We're just about 100 days from the start of the college wrestling season. It's a season where Ohio State is one of three or four teams with a legitimate shot at the national championship. To help hold you over until then, here's a look at one of the most hyped prospects in Ohio State wrestling history.
Our Lady of Good Counsel HS (MD, FR-JR)
United States Olympic Training Center (SR)
An all-time great high school career
It can be honestly said, without a hint of hyperbole, that Kyle Snyder is one of the most accomplished incoming freshmen in the history of Ohio State wrestling. At eighteen years old, his list of accolades is already miles long. Snyder, who began wrestling at the age of five, began his highschool career at Our Lady of Good Counsel in Maryland. He competed there for three seasons, compiling a 179-0 record with three state championships. As impressive as that is, here's the most insane Snyder-related statistic. In 179 high school wrestling matches, Snyder was taken down one (!!!) time. That's like a quarterback making his way through high school throwing only a single interception.
When numbers that eye-popping come out, it's only natural to look for a way to discredit them. Snyder wrestled in Maryland, which isn't exactly Pennsylvania, right? Well, in the sport of high school wrestling, the Beast of the East, the Walsh Jesuit Ironman, and the Powerade tournaments are three of the largest and toughest tournaments in the country. Snyder has two Ironman titles, three Beast of the East titles, and one Powerade championship. Snyder wrestled the best of the best in high school, and none of them could beat him.
More accolades and championships on the freestyle circuit
If you're keeping track, you'll notice that Snyder was undefeated in High School, but only has three state titles to his name. That's because Snyder didn't compete scholastically during his senior year of High School. Instead he moved across the country from Maryland to Colorado where he spent his final year of High School as a resident at the United States Olympic Training Center. There he spent his days wrestling, and being coached by, the best freestyle and Greco Roman wrestlers in the country. We're not just talking the best high school wrestlers, either. We're talking about former NCAA champions and elite senior-level talents from across the country.
If you've never heard of a high school wrestler doing this before, it's because not many have. It takes a special breed of wrestler to earn the right to compete and train with the best in the world at that age.
In 2013, Snyder became the youngest American in over twenty years to become a Junior world freestyle champion. On his way to that championship, Snyder won three of his four matches by technical fall; a dominant performance on the world's biggest stage. In the final, Snyder was pitted against Viktor Kazishvili of Armenia. Early on Kazishvili threw Snyder to his back, nearly pinning the American and jumping out to a 4-1 lead. Those four points would be the last that Kazishvili would score. Snyder rallied back, scoring 10 unanswered points to win by technical fall (wrestling's mercy rule).
In addition to his freestyle world championship, Snyder also won the 2013 and 2014 United States freestyle championships. He won the 2014 title by way of 10-0 technical fall in the finals. Later this month, Snyder will compete for his second world title.
Despite all of these victories and accolades, Snyder's most impressive freestyle performance may have actually come in a loss. This spring, at 18 years old, Snyder became the youngest wrestler ever to represent the United States at the annual "Beat the Streets" even in Times Square. The event pits the USA's best against a collection of international stars. Also competing for the United States were giants of the sport like Logan Stieber, Jordan Burroughs, David Taylor, and Ed Ruth. Snyder's opponent for the event was 31-year old Khadzhimurat Gatsalov of Russia. For the last decade, Gatsalov has proven himself one of the best 96kg wrestlers on the planet, earning five world championships and an Olympic gold medal. It was quite a matchup for an 18-year-old who had yet to wrestle his first college match. Snyder hung right in there with Gatsalov, though. He fell behind early, but battled back, taking down the Olympic champion. Unfortunately, time ran out before Snyder could finish his comeback and the Russian prevailed 6-3.
Wrestlers will tell you that there is no such thing as a moral victory, and that's true. Still, Snyder went toe to toe with an Olympic and 5-time world champion who was 13 years his senior and never showed any nerves or intimidation. That's the sort of experience that will be very valuable when it comes down to tournament time. Gatsalov is better than anybody Snyder will face during the college season, and knows that he was right there with him.
Expectations for 2014
When I interviewed Bloody Elbow's Mike Riordan earlier this summer, he made what I think was a very fair prediction for Snyder. He said, "As for Snyder, his true freshman season will end up anywhere between Adam Coon's and J'Den Cox's."
So what does that mean? Coon started off the season dominating the field, including beating 2x defending national champion Tony Nelson, he wore down as the season progressed, though. Ultimately he fell one match short of placing. That's Snyder's floor. It's would be an incredible Freshman season, and it's the absolute worst I can see Snyder doing.
To see his ceiling, let's look at Missouri's J'Den Cox, the current king of Snyder's 197-pound weight class. Cox lost two matches early in the season, then hit his stride, winning 24 straight matches to end the season. Buckeye fans will remember that in the NCAA Tournament, Cox beat Ohio State's Nick Heflin in a close and highly controversial match to win the national championship. Snyder and Cox have wrestled before, with Cox winning once and Snyder winning the other. They'll meet again during the regular season. Missouri is coming Columbus December 14. That match will go a long way toward letting us know how Snyder is readjusting to folkstyle after a year of focusing on freestyle.
But to get back to the prediction, Cox showed us that a true freshman can win a national title, and Snyder showed us in the past that he's at least as good as Cox. There's a long way to go, and Snyder has yet to set foot on an Ohio State mat, but he has dominated every level of wrestling that he's been a part of, and I feel confident that he will keep it up in college. There are eight spots on the NCAA tournament podium, and I will be shocked if Snyder isn't standing on the top half come March.
Below are a few samples of Snyder in action. Take notice of how light on his feet and quick with his shots Snyder is for a 200-pounder.
Here's Snyder versus Penn State recruit and No. 1 ranked Heavyweight in the 2014 class, Nick Nevills:
Here's Snyder winning his world championship:
And here is
Snyder v. the Olympic champ Gatsalov: