Working For Greatness

Ohio State freshman wrestler Kyle Snyder won't be outworked.

While most high schoolers look forward to their turn at the top of the food chain, Ohio State freshman Kyle Snyder decided to spend his senior year 1,500 miles away from home.

The Maryland native, who went 179-0 and only gave up one takedown en route to winning a state title in each of his first three years of high school, gave up the comfort and familiarity of utter dominance in order to spend his final year of high school at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo.

He trained against the very best in the sport and traveled the world to face some of the best the sport has to offer. He faced an Olympic champion in New York City’s Times Square, trained with Olympians in Cuba and became the youngest American in more than two decades to win a FILA Junior World Championship, a feat he accomplished in August 2013 in Bulgaria.

“You’re finally the oldest kid in the school and you’ve got some power in the hallways,” Ohio State coach Tom Ryan said. “And you surrender that to go into Russia, go into Cuba and live away from your family in a dorm room in Colorado Springs. There’s no sacrifice that he’s not willing to make to attain what he wants. We all say we want things, but they sound good until you actually have to apply it. He’s willing to apply the things that need to be applied, and that’s pretty rare.”

Snyder does everything with one purpose – to find his way to the Olympics – and that includes his decision to enroll at Ohio State. He was the nation’s most coveted prospect and had his pick of the nation’s top programs. To this day, Ryan jokes that he doesn’t know how he persuaded Snyder to become a Buckeye. He’s just happy that he did.

Wrestling in a weight class dominated by upperclassmen (10 of the top 12 wrestlers at 197 pounds are juniors or seniors), Snyder has shined. He’s had a nearly flawless transition back to folkstyle wrestling after spending his time in Colorado Springs focused on freestyle wrestling.

Snyder leads Ohio State with 12 major decisions, twice as many as the next-best Buckeye in that category. He picked up his first win by technical fall Feb. 2 against Rutgers in a bout that clinched a come-from-behind win for the Buckeyes, who have won eight straight matches. On Feb. 6, he clinched a Senior Night win against No. 3 Minnesota with a 3-1 win against No. 5 Scott Schiller. His winning takedown came with less than 10 seconds left in the third period.

“He’s been everything we hoped for, and I had really high expectations for him based on his past,” Ryan said. “I expected him to be really special. The cool thing is that his mind is an asset. It’s not something that’s going to get in the way of attaining what he wants. He believes he can do it, and so do we.”

Likewise, Ohio State has been everything that Snyder hoped it could be. He chose the Buckeyes over powerhouses like Iowa and Penn State, the four-time defending national champion. In Columbus, he has the benefit of being coached by Ryan and learning from teammate Logan Stieber, a three-time NCAA champion.

“Everything so far has been what I thought it would be,” Snyder said. “I knew that I was in a good conference so I would be wrestling a bunch of tough people. I knew the guys I would be wrestling with in the practice room were going to push me every day. It’s pretty much been what I expected.”

As the No. 3-ranked wrestler in his weight class, Snyder is in contention to join Stieber by winning a national championship as a freshman. His dual record is no longer unblemished after losing a controversial match against Iowa, but Ryan said that Snyder responded to the loss by working even harder.

With the postseason looming, Snyder is looking to get even better before the tournaments that will help determine whether he and his team can come away with championships in a season loaded with expectations.

“I just want to keep improving as a wrestler and be the best wrestler I can possibly be,” Snyder said. “That includes winning all the matches I’ve wrestled in. At the end of the season I’m going to start seeing guys I’ve already wrestled and I want to start widening those gaps. And for the guys who might be ranked ahead of me that I haven’t seen yet, I just want to go out there and get my hand raised.”

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