Rio de Janeiro — The latest chapter in the storybook rise of Kyle Snyder was written on Sunday in Rio. It had all the usual elements — drama, intrigue, suspense — and ended like they all do: with Snyder atop the winners stage. But this time, there was an Olympic gold medal draped around his neck. Now, he had the only thing missing from his trophy case.
Along the way, the 20-year-old junior-to-be made the impossible seem inevitable. It started with a World championship win last September. Then he added Big Ten and NCAA titles this past March. Three weeks later, Snyder sealed his spot on the Olympic team at the Trials in Iowa City. Sunday’s 2-1 win over World No. 3 Khetag Goziumov of Azerbaijani made him the youngest Olympic gold medalist in U.S. wrestling history, capping a 12-month run that has been equaled just once before.
In the gold medal match, Snyder avenged a loss from earlier this summer to Goziumov at the Grand Prix of Germany. He scored a point in the first period on a pushout, another one early in the second on another pushout and held on for the final minute after the lead was cut to 2-1.
A HISTORICAL CONTEXT
Sunday’s victory made Snyder only the second Ohio State wrestler to earn an Olympic medal, and the first to do so in 92 years (Harry Steel won gold in the 1924 Games in Paris). He’s also the first active Buckeye wrestler to medal at the Olympics. Just 20 years old, Snyder supplanted Henry Cejudo as the youngest Olympic champion in U.S. history. Cejudo was 21 when he won gold at the 2008 Beijing Games. Snyder's win also continues a U.S. streak of at least one men's freestyle champion in every Olympics since 1968.
Snyder punched his ticket to the gold medal match thanks to furious comeback in the final three minutes against world No. 6 Elizbar Odikadze of Georgia in the semifinals. After falling behind 4-0 quickly after the opening whistle blew, Snyder methodically wore down Odikadze, eventually breaking him in the final two minutes after getting three straight pushouts. Down 4-3, Snyder took Odikadze down, pushed him out, took him down again and added one more pushout. The end result was a 9-4 decision that was a testament to his superior conditioning and sheer willpower.
Snyder on gold medal match:
“It was a tough match. I wrestled that guy like a month ago and he beat me, so I’m happy that I’ve been able to improve on that performance, and, I keep saying it, I’m really thankful and grateful that I’ve even had this opportunity wrestle and my family and friends have been down here, to share it with them.”
On his emotions after winning:
“I’ve been super emotional at times on the mat when I’m wrestling. I think it’s just, maybe I was in shock. I don’t know. I was definitely really happy, happier than I’ve ever been on a wrestling mat.”
Associate head coach Lou Rosselli, an assistant coach for Team USA:
“He’s been dreaming about it and now it’s a reality. It's great for him. Great for the Buckeyes.”
Head coach Tom Ryan:
“His tempo is hard and fast. You saw it late in matches. People faded. He said at 5 years old he was going to win an Olympic gold medal. He did it. An amazing performance.”
Snyder on his semifinal win:
“I never feel like I am out of a match, so, down 4-0 in the first 20 seconds, there is still a lot of time left to wrestle. If I don’t have the power to score four points on a guy, then he is probably better than me. I am just confident in myself.”
OPENING ROUND, QUARTERFINAL WINS
In the quarterfinals, Snyder shut out Albert Saritov of Romania, breaking the match open with a four point body lock and lift early in the second period, taking a 3-0 lead and increasing it to 7-0. It was much of the same in the first round against Cuba’s Javier Cortina, as Snyder built a 3-1 lead after the first three minutes and wore Cortina down with a combination of takedowns and pushouts to secure a 10-3 victory.
In his four wins on the day, Snyder scored 23 of his 28 points in the second period. That included seven points vs. Cortina, four against Saritov and the nine-point rally to defeat Odikadze.
2016 Olympic Men’s Freestyle Wrestling
97 kg/213 lbs. – Kyle Snyder, United States; Gold
WIN vs. Javier Cortina (Cuba), 10-3
WIN vs. Albert Saritov (Romania), 7-0
WIN vs. Elizbar Odikadze (Georgia), 9-4
WIN vs. Khetag Goziumov (Azerbaijan), 2-1