Ohio State’s Kyle Snyder made it look easy, but it wasn’t.
The Buckeyes junior overcame a rib injury to win his final three of five matches as well as vanquish an opponent who had 38 pounds on him en route to earning his second straight NCAA title at 285 pounds on Sunday at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis, where the Good Counsel graduate’s crowning achievement was a 6-3 decision over Wisconsin’s Connor Medberry.
A reigning World Champion and 2016 Olympic gold medalist from Woodbine, Snyder improved his record on the year to 17-0 and his collegiate winning streak to 33-0 and led his Buckeyes to a runner-up finish to Penn State, winner of its second straight crown and sixth in the past seven years under coach Cael Sanderson.
“It was a lot of fun. I love competing in that environment on the big stage in front of huge crowds. I receive tons of support from Ohio State and Buckeye Nation,” said Snyder, 21, who reached the finals on a pair of technical falls, a decision and a major decision.
“I’m really glad I was able to score a lot of points and help my team in this tournament. It wasn’t where we wanted to finish as a team, but most of our guys wrestled really hard, and I’m proud of their effort. We definitely grew as a team and will come back even stronger next year.”
Snyder persevered despite suffering rib damage during his second match, which he won by 22-7 technical fall.
“I injured my ribs during my match against Garrett Ryan from Columbia University,” said Snyder. “Fortunately, the doctors and training staff were able to numb the area before my semifinal and finals match, making it possible for me to compete without a great deal of pain. I also think the adrenaline helped.”
Snyder showed little signs of being wounded, taking his quarterfinal and semifinal bouts by scores of 13-7 and 19-6 and displaying a balanced offense against his thick-legged Wisconsin adversary, who outweighed him, 264 to 226.
Medberry trailed, 2-0, at 1:26 mark of the first period after a takedown resulting from Snyder’s attack on his right leg and a herculean lift and by as much as 6-1 following a second period takedown on the left leg as well as a third-period escape.
“I’m always trying to keep my hands and feet moving,” said Snyder, who was taken down in the final 30 seconds of the match. “You never really know for sure what will be open, but I know I will give myself more scoring opportunities with a lot of good motion.”
It was Snyder’s second victory of the year over Medberry, who entered their bout at 29-1 after losing to Snyder, 8-5, in the finals of the March 4-5 Big 10 championships won by the Buckeyes (139.5 points) over Penn State (130).
“I have trained with Connor both in Columbus and during the lead up to the Olympics,” said Snyder. “He is a good friend and a great wrestler, and I think we’re both pretty familiar with each other’s styles.”
Snyder’s championship triumph over Medberry was accomplished with far less theatrics than last year’s at New York’s Madison Square Garden. That’s when Snyder’s takedown with 25 seconds left in overtime secured a 7-5 upset of North Carolina’s two-time defending champion Nick Gwiazdowski, who out-weighed Snyder by 30 pounds, entered their match at 33-0 and had an 88-match winning streak.
“As far as where this ranks, I can’t really rank the titles,” said Snyder. “I just love wrestling and love competing.”
As a freshman, Snyder was a 197-pound NCAA runner-up to Iowa State’s Kyven Gadson, holding a brief 1-0 lead before being pinned in the second period. Snyder had reached the title bout with a 3-2 semifinal upset of then-defending champion J’Den Cox of Missouri, who finished fifth that year.
On Sunday, Cox (33-0) won his third crown, his 8-2 decision over 197-pound rival Brett Pfarr of Minnesota preceding Snyder’s milestone win over Medberry.
“J’Den is an incredible wrestler and athlete,” said Snyder. “He is exciting and fun to watch, and I’m really glad I’ve had the opportunity to train with him and compete against him.”
As a junior at Good Counsel in 2013, Snyder won his third straight state title during his undefeated (179-0) high school career, which culminated with the Falcons’ winning the program’s first-ever private schools state championship.
After twice earning Wrestler of the Year honors under Falcons coach Skylar Saar, Snyder spent his senior season working out at the Olympic training center, later finishing second at the NCAAs to Gadson.
In September 2015, a 19-year-old Snyder became the youngest American to win a freestyle World Championship at 213 pounds. Snyder had initially decided to take a redshirt year to focus on the Olympic trials before aborting those plans to pursue his first national title.
At the Olympic games in Rio De Janeiro in August, a 20-year-old Snyder became the youngest wrestling medalist in history, toppling 213-pound rival and two-time bronze medalist Khetag Goziumov of Azerbaijan by the score of 2-1.
Last month, Snyder was successful literally in his own backyard as well as abroad, the latter in Iran.
Snyder also competed in the Feb. 16-17 World Cup freestyle championship in Kermanshah, Iran, winning his 97-kilograms (213.85 pounds) bout, 6-0, over Amir Mohammadi as the U.S. team lost the gold medal match to the host country, 5-3.
The Iranian trip nearly didn’t happen due to acrimony between the United States and Iran over President Donald J. Trump’s controversial executive order concerning immigrant and refugee travel and, more specifically, pertaining to treks from seven predominantly Muslim countries, including Iran.
In retaliation, the Iranian government initially announced the U.S. team would not receive visas. But a federal judge suspended Trump’s order, after which the nation granted the Americans visas to Snyder’s delight.
“I am happy and relieved that USA wrestling is going to have an opportunity to compete against the best countries in the world in Iran. We believe we have a very strong team this year,” Snyder told The Sentinel a few days prior to making the trip.
“We are hoping to represent the United States to the best of our abilities. In my career, I have only had positive interaction with Iranian competitions and coaches. They have always been respectful and kind. I am excited to compete in front of one of the biggest wrestling crowds in the world.”
The Iranian excursion preceded one to Good Counsel on Feb. 7, where Snyder’s 22-7 technical fall over Maryland’s Youssif Hemida closed out a 30-12 rout of the Terps before a sold-out crowd of 1,200 in a Big 10 Conference match at his alma mater.
In attendance was 197-pound Buckeyes freshman Kevin Snyder, a private schools state champion and fifth-place finisher at the National Preps Tournament who helped the Falcons win their second private schools state title in 2016.
“I’m hoping to compete in the Pan American Championships in Brazil. The competition is scheduled for May 5 through .7 Hopefully, I will be completely healed and ready for that event,” said Snyder.
“I want other local athletes to work as hard as they can and be the best they can possibly be. I want the Maryland wrestling community to know how much I appreciate their support.”