“He’s done it again. Captain America will be heading to an old Soviet Block country to spread democracy and technical falls -- or something like that.”
What is it like to be so dominant at a sport that no one else even has a shot at competing? Think Michael Phelps, Roger Federer or Serena Williams-level dominance. These storied careers have spanned years and, in the process, multiple Olympics, world majors and every other possible championship and accolade. While there is certainly a long way to go to build this sort of sustained, global success, there does look to be an emerging superstar on the wrestling mat.
Kyle Snyder has been a familiar name for Ohio State fans and wrestling aficionados alike for many years now, but his utter control of the heavyweight wrestling world has started to push him into the mainstream in the same way Phelps, Usain Bolt or Cael Sanderson have accomplished through years of repeated success. Snyder has won world championships in 2015, 2017 and 2018. Over the weekend, he was selected to represent Team USA in the 2019 Men’s Senior Freestyle World Championships, scheduled for September in Kazakhstan, after taking the heavyweight title at the Final X series in Lincoln. Snyder took the first match handily with a 4-0 victory, and won 12-1 on a technical fall in the finals to earn his bid.
Early indications have Snyder pegged as one of the favorites to take home this year’s world title as well. And about that missing 2016 championship: Snyder was busy taking home an Olympic gold medal in Rio.
Snyder is still only 23 years old and, at the time of the matches, was the youngest American world champion and Olympic wrestling gold medalist in history. He still has a long career ahead of him. So no, Snyder is not on the level of Phelps, Bolt, Sanderson, Federer or Williams — yet. But his early success could be an indication of what is to come.
In other wrestling news, Ohio State athletics is continuing to grow its footprint for non-revenue sports. This effort is made especially clear with the opening of the Covelli Center for this coming winter sports season, which will be the new home for men’s and women’s volleyball and gymnastics, as well as wrestling. These sports previously had their homes at St. John Arena — a facility which, while beloved and recognized as a landmark on campus, was built in 1956.
The 81,000-square foot facility has a capacity of 3,700. Fans can check out the Covelli Center, as well as the new Jennings Family Wrestling Practice Facility, at an open house July 23. Combined with the Schumaker Complex, opened in December to support student athletes from 33 sports, athletes at Ohio State have access to world-class facilities to support training, and coaches have yet another selling point for potential recruits.
For wrestling, this set of facilities helps promote the program to a higher level for these recruits. While major matches were often held in the Schottenstein Center before, a new location (and dedicated home for practice) has serious appeal, which only adds to the intrigue of a program which has had a lot of success in recent years. Ohio State took home the NCAA title in 2015, and has consistently found itself at the top of the sport under the leadership of head coach Tom Ryan. In March, the Buckeyes finished in second-place nationally behind Penn State.
This season, which opens in November, the Buckeyes are scheduled to host eight matches in their new home, starting with Stanford Nov. 10. They’ll also face Arizona State, Cornell and Virginia Tech, who finished 12th, seventh and 11th, respectively, at March’s NCAA Championships. Though the Big Ten schedule has not been announced yet, Ohio State is also planning to play host to Illinois, Maryland, Northwestern and Rutgers next season.
“There aren’t many cities in America where you can have this kind of turnout. That’s one of the advantages of being located where we are -- any career interest that our guys have, Columbus has too.”
There is life after football. For current players, it can help to see what that sort of life looks like well in advance of wrapping up their respective careers. At Ohio State, that transition is taken very seriously. Most recently, players, from freshmen to seniors, participated in the seventh annual job fair to enable them to network with employers, setting them up for success once their playing careers are over.
A program started by Urban Meyer back in 2013, the job fair enables players to connect with companies, either for networking purposes for younger players, or for actual jobs for older ones. At this year’s fair, dozens of companies arrived on campus to meet with the players, including ESPN, Cardinal Health and Cameron Mitchell. Each student athlete was required to bring a résumé and a list of businesses he was interested in speaking with. In addition to companies coming to campus, the players were treated to speakers, including former Ohio State and NFL running back Beanie Wells, who is now a radio personality for 97.1 The Fan.
Former college athletes bring many of the traits and skills employers are seeking from candidates, including goal-orientation, time management and teamwork. Unfortunately, many athletes are unable to capitalize on these skills throughout their college careers, as they also juggle daily practice and travel, leaving less time for recruiting for jobs or internships. For Ohio State players, this job fair and lessons learned through Real Life Wednesdays have already paid dividends, as these connections discussions have already linked them with new opportunities. Former defensive end Sam Hubbard, for instance, interned at Goldman Sachs while he was still at Ohio State, a connection which was gained through the job fair. Other players gained visits and internships with the NFL, Amgen, Promowest Live and professional services, including law firms.