Ohio State senior Kyle Snyder’s been called the best wrestler on the planet, but is the 22-year-old Good Counsel graduate on pace to become the greatest of all American wrestlers?
A two-time World Champion and an Olympic gold medalist at 213 pounds who has won two straight NCAA titles at 285 after being a 197-pound runner-up as a freshman, Snyder, of Woodbine, has secured his place in that conversation with last Sunday’s performance in the Ivan Yarygin Grand Prix, in Krasnoyarsk, Russia.
Snyder (213 pounds) overcame a 1-0 deficit for a 4-1 decision over the host country’s Rasul Magomedov, becoming the first American man to earn a second gold medal in an event touted as the world’s most difficult open tournament, according to the USA Wrestling website.
A winner of last year’s final against Magomedov, whom he pinned in 5:02 of their initial bout, Snyder was named the tournament’s Best Foreign Wrestler.
“Wrestling has taught me a lot, and I have been blessed to learn from some great teachers and role models from within the sport,” Snyder told The Sentinel on Wednesday. “It is important to me to have a role in teaching others about the correct way to think about competition in training. I think that helps grow the sport and make it more entertaining.”
Kelly Ward is among those who believe Snyder compares favorably to Oklahoma State University graduate and coach John Smith and University of Nebraska alum Jordan Burroughs, winners of four World Championships each.
“What’s most impressive about Kyle is the way that he’s going over there and beating the crap out of the Russians,” said Ward, a former undefeated two-time state champion at Kennedy High in the 1970s, NCAA champion in 1979 and three-time finalist at Iowa State. “Beating the crap out of the Russians on their turf, and then winning the Olympics and that Kyle is doing it during his college season – I mean, who does that?”
Kyle Snyder, that’s who.
“It feels good to be able to come from behind and score,” Snyder said. “I’ve always had confidence in my offense. I believe that as long as I focus on scoring, I can get a takedown. So far, it has worked out well for me.”
“I’m glad I have these opportunities and that I’m able to wrestle well and represent the U.S.A. at a high level,” said Snyder, who has not lost a collegiate match since the NCAA finals of his freshman season.
“It’s an honor to be considered the best pound-for-pound wrestler in the world, and I will continue to work hard and get better. Accomplishing things that have never been done before is always really cool.”
The journey continues with Saturday’s Big 10 Conference showdown at Penn State at 8 p.m. as Snyder leads the No. 2-ranked Buckeyes (12-0 overall, 7-0 league) against the top-ranked defending national champion Nittany Lions (11-0, 7-0), who are after their third straight NCAA tournament crown and seventh in the past eight years under coach Cael Sanderson.
“That’s pretty incredible,” said Ward. “The fact that Kyle’s going over to Russia on Sunday and then coming back home to beat college kids during the same week is amazing.”
Snyder is 6-0 so far, finished at 17-0 last year and has a 39-bout unbeaten streak heading into the match. He has not lost in the Buckeyes uniform since being pinned in the NCAA finals by fifth-year senior Kyven Gadson of Iowa State after leading 1-0.
Snyder had reached the title bout with a 3-2 semifinal upset of then-defending champion J’Den Cox of Missouri, an effort that helped the Buckeyes to win their first overall NCAA crown.
Smith is widely considered the most accomplished American wrestler in history, owning two each in NCAA titles and Olympic gold medals, while Burroughs twice went undefeated as an NCAA champion and earned an Olympic gold medal.
“John Smith is the standard in any of these conversations, because he was in college like Kyle still is,” said Ward. “People talk about Dan Gable, who was dominant, but he doesn’t have as many medals as John Smith.”
Churchill assistant coach Tony Howard won three state titles at Magruder before graduating in 2000 with a mark of 105-1. Considered among the greatest pound-for-pound wrestlers in Montgomery County history, Howard amassed a 67-0 record during his junior and senior seasons.
“John Smith has six consecutive titles and multiple gold medals,” said Howard. “I have to say that if Kyle wins another gold medal that he would be in the conversation.”
Snyder’s younger brother, Kevin, joined Kyle at Ohio State last year, red-shirting at 197 pounds before serving in a reserve role this season behind his sibling.
The Snyders guided Good Counsel to private school state titles in 2013 and 2016. Kevin earned a private schools state title, a fifth-place finish at National Preps and helped the Falcons to win their second private schools state title during a tremendous 2015-16 season.
The Buckeyes also boast McDonogh School graduate Myles Martin (184), a junior two-time All-American and winner of an NCAA title as a freshman who joined the Buckeyes a year after Kyle Snyder.
As a Good Counsel junior in 2013, Kyle won his third straight private schools states and National Preps Tournament crowns during an 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, Kyle spent his high school senior season training at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, later finishing as a redshirt freshman NCAA runner-up in March 2015.
In September 2015, a 19-year-old Kyle Snyder became the youngest American to win a freestyle World Championship at 213 pounds.
As a Buckeyes sophomore, Kyle dethroned North Carolina’s two-time defending champion Nick Gwiazdowski, who was 33-0 with an 88-match winning streak and outweighed Snyder by 30 pounds. Snyder won, 7-5, on a takedown with 25 seconds left.
Snyder’s 285-pound NCAA championship junior season required his overcoming a rib injury and an opponent who outweighed him by 38 pounds, resulting in a 6-3 victory over Wisconsin’s Connor Medberry. It was Snyder’s second win over Medberry, who entered their clash at 29-1 after losing, 8-5, to Snyder earlier that season.
At the Olympic Games in August 2016, Snyder overcame 213-pound two-time bronze medalist Khetag Goziumov of Azerbaijan, 2-1, and at the February 2017 World Cup freestyle championship in Kermanshah, Iran, earned a 6-0 victory over Amir Mohammadi.
In the August 2017 World Championship in Paris, Snyder scored a spin-behind takedown with just over 20 seconds remaining in a come-from-behind, 6-5 victory over Russia’s Abdulrashid Sadulaev, earning his second straight crown and lifting the United States over Russia.
“The Russian Tank” Sadulaev was a defending champion at a lower division who had not lost in four years before bumping up a weight class to challenge Snyder.
An impressed Ward was sitting in the stands as Snyder accomplished the feat.
“Before the match, I was there in Paris sitting with the at least six rugged-assed Russians who knew everything about Sadulaev, and they were telling me that Sadulaev was God – basically the Cael Sanderson, Dan Gable and John Smith of Russia – and that no one could beat him. Up until this match with Snyder, he was unbeatable in my mind. Snyder wrestles this guy as if he’s not the least bit concerned, and wins a very tight match. A lesser man would have shown a lot of stress, but he wins it,” said Ward.
“Snyder’s not flashy in victory. He shakes hands as if it’s another day at the office. Not to minimize any Americans who have come before, but I gotta say he could easily become – no I think he is the best ever, right now, after thinking it through. I’m saying that right now Kyle Snyder is the best ever, and the only reason I was hesitant before is that he’s a big guy with a little different style. I potentially see him winning three or four or five more World titles and another Olympics. I’m just astonished at how good he is. I see no limit to how good he can become. Kyle just gets better and better.
“I don’t remember anybody doing what Kyle is, particularly at such a young age,” said Ward. “Coming back to America and wrestling in college, Kyle doesn’t seem to be experiencing any pressure at all.”
Snyder’s supremely focused on the Nittany Lions.
“My record at Ohio State is 6-0. I compete against PSU on Saturday,” said Snyder, whose parents, Tricia and Steve, will no doubt be in the stands.
“I’ve always been very competitive and wanted to be the best a what I do since I was a kid…I want other local athletes to work as hard as they can and to be the best they can possibly be. I want the Maryland wresting community to know how much I appreciate their support.”