Accomplishing what no other American male has done at these 2016 Rio Olympics Games 20 year old Ohio State Junior Kyle Snyder will wrestle for gold.
Snyder overcame an early four point throw by sixth ranked Elizbar Okidaze of Georgia to earn the right to face Azerbaijani Khetag Gazyumov, ranked third in the world. Gazyumov, himself a world champ, narrowly beat Snyder in July in the German Grand Prix semifinals.
Snyder started his day with convincing wins, first 10-3 over 19th ranked Javier Cortina of Cuba, then 7 zip over Albert Saritov, the 15th ranked 2011 Silver medalist from Romania.
Those wins set up a semi encounter with Okidaze. Snyder needed a last second takedown in June to beat Okidaze by tiebreaks at the World Cup in Los Angeles.
Snyder has had to fend off upper body throw attempts all day. Finally Okidaze connected, barely exposing Snyder’s back to the mat. Snyder trailed by four at the break. But then the 20 year old motor of the Ohio Regional Training Center prodigy took over. After three successive push out points it was obvious Snyder was taking control. Before I could tweet that observtion, Snyder had accomplished the go ahead takedown. Fighting off a dangerous scramble, Snyder nearly put Okidaze on his back, walking away with nine straight points to win 9-4 in a three minute Shermanesque pillaging of the defenseless Georgian.
As was true in the 2015 World Championships, Snyder truthfully has not had to contend with the toughest of brackets, though Okidaze is obviously a serious contender. But unlike the World Championships, there is some minimal seeding in 2016, and Snyder obviously earned his top seed. In Gazyumov he faces one of only two wrestlers to beat Snyder since the 2015 World Championships. It was widely thought Anzor Boltukaev, the other victor over Snyder would advance to face Snyder in the gold medal match. However, 30 year old Boltukaev of the doping plagued Russian Federation, was upset 8-5 in the round of 16 by eighth ranked Valeri Andriitsev of Ukraine.
In Saturday’s action, Ohio Regional Training Center’s other medal contender Tervel Dlagnev gave a heroic effort but his chronically bad back stood in his way. After toying with his first two opponents and looking sharp, it was obvious he had been badly hurt in his semi-final match, giving up a quick takedown and four match ending gut wrenches. Really unable to go in the bronze match, he settled for an honorable fifth when the same fate awaited him in that bronze match.