Ohio State sophomore Kyle Snyder’s double-leg takedown 25 seconds into overtime secured an upset 7-5 victory and Saturday’s 285-pound NCAA championship over two-time defending title winner Nick Gwiazdowski of North Carolina State at New York’s Madison Square Garden.
Gwiazdowski initiated the first move five seconds into the one-minute extra session, getting in on a deep shot at Snyder’s right leg and nearly lifting the 20-year-old Good Counsel graduate from the mat.
But after sprawling and fighting off Gwiazdowski for a tense ten seconds, Snyder countered with 42 seconds left. The 226-pound Snyder secured Gwiazdowski’s right ankle with his left hand, wrapped his arms around both legs and forced him backward to the mat for the match-winning double-leg takedown.
“Nick’s a pretty strong guy and a pretty big guy who had a pretty good lock on my leg initially, so it was tough to defend in the first place and I thought maybe they’d call it a stalemate. But we were able to continue wrestling through. Once I ended up defending that shot, we were in a position where I’ve had a lot of practice and I’m able to get the guy’s ankle from there. His feet were pretty heavy on the mat,” said Snyder, who was outweighed by 30 pounds.
“That was my opportunity to get to his leg and to finish it off as fast as I could. Once I got my arms around that double-leg, I was pretty sure that was going to be the end of the match. A lot of my confidence came from the fact that I felt like I was in great shape and that could go for seven minutes, and, if needed, overtime. I knew that if it came down to who was going to be the toughest, who was going to be the meanest, who could last the longest in the match, I felt like that was going to be me and that would be the spot where I was going to shine.”
Snyder spoke to The Sentinel on Sunday after being introduced at halftime of the Florida at Ohio State basketball game of the National Invitation Tournament at The Buckeyes’ Value City Arena Schottenstein Center in Columbus, Ohio.
“It was a great match, and I’m happy that it went the way that it ended,” said Snyder, whose younger brother Kevin, a Good Counsel senior, and their parents Steve and Trisha, were in the stands. “Obviously, it feels great to have been able to compete in front of my family. They don’t get to see me compete that often because I travel a lot. So this was an awesome opportunity.”
Snyder (16-0) ended an 88-match winning streak for Gwiazdowski (33-1), a junior who was named Outstanding Wrestler after earning his third straight Atlantic Coast Conference title.
The win was particularly sweet in light of Snyder’s runner-up finish a year ago at 197 pounds, when he was pinned in the second period by Iowa State’s Kyven Gadson after holding a brief 1-0 lead.
Snyder had earned last year’s championship berth with a 3-2 semifinal upset of then-defending champion J’Den Cox of Missouri. A junior, Cox won Saturday’s 197-pound title after finishing fifth last season.
“Last year was pretty much in the rearview mirror and wasn’t in my mind at all. I just wanted to focus on improving as a wrestler,” said Snyder, who had benefited from drilling sessions with Gwiazdowski at the Olympic training center in Colorado Springs in August.
“I was happy I got to wrestle him even though we didn’t know we’d be competing against each other this year. I always feel a little more confidence when I’ve wrestled someone before I have to wrestle them again. I felt like I had a really good sense of having felt him out and knowing what he was going to do.”
Snyder out-shot Gwiazdowski 3-2, during the scoreless first period, trailed by as much as 3-0 midway through the second, and 3-1 entering the third. He was down 5-2 with 1:15 left in regulation.
Snyder attempted both a single- and double-leg in the first period where a third attempt — switching from right to left leg – also failed. Snyder also countered Gwiazdowski’s right-side single-leg attack in the first.
Down 1-0, Snyder lost his grip while simultaneously trying to lift Gwiazdowski in order to turn a single into a double. But the move backfired as Gwiazdowski sprawled and spun behind for the takedown with 1:35 left in the second period.
“Wrestling a bigger guy is just a little bit of difference because of how much they weigh,” said Snyder. “You kind of have to hit them at the right spot and at the right time to take them down earlier in a match because that’s usually when they’re at their strongest.”
Over the next nearly 30 seconds, Gwiazdowski slapped a cradle pinning maneuver on Snyder from the top position. Yet Snyder refused to wear down, successfully fighting the pressure.
Gwiazdowski finally released his grip with 57 seconds left in the period and Snyder took advantage, escaping 10 seconds later to make it 3-1.
“I never doubt Kyle at anything that he does,” said Good Counsel coach Skylar Saar, who attended the tournament. “He has the heart of a lion and never stops wrestling.”
Snyder was within 3-2, just 11 seconds into the third, but things looked bleak after Gwiazdowski’s “funk” maneuver turned Snyder’s low-ankle pick shot into a takedown of his own for a 5-2 advantage 75 seconds before overtime.
“I feel like positioning beats everything, because no matter how big, how strong or how fast somebody is, if you have good positioning, you can win that war for the takedown,” said Snyder, whose escape made it 5-3 with 61 seconds left in regulation. “It was always about me making the adjustments in positioning, and when I do that, I can get the takedown on anybody.”
Snyder’s bout-tying takedown to make it 5-5 with 21 seconds left – an explosive low shot to the left ankle – was secured after having snapped Gwiazdowski’s head down and burst forward with shoulder pressure leveraged against the knee.
The drama continued when a stall call against Snyder stopped time with nine seconds left in regulation. Gwiazdowski quickly rose to his feet on the re-start and nearly earned the match-winning escape, but Snyder clung to his left ankle like a football player making a shoestring tackle.
“The shot in the third period, I hit him right in the sweet spot off that low-ankle shot,” said Snyder. “He then fell down right away, so there really wasn’t much he could do,” said Snyder. “I was able to get my hips underneath me, unlike the earlier shots, where I wasn’t that strong in those positions and couldn’t secure the takedowns.”
As a junior at Good Counsel in 2013, Snyder won his third straight state title during his undefeated (179-0) high school career, one that culminated with the Falcons winning the program’s first-ever private schools state championship.
After twice earning Wrestler of The Year honors with the Falcons, Snyder spent his senior season working out at the Olympic training center, later finishing as a freshman NCAA runner-up.
In September, Snyder became the youngest American to win a freestyle World Championship as a 19-year-old at 213 pounds.
Snyder had initially decided to take a redshirt year to focus on the Olympic trials before aborting those plans to pursue a national title.
“In three weeks and a day I’ll be competing at the Olympic trials,” said Snyder. “So I’m going to get back to training on Monday.”
Also winning an NCAA title was Ohio State teammate, Myles Martin (174 pounds), a freshman from McDonogh of Baltimore who overcame Penn State’s Bo Nickal 11-9.
Also earning All-American honors with fifth place finishes were Navy’s Matt Miller (184), a graduate of John Carroll in Harford County, and Iowa State’s Pat Downey (197), a graduate of North County in Anne Arundel County.
Kevin Snyder, meanwhile, guided this year’s Falcons to their second-ever state title, being a 195-pound senior leader on the greatest wrestling team Good Counsel has ever known.
Bound for Ohio State to join his brother, Kevin was a private schools state champion and a fifth place finisher at the National Preps Tournament where the Falcons placed fourth.
Kevin Snyder finished the season by winning the Maryland Senior All-Star Wrestling Classic at McDaniel College in Westminster, where he pinned Class 4A-3A state runner-up Kyle Craven of Severna Park in 67 seconds and easily decisioned Class 2A-1A state champ Klija Mitchell of Central High, 13-7. Mitchell had gone 31-0 toward winning states.
“We hung out together afterward at an Ohio State get-together thing, taking a lot of pictures and talking to a lot of different people. I’ll be in a phenomenal place at Ohio State,” said Kevin Snyder.
“It’s motivating to see him come out a winner knowing that I’ll have him as a wrestling partner basically every single day real soon after I graduate. Obviously with Myles Martin winning a national title as a true freshman, they’re doing a lot of things right and I’m really pumped up to go there.”