On Sunday, Kyle Snyder became the first wrestler from the good ol’ US of A to win three titles at the Ivan Yarygin Memorial Grand Prix. Named after the legendary 2x Olympic Gold Medalist Soviet and Russian heavyweight, his namesake’s tournament (AKA the Golden Grand Prix) is considered by many to be the most prestigious tournament in the world. Snyder’s third tournament title adds to his already illustrious list of accomplishments. He also won they same tourney in 2017 and 2018, after taking home the bronze in 2016.
Snyder — who is still just 26 years old — won three NCAA Championships wrestling for the Ohio State Buckeyes from 2015-2018, and boasts two Olympic medals: gold in 2016, silver in 2020. He is, without argument, one of the greatest American wrestlers of all-time. If he chooses to continue for years to come, he could very well put his name at the top of the list.
Snyder currently wrestles for the Nittany Lions Wrestling Club... yes, those Nittany Lions. Penn State is home to this USA Wrestling training center, and given the school’s reputation in the sport, it makes sense. But Snyder was, and is, a Buckeye. He introduced himself to the OSU faithful as a freshman in 2015, helping coach Tom Ryan and the Buckeyes secure the program’s first-ever NCAA Championship in wrestling. He “settled” for second place that season, but it was merely a speed bump. He of course won titles in each of the next three seasons.
The first of Snyder’s NCAA Championships (2016) will likely be remembered for decades to come, specifically by Ohio State and collegiate/freestyle wrestling fans. Giving up more than 30 pounds to a two-time defending heavyweight champion, Snyder scored a late takedown to force overtime. He secured another during the extra period, putting an end to Nick Gwiazdowski’s 88-match winning streak. Even better: Snyder did this in front of a sold-out Madison Square Garden. It was the first of his many individual accomplishments while representing the scarlet and gray.
Despite all of Snyder’s historic achievements, I still think he is underrated as a former Ohio State athlete. Athlete isn’t even a just description. Snyder is an OSU legend, deserving of the same praise given to other former Buckeyes. Jesse Owens and Jack Nicklaus are in a class of their own, but if there were a Mount Rushmore of former Buckeyes, I would argue Snyder belongs in that top four.
Working against Snyder is the popularity (or lack thereof) of wrestling. The sport has grown in national popularity over the last decade or so, but it is still not up there with the likes of football, basketball, etc. Tom Ryan has been doing his best to change that at Ohio State, but there is still a ways to go. And although college wrestling has often been dominated by programs throughout the midwest, Ohio State was not considered to be in the upper echelon prior to Ryan’s arrival in 2006. Now, thanks to Snyder and others, they are a mainstay.
Regardless of whether or not Snyder’s chosen sport is wildly popular, his impressive list of achievements cannot be understated. Many Ohio State athletes have competed in the Olympics — whether during their college career, after, or both. Very few have medaled multiple times. Even fewer have experienced Snyder’s combined success: NCAA championships, international tournament titles, and Olympic glory.
When it comes down to individual athletic accomplishment – at Ohio State and beyond – Kyle Snyder is at least nearing the rarified air of Owens and Nicklaus. I get it... It sounds borderline absurd, given the historical importance of those great men. Owens’ impact transcends sports. Nicklaus is arguably the greatest player of all-time in his sport, and his post-playing career has left an immeasurable mark on the game of golf.
I’m not saying Snyder is at that level. He likely never will be. But he absolutely belongs in the conversation with those two men when recognizing the greatest individual competitors to ever suit up for The Ohio State University. Kudos to Kyle, and here’s hoping that he can further cement his legacy as one of the greatest wrestlers and Buckeyes of all-time.