Ohio State Missouri Wrestling Delivers in Surprising Ways

Kyle Snyder just turned 21. He also just cashed a $250,000 check for winning an Olympic gold medal. So it was kind of hysterical when the Buckeye sophomore recently tweeted: “Mark my words. The first year I have my own house I will have the world’s greatest Christmas lights show. People will travel miles to see.”

The symbolism is not lost on wrestling fans who travel miles to see Kyle light up opponents. As he usually does, and as he did Thursday night with a thunderous pin to end a big Ohio State 30-9 win over fifth ranked Missouri. Often, in a match like this, the fun is over long before the heavyweight match and only a few stragglers would remain. But, now, everyone stays to see the Snyder light display, and leave well pleased with themselves for having done so.
Despite the hype of the match-up involving two Olympians—a college wrestling first—and the fourth and fifth ranked teams, the story that could have prevailed might have been simply injuries. Ohio State has lost its new star, Ke-Shawn Hayes for the year. And Missouri rolled into town looking more like wards of a mobile army hospital. Ranked starters at 125, 149 and 184 did not take the mat.

But out of nowhere, the story really became one, not so much about the winning, but the lessons in the failing to win.

Before Snyder hit the mat, Missouri’s J’Den Cox, he of two NCAA championships and an Olympic bronze went into his 197 lb match against Buckeye freshman Kollin Moore. The two had never met before. While Cox respected Moore’s rapid rise following a summer in which Moore represented the US at the Junior World Championship, he had no reason to think Moore would pose more than a speed bump.

On the other hand, when Moore hit a deep double leg within the first 10 seconds, only to see Cox fight to athletically spin out of grasp, Moore must have wondered how far in over his head he had waded. A Cox takedown, a dominant ride and a later escape had him with a 4-0 virtual lead. With the domination total and the lead safe, the match was coming to a non-climactic end when Cox hit what looked like a sure takedown of his beleaguered younger opponent. But suddenly there was Moore, holding the magic, avoiding the takedown and sitting out to a neutral position. And there was Moore again, instantly seizing a single leg on Cox who was staving off a takedown only because of a gymnast quality front and back leg split.

Giving up on reeling the front leg in, Moore came over the top and got just behind a rising Cox to score a takedown on the mat’s end. Moore then threw a thunderbolt of an extended inside trip to take the great Cox down a second time. But for riding time, the score would have been tied. While there was still time for an escape and a takedown—that is to say, a third in 80 seconds—that was just too much to ask against one of the best wrestlers on the planet.

For the first time in Ohio State history, the meet ending “Russ Hellickson Award” for toughest OSU wrestler at a home meet went to one who failed to win.

But on a night when winning seemed as if it would be destined to be the theme, this was only the last time a non-winner would stand tall. Bo Jordan is a two time third place NCAA finisher. Wrestling for the first time in a varsity match this year, Bo was doing at 174 what he did at 165 last —overpowering and exhausting opponents to the point where they just want the match to end, no matter how.

As Bo had done repeatedly in the match, he stalked freshman Dylan Wisman knowing that when Wisman could back up no further, Jordan would snatch a leg and start inflicting punishment. Except Wisman, unlike so many before him, wasn’t playing along. He snatched a single of his own to score a third period takedown and then had the impudence to turn right around and nearly do it again. We get so used to wrestlers giving up under such dominance—it was a beautiful thing to watch the fearless respect for the sport disrupt what seemed to be the destiny of the match.

And that was not the first time. Buckeye sophomore Cody Burcher had no right, on paper, to be competitive with Daniel Lewis at 165 pounds. Unflappable and methodic, it was Lewis who had extended Bo Jordan in the 2016 NCAA third place match at Madison Square Garden, losing 9-7.

But it is clear that Burcher, up two weight classes from 2016 is a greatly improved wrestler, as his 12-4 record might attest. Although he trailed 5-1 late in the match, the difference had not been great, and in the final thirty seconds he pushed with determination, nearly pulling off a dramatic takedown. Again, it is the pride and respect for the sport that showed up beautifully in an effort that did not result in a win.

What else did we learn? That even a weight up, Ohio State 133 pound Nathan Tomasello is one of the most relentless, forward charging wrestlers in college wrestling. He faced freshman Jaydin Eierman, a 5-0 lanky, volume scorer with a fierce reputation preceding him. Off the mat, Tomassello is as kind and thoughtful as anyone you’d meet. But somewhere he learned to summon what he calls anger when he wrestles. Which has been known to cost him and could have cost him against Eierman.

Before Nathan converted a couple of his beautiful spinning left handed high crotch takedowns, he had a moment off the mat that caused the arena to erupt. Extending to lift his opponent, Tomasello left the circle. Before he could hear the whistle he had lifted his opponent shoulder high. Upon realizing action had been stopped, he simply dropped Eierman, whereupon coaches lost their minds, grown adults raced across mats and partisans of both sides weighed in to the loudest extent their well-fed voices would permit them. The refs shrugged it off as a drop—and not an unsafe return to the mat. But Eierman ceased to be competitive from that moment on as Tomasello coasted to back points and a major win.

While we did not get the delicious match-up at 149 between Micah Jordan and Mizzou’s Lavion Mayes, we were treated to Jordan’s impressive repertoire and skills. We saw multiple shucks, duck unders, cradles, body control and athleticism. The increase in weight class seems to bode well for Jordan.

We also did not get to see Willie Miklus and Myles Martin go at 184. Miklus looked to have suffered a serious leg injury a few weeks back, and thus was unable to go against Martin, Ohio State’s NCAA champ at 174 last year (Martin won by second period technical fall). Jose Rodriguez continued his hot start with a close decision over Brecksville Ohio native, Missouri’s Aaron Asaad.

We also saw a game Luke Pletcher pull a redshirt and dive into his baptism a year early as Buckeye Hayes’ replacement. A highly ranked recruit Pletcher is very compact, and as such he will be vulnerable to cradles from lankier wrestlers such as the very talented Zach Synon. Synon’s strategy to use his leverage was visibly obvious. Yet young Pletcher narrowly won by keeping his head to fight off Synon’s determined spyderly attempts to wrap his prey.

We also got to see a very talented Joey Lavallee easily dispatch with Buckeye Jake Ryan at 157. Lavallee is undefeated in this year. Slick and quick, he started as a bit of a surprise, hidden behind a decent enough redshirt the previous season. So far the lesson seems to be he is not a guy overlooked any longer.

When you talk to the very best wrestlers, they routinely express no fear of losing. To them, “train your hardest, give your best, let the chips fall where they may. Don’t worry about the stress you put on another, learn from the stress you can put yourself under. Learn from failure. Advance from it.” So while the night was not all it could have promised, for the fan, it was a night full of revelations and was a testament to the sport and those who respect it.

Missouri Visits Ohio State Wrestling Tonight in Historic Meet

Tonight at 7 EST, Ohio State junior Kyle Snyder makes his first appearance on the Ohio State campus since becoming the youngest American to win Olympic wrestling gold. A few weeks ago Snyder also became the first collegian to even wrestle as an Olympic champion.

Needless to say then, tonight’s match will be another first–as two Olympic medalists wrestle when the Missouri Tigers bring Olympic bronze medalist J’Den Cox to town.

Not that they will face off against each other. Although old rivals, the two last met in the 2015 NCAA semi-finals when Snyder beat Cox, the defending national champ. Since that time, Snyder has moved up from 197 to 285 pounds where he captured an NCAA title in a thrilling finale at Madison Square Garden.

(Perhaps I should not be so hasty. Two years ago, Missouri had Cox wrestle at 285 in an attempt to steal a few precious points, which they did, permitting Missouri to win the meet by tie breakers. If Coach Smith calculates such hi-jinx could make a difference again, it is possible we could see yet another 285 epic rafter raising matchup).

While Snyder is unlikely to be pushed in his match tonight, Cox will face Buckeye freshman Kollin Moore. Moore won a berth on the US Junior World Team this past summer. While it would be a giant upset for the sixth ranked Moore to prevail, the match sets up yet another interesting battle between Cox and a Buckeye. Cox avoided a would be match winning takedown by micro-seconds to win his 2014 NCAA title against Buckeye Nick Heflin.

Although both squads have been beset with injuries, the talent that these fourth (Ohio State) and fifth ranked teams will present is enormous. At 141 pounds the Buckeyes lost freshman sensation Ke-Shawn Hayes to season-ending injury. Once again Coach Tom Ryan goes to his deep well to pull a redshirt for Ke-Shawn’s replacement–Luke Pletcher, a three time Pennsylvania state champ and the sixth ranked overall recruit.

At 125, it is possible fourth ranked Barlow McGhee could make his season debut against a surprise breakout freshman, Buckeye Jose Rodriguez. Boasting a 9-2 record, Rodriguez raced to a runner up finish at the Cliff Keen in Las Vegas, losing on a last second take down to second ranked Joey Dance of Virginia Tech. If McGhee does not go, Rodriguez will face Aaron Assad who returns to the state where he won a high school title and placed all four years.

At 133, Buckeye Nathan Tomasello (a 2014 125 pound national champ) will likely go against ninth ranked Jaydin Eierman in an intriguing match. At 5-0 this year, Eierman is a dangerous volume scorer perfectly capable of giving the Tomasello all he can handle at his new weight.

The match of the night however could be at 149 where fifth ranked Micah Jordan may battle Missouri’s fourth ranked Lavion Mayes. This presumes Mayes can go after being dinged up at Northern Iowa over the Consistent with weekend.

Unfortunately fans won’t be able to see Buckeye national champ (at 174) Myles Martin go against ninth ranked Willie Miklus at 184. Continuing the ominous theme, Miklus suffered a leg injury a few weeks ago that may see him miss extended time.

Two time third place NCAA finisher, Buckeye Bo Jordan moves up a class this year to go at 174. Jake Ryan and Cody Burcher go against tough opposition in sixth ranked Joey Lavallee (157) and fourth ranked Daniel Lewis (who at 165 lost a close match to Bo Jordan last year in the NCAA third place match).

Ryan is off to a slow start while Burcher, the pride of Gnadenhutten, Ohio, has opened many eyes with a 12-3 start. This is especially gratifying given that Burcher wanted to transfer last year for lack of perceived opportunity, a request Ryan wisely–for both parties–quashed. Regardless of records, both Ryan and Burcher are capable of extending matches to the point where anything can happen.

It’s going to be fun, in a meet dripping with National Duals implications, for two teams who very much value their seeding in that event. If you cannot make it live, tune into BTN at 7 sharp.

Oh, and let’s not forget–perennial US Olympic strongman Tervel Dlagnev will be on the sidelines as Ohio State’s newest assistant coach.

In case you didn’t know. The Stieber brothers are on the move. Hunter followed former Buckeye assistant Lou Rosselli to Oklahoma. After becoming head coach for the Sooners, Rosselli named Hunter an assistant. And brother Logan competes for gold this Saturday as the 61kg representative of the US National Team in Budapest, Hungary.

Buckeyes Have Sooner Fans Thinking Super Bowl

Oklahoma Sooner fans went to bed last night thinking the “what if” game so well known to Browns fans. Every week since before the Roman Empire, Browns fans have, win by win, imagined their team in the Super Bowl if only a handful of things went in the opposite direction.

Last Sunday in Philadelphia, a tipped interception instead falls harmlessly to earth, Robert Griffin performs like a normal quarterback and hits a wide open Andrew Hawkins for a touchdown and Cam Erving actually takes a peak back at his quarterback instead of flipping an exchange into the Schuylkill.

Elimination of some small bad luck and fixing the fixable and voila, no need to go for a touchdown conceding first down late in the game. Browns win! Week after week, two or three changes.

Browns in payoffs! Super Bowl baby!

Just as they did a few weeks ago, Sooner fans stared at the ceiling all night. More than a few had to ponder a simple change in fortune. And only on fourth down. Is that asking too much?

By the middle of the first quarter, with no score on the board, the Sooners at least were winning the momentum battle. They drove right down the field deep into Ohio State territory. A doink on a chip field goal attempt was offset by a stern defensive effort which had stopped the Buckeyes once and had them fourth and three from long field goal range.

Urban Meyer, who believes anything inside the 50 yard line is potential four down territory, called a time out. As the Buckeyes lined up, Curtis Samuel went in motion from the left, but stopped to line up right, next to JT Barrett in a three backfield set. Motion by tight end Marcus Baugh to set a left edge failed to tip off the defense. The resulting 36 yard Samuel scamper turned a potential defensive stop into a Buckeye opening touchdown.

After the ensuing kickoff the Sooners were driving again behind the slicing power running of Joe Mixon. But at the Buckeye 33 the Sooners found themselves facing a fourth and three. Against just a basic Ohio State defense, no problem for the talents of the other-worldly Baker Mayfield, right? Unfortunately, a deflection of Mayfield’s pass to the right by a blitzing Jalyn Holmes landed softly into the hands of Buckeye Jerome Baker who steamed 68 yards for the pick six. The Buckeyes’ fourth of the year.

Two Sooner fails on fourth down, two Buckeye touchdowns. Fourteen points.

After a 35 point first half Buckeye explosion—the worst ever surrendered to a visitor to Norman—the Sooners had managed to maintain a halftime deficit of eighteen and were approaching midfield in the fourth quarter. On cecond down, Mayfield went deep but Marshon Lattimore had the call measured all the way. Acting more as receiver than defender he completed what was ruled a diving interception inside the Buckeye ten yard line.

Unfortunately, the glee in Norman when the interception was disallowed on review soon turned to gloom. After a third down conversion fail, the futility of fourth down once again faced the Sooners. A Mayfield sack in his own territory advanced Buckeye field position by over 50 yards from where the Lattimore interception would have had them. The Buckeyes could only convert the windfall into a field goal, but the momentum had been stopped, the game effectively won.

An additional fourth down failure was to come, but the first three, had they merely gone the other way, could have very possibly have put the Sooners up by four—in the world of Browns’ fans.

Of course this ignores the fact that the Buckeyes took their foot off the pedal on offense in the second half, it ignores a potential Buckeye response, and it ignores that better teams perform on things like fourth down and weaker teams don’t.

But a win of the mind is a win nonetheless.

Just ask any fan of the perennial Super Bowl Champ Browns.

Kyle Snyder: Olympic Champion

In September, 2015, Steve Snyder was pensive as he headed to a celebratory dinner with family. Still a little stunned by what his 19 year old son had just accomplished, he could not help but fret for the future.

As a newly crowned World Wrestling Champion in Las Vegas, Kyle Snyder now faced the pressure that comes with a title in a year long run up to the Olympics, and dad Steve knew it. With more dread than joy in his voice, Steve concluded, “we all have to process what this is about.”

Kyle Snyder.  Courtesy, wrestlingisbest.com

Kyle Snyder. Courtesy, wrestlingisbest.com

The year that followed was eventful: a convincing loss to menacing Russian Anzor Boltukaev in January preceded a joyous NCAA triumph in Madison Square Garden. Then a comeback win against reigning Olympic champ Jake Varner in the Olympic Trials preceded a close loss in Germany to Khetag Gazyumov, the man Snyder has just vanquished in the biggest match of Snyder’s young life.

2-1.

In becoming the youngest Olympic champ in American history (besting Henry Cejudo by a few months), Snyder showed the same things that has propelled his success: the ability to experiment and learn from defeat, the ability to out process an opponent’s thinking in the heat of battle and a motor that just never stops as those of opponents sputter.

The bout with Gazyumov was tense, power packed and strategic. No takedown was earned, yet Snyder struck when he could, resulting in a first point pushout, and backed out of danger when the single leg was not there. Kyle took heed of a warning, avoided the shot clock and earned the Olympic winner by putting his opponent on the clock.

The action was furious and maddening as the seconds ticked away. Everyone panicked except a 20 year old from Woodbine, MD.

It has been a wild year for Kyle Snyder–the highs were epically high. The lows were few and far between, almost like whispers of doubt and dread. But while they caused anxiety among critics and those close to Kyle, the champ himself never let them factor into his focus on the mission.

Steve, the wait and weight are done and gone. Rest easy. Lightly lies the crown.

Buckeye Kyle Snyder Wrestles for Gold

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.

Kyle Snyder.  Photo by Josephine Gartrell

Kyle Snyder. Photo by Josephine Gartrell

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.

Imposing Khetag Gazyumov of Azerbaijan awaits Kyle Snyder in the Olympic Gold medal match.  Courtesy, Gettyimages

Imposing Khetag Gazyumov of Azerbaijan awaits Kyle Snyder in the Olympic Gold medal match. Courtesy, Gettyimages

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.

On Deck for Olympic Wrestling: Ohio

From a big picture perspective, American wrestling got a huge boost from an unlikely source. Helen Maroulis of Maryland not only became the first American woman to win a gold in Olympic wrestling, she did so by beating 13 consecutive world champion and Japanese flag bearer in the 2012 London games, Saori Yoshida. Although Yoshida is 33 years old, few thought she was susceptible of not winning gold in Rio.

Women’s success in wrestling is certainly a shot in the arm at so many levels including the new found publicity, advancing the perception and continuing to give growth to women’s collegiate wrestling, which in the end can only help the men’s game.

But in the moment, the Rio games so far have been a vast disappointment. Not much was expected from the American Greco team, and indeed, not much was delivered. The team was shut out from a medal perspective.

But freestyle was a different story. While Daniel Dennis was not perceived as a threat to win gold, his story is compelling and he certainly had a shot at a medal. Dennis is a man with a winning gut wrench–just ask Tony Ramos. However, in not much more more than a minute into his opening match with Dubov of Bulgaria, he was taken down and quickly turned four times for the loss on technical superiority. When Dubov squandered a four point lead in the semis, it appears 28 year old Dennis’ Olympic career is done.

More shocking however was the failure to medal for defending Olympic and world champion Jordan Burroughs. Burroughs perhaps spent more time getting blood cleaned from his head than wrestling, but whatever the cause, he started slowly. A first period shot clock point was the difference in a 3-2 loss to Aniuar Geduev of Russia.

The crazy random seeding of the Olympics (it is my understanding a computer generated random bracket number is given to each wrestler as they weigh in) had No. 1 Burroughs going against No. 2 Geduev. When Geduev overcame his own 4-0 deficit to win 5-4 in his semi match, medal hopes were high for Burroughs. However, he was completely dominated in his repechage match, losing by technical superiority.

Hope is not lost. Missouri senior J’Den Cox has done extremely well on the international circuit since his surprise win at the Olympic Trials–he went out and qualified the class by himself. Where the blind draw may have hurt Burroughs, on paper it lines up very favorably for Cox. I would not be surprised to see him standing on a podium tomorrow night.

But now is time for the Ohio Regional Training Center to flex. Also up tomorrow is long-time American heavy strong man, Tervel Dlagnev. Dlagnev, who will become an Ohio State assistant coach once the Olympics end, has sat out of international competition much of the last two years so as to not reinjure a troublesome back.

Indeed, in the most recent eight nation World Cup in Los Angeles, the US placed second to Iran by tie-breakers. While Jake Varner did a valiant job wrestling up at heavyweight, the US certainly could have benefited from a healthy Tervel.

Dlagnev’s absence has him ranked a mere 14th in the latest UWW rankings, but that is likely very misleading. A two time world bronze medalist, Dlagnev is fully capable of medaling in Rio.

That being said, Dlagnev’s draw is brutal. He likely will open with the reigning world silver medalist. If he could forge his way to a win, he would face the survivor of a bracket of death which contains the No. 1 and 2 ranked wrestlers in the world and a 2014 silver medalist.

The task ahead is brutally difficult for Dlagnev but he is fully capable of the surprise.

Saturday will be an interesting day. My calendar says Sunday is the following day, and that is when the second half of the Ohio Regional Training Center dynamic duo, Kyle Snyder, takes the stage.

How Heavy Lies the Crown?

If Kyle Snyder’s collegiate wrestling career to date could be summed up as dramatic, his international career has been astounding. For the five or six years preceding 2015, the 96/97kg weight class had been dominated by former Buckeye JD Bergman and 2012 Olympic gold medalist Jake Varner from Bakersfield, CA.

Kyle Snyder vs. Jake Varner, 2016 US Trials.  Photo by Josephine Gartrell

Kyle Snyder vs. Jake Varner, 2016 US Trials. Photo by Josephine Gartrell

Ohio State fans were spared the agonizing choice of having to witness a Snyder/Bergman match. In more recent bouts it has been Varner reversing most past results to best Bergman, and then Snyder taking it to Varner, as he did in the 2015 US Open, 2015 US Team Trials and 2016 Olympic Trials.

Of course, sandwiched between the 2015 and 2016 Trials was Snyder’s epic win at the 2015 World Championships in Las Vegas. Snyder was a bit lucky in the sense that his trip to the finals included matches against challenging opponents who nonetheless paled in comparison to the resumes of the wrestlers in the opposite bracket.

Still, in the semifinals Snyder opposed veteran Abbas Tahan of Iran. With a narrow lead at the end of the match, the American teenager stood at the center and aggressively motioned to a complaining Tahan to stop stalling and return to the mat. Weak bracket or not, the win propelled Snyder to an incomparable trip to the finals against perennial strong man Abdusalam Gadisov of Russia.

Kyle Snyder, currently ranked 4th in the world by United World Wrestling, has several things going for him, including confidence, a constant devotion to the mental aspects of his craft and an unmatched work ethic. But, when combined with those attributes, the thing that makes him a world force is his 20 year old motor, something that was in clear evidence against Varner in their many matches, and against Tahan and Gadisov in that remarkable day in Las Vegas in 2015.

Patented ankle picks staked Snyder to a late lead against Gadisov. Not wishing to get caught in a tragic mistake (as happened to him in the 2015 NCAA finals) and owning the tie break, Snyder simply played it tough from a defensive standpoint to avoid a takedown which would reverse the desired result. When a late, perhaps phantom, pushout brought the score to even at 5, Snyder’s corner wanted to contest the call. Showing poise and mental strength in the heat of battle, Snyder declined to challenge. Knowing he had the older Gadisov on the ropes, Snyder did not want to offer a vital rest recovery despite the fact he might gain a point back.

Courtesy, bloodyelbow.com

Courtesy, bloodyelbow.com

Few scenes in sport can match what was about to happen when Snyder victoriously blanketed himself with the American flag, circled the mat and fell to his knees in thankful praise.

Does menacing top ranked Boltukayev of Russia await Kyle Snyder? Courtesy, UnitedWorldWrestling

Does menacing top ranked Boltukayev of Russia await Kyle Snyder? Courtesy, UnitedWorldWrestling

By ranking, No. 4 Kyle Snyder is not a favorite to win gold this Sunday on the final day of the Rio Olympics. He was beaten somewhat convincingly at a Russian tournament in January by No. 1 Anzor Boltukayev of the doping plagued Russian Federation. He was also beaten narrowly by No. 3 Khetag Gazyumov of Azerbaijan.

But we have seen this before. Snyder has proven to be a student of the game, unafraid to experiment, grow and get stronger. Any one of a dozen wrestlers are capable of winning gold but it really is hard to bet against Snyder.

In the 2016 Olympic Trials Jake Varner came out and won a tightly contested first of three matches with Snyder. Snyder reset his focus for match two and Varner never had a chance from that point on. Snyder has been preparing and focusing on Sunday for enough time now that a new historic chapter seems well within his grasp.

Kyle’s Garden Party

To this point, 20 year old Kyle Snyder has enjoyed success in the two main avenues of American wrestling: freestyle (think international and Olympics) and folkstyle (high school and college). The wildest ride by far has been in folkstyle.

Kyle’s older brother Stephen was a two time Maryland state high school champ who went on to a stellar career at West Point. His younger brother Kevin had been accepted to wrestle at the Naval Academy until those pesky and exacting military physical admission requirements (vision, etc) got in the way. This fall he will join Kyle on the Ohio State wrestling team.

Kyle is a double whammy tweener in the sense that he is a full 97kg freestyler, meaning he has to work hard to get to his freestyle weight of 213.4 pounds, and even harder to get to the collegiate weight of 197 pounds.

This stretch presents a common problem. In both freestyle and college, 197 pounds and 97kg represent the last refuge before a wrestler is forced into the huge void between those weights and the last, heaviest weights: 285 pounds in college and 125kg (275 pounds) in freestyle. The heavyweight divisions are such that it is very difficult for a wrestler to be successful at less than about 6’3″ in height, because it is that length which can really take on the muscle mass necessary to compete with the top tier guys who have packed as much strength as they can into 275-285 pounds.

So what you have at 197 or 213.4 pounds are all the guys shorter than 6’3″ (which is going to be a much more robust number than the guys at 6’3″ or taller) packing on all the power and muscle they can to avoid making the huge leap in class. In this sense, it really is a muscle man mauler of a weight class.

As a true collegiate freshman coming off two consecutive medals, including a gold, at the junior worlds, Kyle was certainly ready to compete at a high level for Ohio State. His first early test came at the December, 2014 Cliff Keen Tournament in Las Vegas against Missouri sophomore J’Den Cox, who eight months earlier had won an NCAA title by hanging on to avoid a last second takedown in the finals by Ohio State’s Nick Heflin. (Cox, by the way, as an upcoming senior at Missouri had his own magical run in the Olympic Trials, claiming a spot as Snyder’s Olympic teammate at 86kg).

Snyder lost a close one to Cox, an old nemesis, but not so much because of any lack of talent. Indeed, a lack of experience at the collegiate level seemed more at issue, something that would occur again in Kyle’s other regular season loss.

For the most part though, Kyle dominated in the regular season, riding to a B1G tourney final match-up in Columbus against Morgan McIntosh of Penn State. McIntosh, a fireplug of a strongman just seemed like a hard match-up for Snyder. The resulting close win by McIntosh sent Snyder to the NCAA Tournament in St. Louis as a four seed.

A four seed meant Snyder would have to meet up with Cox in the semi-finals, but this time Snyder prevailed in a close but convincing win, sending him to the finals against Kyven Gadson of Iowa State.

The Buckeyes had clinched its first national championship in the medal round that preceded the championship bouts. When 184 pound Kenny Courts took fifth place in his magical tournament run, Ohio State put enough points between itself and the field that it did not matter what happened from there on.

The 2015 tournament was dominated by the fact that Buckeye Logan Stieber was shooting to become only the fourth NCAA wrestler to win four national titles. Thus the dramatic buildup in the order was set so that Stieber’s 141 match would be last. Given that Buckeye 125 pounder Nathan Tomasello had also streaked to the finals, the coronation of Ohio State as team champion would be highlighted with Buckeyes going for three titles in the last five matches, starting with Kyle’s 197 pound title bout.

Kyle emerged from the smokey tunnel and bounded on stage confident he would be the next four time NCAA winner, starting then. Snyder thrives on lightning quick ankle attacks. Although everyone in the world knows they are coming, his strength, mobility and trigger points are such that they cannot be stopped.

And so it was with Gadson–Kyle got in quickly but had some trouble pulling in the powerful Gadson’s leg, so to gain leverage, Kyle stood up, bringing Gadson with him. Whether out of exuberance or simply bad luck, Kyle found himself upright in an uprotected position. Gadson caught Snyder’s leg at the same time he had an under/over shoulder lock. Like spinning the wheel on a large boat, Gadson easily tripped Snyder, spun him to his back and quickly administered a mind-numbing fall.

Snyder, stunned, accepted Gadson’s handshake, put his head down and exited speechless past condolence offering Buckeye coach Ross Thatcher. While Tomasello and Stieber would go on to win titles and the team would revel in its historic moment, Snyder could not escape his own crushing, dream shattering defeat.

The course of events would erase the pain as the months unfolded. Although eligible to compete in the junior worlds, Snyder elected to go in the senior division, making history as he won the US Open and US Team Trials. He then shocked the world by winning a world title in September, 2015.

The Ohio State coaches had no trouble suggesting to Kyle that he redshirt from Ohio State to concentrate solely on the Olympics, meaning Ohio State would try to defend its NCAA title without the volume of points that surely would come from a runner-up from 2015.

I ran into Coach Ryan at the US Open in Las Vegas in December, 2015. Because of the Olympic schedule the Open was being held before the end of the collegiate season so that the Olympic Trials could take place to provide a decent gap between the start of the Olympics.

Coach Ryan held a secret. With the success of Tomasello and Buckeye brothers Bo and Micah Jordan, Ryan knew things could be looking up, especially if Hunter Stieber could return from his elbow injuries (a possibility that, like an OSU repeat, never materialized). He revealed he was planning to pull the redshirt of freshman sensation Myles Martin (a prescient move–Martin himself would stun wrestling fans by winning a national title a few months later).

But Ryan was not done. He smiled as I tried to guess what else he had in mind. Kyle Snyder had bigger fish to fry, and besides, he could not get down to 197 pounds in March to compete at 213.4 pounds at the Olympic Trials the next month. That would crazy. I nearly swallowed my tongue when Ryan whispered Kyle was coming back at 285! Kyle Snyder is awesome, but a 213 pound wrestler competing at 285 is kind of like a 125 pounder competing at 174. “No $%&0 way man! You’re nuts!”

But that is what Snyder did. He won a few regular season matches and then breezed through the B1G brackets to face Michigan’s highly successful Adam Coon. At a muscular and towering 6’5″ Coon was an NCAA runner-up the year before. In the B1G finals, Snyder simply took the taller Coon down with ankle picks time and time again to head to the NCAA championships in Madison Square Garden as a B1G champion.

What could have been a better script? The most iconic arena in America. The youngest world champion in US history, potentially facing two time NCAA champion Nick Gwiazdowski of North Carolina State. Nearly as tall as Coon but twice as strong. As good as Snyder obviously is, not many really gave him a chance against Gwiz.

The two breezed to the finals, and in recognition of the magnitude of the event, a heavyweight match was set up as the true ultimate finale. In what many believe is the greatest collegiate heavyweight match of all time, Snyder seemed overpowered at first. He was able to get to Gwiz’ legs with ease, but the hulking Wolfpack defending champ would easily muscle out.

As the match wound down to its final 30 seconds Snyder trailed by 2. At this point, the one physical advantage Snyder had–conditioning–was starting to emerge. But Snyder knew if he took Gwiz down too soon, he would not have the strength to hold on. Think about that–a wrestler in need of points at the end of the match, waited until the final seconds to strike. Usually wrestlers are in a frantic panic to strike as the seconds tick away. But such is the confidence and skill of Snyder who proceeded to do just that to send the match into overtime.

In overtime, Snyder was able to get to Gwiazdowski’s legs, but this time Gwiz was without the energy to work his way out. When a torso flip failed, Gwiz gave into reality, relaxed his grip and surrendered the match losing sudden death points to Snyder.

Nearby is an instant Ohio State classic photo. In it are Snyder and Gwiz as the winning takedown is given. Coach Thatcher can be seen leaping into the rafters. And there is Coach Ryan, pointing and running in youthful and unbounded joy. While Coach Ryan has witnessed exhilarating highs, he has also felt the devastating lows life can deliver.

Kyle Snyder, NCAA 2016

When Kyle Snyder committed to come to Ohio State he wanted to put a smile on his coach’s face. You can be sure this picture embraces all he could have wanted to achieve in college as his coach expresses the indescribable high Kyle’s enormous talent has brought.

Kyle Snyder, Man of Steelwood

On January 1, 2013, OSU Wrestling coach Tom Ryan received a call from a high school aged wrestler committing to Coach Ryan’s program. The call, from Marylander Kyle Snyder was like an earlier Ohio State football commitment from Terrelle Pryor in the sense they were both were from the East, both were consensus number one recruits and both committed to charismatic, devout and player oriented coaches. “I just wanted to put a smile on your face to start the new year,” Snyder told his new coach.

Kyle Snyder has been putting smiles on a lot of faces since that time. Later in 2013, as a 17 year old, Snyder went on to win a World Junior title (age 20 and under), a feat he nearly duplicated in 2014 when he placed third. He then skipped his senior year of high school at Our Lady of Good Counsel (Olney, MD) to train at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado. A three time Maryland state champion with a 179-0 record (the legend is he surrendered only one takedown in those three years), Kyle had earlier discontinued his role as a starting lineman on Good Counsel’s nationally ranked football team.

Snyder’s close bond with Coach Ryan was unquestionably a factor in his decision to commit to Ohio State and it did not hurt that the program boasted Logan Stieber who at the time of Snyder’s commitment was well on his way to joining the elite club of four-time NCAA champions. But there was more.

The Ohio State wrestling team practices in an industrial setting on Steelwood Road, west of campus and removed from the bustle of campus life. While construction is about to start on a state of the art facility in the heart of the school’s vast athletic complex, wrestlers currently trek to the aptly named and spartan “Steelwood” wrestling room.

Steelwood is home to something more than Ohio State Wrestling–it also rents its wrestling space to the Ohio Regional Training Center which has quietly taken a place among the elite amateur freestyle training programs in the country. ORTC’s head coach is frequent national team volunteer coach and Ohio State Assistant Coach Lou Rosselli, himself a former Olympian.

ORTC is the brainchild of Coach Ryan who with Andy Barth, in conjunction with Titan Mercury Wrestling Club, has built ORTC into a destination for elite wrestlers. In 2013 on the Oklahoma State campus, ORTC saw its athletes capture a majority of US World Team spots including Angel Escobedo, former Buckeye Reece Humphrey, Keith Gavin, former Buckeye JD Bergman and Tervel Dlagnev. In Bergman and Dlagnev, who at the time wrestled at 96kg and 120kg respectively, Snyder had the opportunity to train with the best in the country without leaving the OSU wrestling room.

Snyder, who is constantly thinking and talking wrestling, also roomed with OSU redshirt freshman Nathan Tomasello, a highly prized recruit who shocked the wrestling world by winning the 125lb NCAA title in 2015 as the Buckeyes sprinted to their first national title.

Today, ORTC boasts a nation-leading two of the six freestylers who will compete this week in the Olympics with several more waiting their turns. Joining Snyder (97kg) in Rio will be Tervel Dlagnev (125kg), a two time world bronze medalist. Already an honorary Buckeye, Dlagnev will join the Ohio State coaching staff after the conclusion of the Olympics. We will have more to say about Tervel on Friday in anticipation of his Saturday bouts in Rio.

And what about those “waiting their turns”? Casual wrestling fans will often ask, “what about Logan Stieber”? The simple fact is that Stieber lost on a tie breaker at the Olympic trials to eventual Olympian Frank Molinaro of Penn State. Molinaro, who seemingly came from nowhere, won four bouts at the Olympic Trials by tie breakers to claim the 65kg spot.

Stieber, a former Junior World silver medalist, was originally pegged to take an Ohio State assistant coaching spot after Rio. Since his trials defeat he has decided to train exclusively in freestyle at ORTC with the goal of making national teams, winning world titles and competing in the 2020 Olympics. Ohio wrestling fans will be excited to hear his brother Hunter, recovering from two devastating elbow injuries will also continue competing. Fans might remember that Hunter’s health woes started during his 2014 PanAm freestyle triumph in Mexico.

Because of Kyle Snyder’s freakish achievements at such a young age, he will become the veteran standard bearer for ORTC once the games conclude and Tervel moves onto coaching. The nucleus of Snyder and the Stiebers will undoubtedly be joined over time by the likes of OSU redshirt freshman Kollin Moore, who recently claimed a spot on the US Junior World Team at 96kg and Tomasello as each takes up the challenge as aspiring Olympians.

Even if only in spirit once the physical move to campus is complete, they certainly will find strength at Steelwood.

A Buckeye’s Road to Rio

Hope you are having a great summer and that you are especially enjoying the summer sports. We at Motsag are in the midst of a re-invigoration to become a premier destination of Buckeye related sports journalism. Until we re-launch we are keeping you up to date on all the interesting football camp tidbits we come across, for current and past Buckeyes.

This week we will be adding a daily piece as a lead up to one Buckeye’s quest for gold–wrestler Buckeye Kyle Snyder. You may or may not have noticed, but Motsag has been the most prolific news outlet covering Buckeye wrestling. Not only have we reported live from B1G and NCAA tournaments (including last year’s NCAA Championship at Madison Square Garden), but we have been at every single event leading to Buckeye Kyle Snyder’s ascension to become the youngest World Wrestling Champion in US history.

We covered the 2015 US Open when Kyle eschewed competing in the Junior World Division, beating the defending Olympic Champion (London 2012) Jake Varner. We were present in July, 2015 when Kyle repeated the feat at the US Team Trials sending him to the World Championships.

We witnessed one of the colossal feats 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 Varner at the Olympic Trials.

So after breaking our arm congratulating ourselves, who better to warm you up for witnessing what could be more history–something we do not take for granted. As good as Kyle is and has proven to be, winning a gold medal is a whole new mountain to climb.

We will not be taking a break from football. We are on the case. But you should know that football and wrestling have strong links. Buckeye grid iron stars such as Luke Fickel were wrestling champs. Luke is a frequent fixture at OSU wrestling events.

Matt Finkes, another wrestling champion actually works hard helping the Ohio Regional Training Center, which supports Kyle and other Ohio State greats, such as Logan Stieber, Reece Humphrey and JD Bergman. And let’s not forget Olympic medalist hopeful and honorary Buckeye (and new OSU assistant wrestling coach) heavyweight Tervel Dlagnev who has trained for years at the Ohio Regional Training Center.

During OSU’s epic 2015 run to its first national wrestling title, one of their biggest fans was Urban Meyer who was present on the floor and the bench in the Buckeye’s B1G Championship at St. John’s Arena two weeks prior.

And then there was this old, great wrestler and occasional football dabbler, Archie Griffin.

We turned down the opportunity to report from Rio–something I will surely regret in a few years, but we will have lots of live coverage and an occasional check-in from Buckeye Wrestling Coach Tom Ryan. Stay posted.