Russian Abdusalam Gadisov, a wrestler Kyle has followed since before Kyle became a teenager.

It could have gone worse—his first match in the blind draw put him up against a Ukranian, but not the fifth ranked Valeri Andriitsev, an Olympic silver medalist from Ukraine who did not compete at 97 kg. Snyder struggled, eking out a narrow win to advance against a game Ukrainian alternate (who, by the way, was no less than Pavlo Oliynyk, 2013 World bronze medalist–as well as in 2015).

It was the Baran match that signaled this was going to be a memorable tournament for Kyle. Seemingly rattled from the start, the Pole walked onto the wrong mat to begin the competition. Aside from an incomprehensible passivity warning issued to Snyder, Kyle went on to totally dominate the world’s number 8. The Pole clearly had no confidence in his ability to attack Snyder and continually showed a either a disorientation or a need to slow down the match to catch his breath.

When the Pole escaped the mat after an 8-0 pounding it was apparent the kid from Maryland via Ohio State was not in the least intimidated by the toughest of grown men from the toughest of places.

Next up for Snyder was Diaz Robertt of Venezuela, a man Kyle had torched 10-0 at the PanAms. Friday would be no different as Snyder pounded out an 11-1 quarterfinal win. Amazingly, this teenager had now earned the right to wrestle for medal on wrestling’s biggest non-Olympic stage: a loss in the semi’s would send him to the bronze match, a win would see him wrestling for gold.

His semi opponent would be thirteenth ranked Abbas Tahan of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Before the crowd could sit down from an introductory ovation, Snyder had scored two lightning takedowns. Tahan would cut the deficit to 4-3 but the young motor of Snyder wore out the Iranian. As Tahan registered complaints to the official from the sideline—in a thinly veiled grab for a little rest time—Snyder repeatedly motioned directly at Tahan to quit whining and return to the mat for his punishment.

"I said O-H!"  Kyle Snyder demands that his Iranian opponent return to the mat in their World Semi-Final

“I said O-H!” Kyle Snyder demands that his Iranian opponent return to the mat in their World Semi-Final

The roar of the crowd announced the historical achievement: Snyder had just become the youngest American to wrestle for World Gold.

It was also time to face the music from the loaded top bracket, from which Russian Gadisov had emerged.

Snyder pumped up the crowd as he emerged for the finals in front of a near capacity arena; if nerves were to be a problem they were not apparent before the whistle. One could excuse Kyle for a tentative start. And while the start was indeed tentative (and led to being put on the “shot clock) more likely it was Kyle’s way to both measure and tire his more experienced opponent. A step out earned by Snyder after a driving ankle attempt sent both men to their corners tied at one at the break.

First Snyder, then Gadisov, they came back to exchange takedowns. Acknowledging he knew he had been wearing down Gadisov, Snyder hit a second takedown to go up two. A couple step out points tied it at 5. Snyder’s corner contemplated challenging the last call. Though the video suggested Snyder’s foot had not entirely gone out—justifying the challenge—Snyder overruled his elders.

Owning the tiebreak with 15 seconds to go, Snyder was not about to just hand a free rest period to Gadisov. As the Russian backed the Buckeye up, the final seconds ticked off and the crowd erupted. Seconds later Snyder collapsed enshrouded in the American flag as the magnitude of the moment overtook him.

Joy and grace were in high evidence later in the interview room. The respect for his sport and humility for his achievement were apparent. But so was a confidence in where his hard work and sacrifice had taken him.

Asked how he had achieved history, his answer was simply, “my parents.” Asked if his career trajectory would make it hard for him to return to Ohio State after the Olympic Games in 2016, he said “that’s what I intend to do. If I can wrestle against the best men in the world, I think I can go to class a few days a week.” Asked what Coach Rosselli said during the championship match break, he said “it is hard for me to remember. Lou says a million things so quickly—keep doing what you’re doing, you’re wearing him out. Keep it up. But mostly I was just thinking about what I had to do.”

kyle interview

Four months ago Kyle returned to his high school to attend a prom. Today he is a World Champion in the world’s oldest and toughest sport.

The greatness of sport often has to be separated from the person at the center. All too often, the wisdom, humility and character of the person does not quite rise to the magnitude of the achievement. In young Kyle Snyder nothing could be further from the truth.

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  1. […] of sport as teenager Kyle Snyder out-thought, cajoled and man-handled seasoned champions to become Champion of the World. In April, 2016 we were in Iowa City to see Snyder hold back the last reach for glory by Jake […]

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