By Mike Finn
LAS VEGAS, Nev. — From the moment Kyle Snyder left his hometown of Woodbine, Md., two years ago — prior to his senior year at Our Lady of Good Counsel High School where he compiled a career record of 179-0 and won three Maryland state titles — he was called the future of USA Wrestling.
At about 9 p.m. (PDT) on September 11, that future became now for him and USA Wrestling.
For that was about the time the matside clock in Orleans Arena read all zeroes and indicated that the 213-pound freestyle wrestler had defeated 2014 World champion Abdusalam Gadisov of Russia on criteria in a tied 5-5 score … and that Snyder had just become the youngest wrestler in U.S. history to win a World title.
In beating Gadisov — because of the fact that Snyder scored two takedowns, including a second low single with 23 seconds left to give him a 5-3 lead, compared to only one takedown by the Russian — Snyder broke the record set by current Oklahoma State head coach John Smith when he was 21 years old in 1987.
“(Winning a World title and becoming the youngest to do that) are both pretty awesome,” said Snyder, who won’t turn 20 until November 20. “I want to make history. I want to be known as one of the greatest wrestlers who ever lived. Right now just being the World champ feels good.”
So how does a 19-year-old accomplish such a record, considering Snyder did not even wrestle freestyle until 2010?
“Just by believing in yourself,” said Snyder, the Ohio State Buckeye who also found motivation to win a World title after losing the 197-pound NCAA finals to Iowa’s State Kyven Gadson in March. “Knowing that I’m doing the work. I’m doing the right things in other aspects of your life. Trusting in God and knowing that He has a plan for you.”
Snyder put a lot of trust in the Lord when he chose to leave his parents, brother and sister in the Woodbine — located 30 miles west of Baltimore — to go to high school in Colorado Springs and train full-time at the Olympic Training Center.
“I tell people all the time that if you have the opportunity to do that, that’s what you should do,” said Snyder, who also won a Junior World title in 2014. “I got the chance to wrestle overseas a couple times, as well as wrestling some of the best Americans and coaches.”
For his efforts, Snyder got a chance to run around the mat with an American flag draped over him, including at one point where you could not even see Snyder as he bent over to pray on the mat.
“It just felt pretty good after all the hard work and suffering and the hours I put in the wrestling room,” said Snyder, who announced this summer he will take an Olympic redshirt this fall and return to NCAA competition after the Rio Games. “Wrestling is not a sport when you can just go to practice and not think about it the rest of the day. I think of it constantly.”
On the other hand, two other men’s freestylers moving towards the end of their career — 29-year-old Reece Humphrey (at 61k/134 pounds) and 30-year-old Jake Herbert (86k/189), who both owned 4-2 career records in two previous World tournaments — did not enjoy what could be their final World Championships.
Humphrey did hold on to beat Daulet Niyazbekov of Kazahkstan, 11-11, on criteria in his opening match, but then lost 6-0 to Nomin Batbold of Mongolia. Once the Mongolian made the finals, the former NCAA All-American from Ohio State came back into the repechage (consolation) bracket.
Unfortunately for Humphrey, that outcome was even worse as he was pinned by Bajrang Bajrang of India in 4:59.
“You have to be at your best to beat the best,” said Humphrey, who will now try to get bigger and compete at 65k/143 pounds in next year’s Olympic Trials. “They ended up starting that match faster than I expected and I was not warmed up. It’s sad because of a lot of people put in some hard work.”
It was an even worse day for Herbert, the former Hodge Trophy winner from Northwestern and 2009 World silver medalist. Herbert gave plenty of Americans hope for a good outcome after he scored a total of 23 points in two matches to beat 2014 World Team member Ed Ruth in June to earn his third and final Worlds trip.
But in this year’s Worlds, Herbert managed just one point against Georgia’s Sandro Aminashvili, who scored six points of his own, to beat the native of North Allegheny, Pa., in what would be his only bout of the 2015 Worlds.
“My body felt ready,” Herbert said. “I like to wrestle with the mentality that if you want to beat me, you have to kill me. I don’t think I wrestled that way for six minutes. And in the World Championships, you are not guaranteed more than six minutes.
“(Coach Andy) Hrovat put it into really good perspective: you never know how close you are. When you look at that one guy digging in a diamond mine and the guy walks away when he is inches away. I know I have the capability. It’s a matter of putting it all together and that is one of the hardest things in the world to do.”
USA Wrestling’s World Championship Highlights from Day 5
61k/134 pounds — Reece Humphrey (NYAC/Indianapolis, Ind.)
1st round — def. Daulet Niyazbekov (Kazahkstan), 11-11, criteria
A four-point throw by Humphrey at the 3:31 mark to counter a shot by Niyazbekov — which gave the American an 8-4 lead — also proved to be the determining factor after the Kazahkstan wrestler battled back from a 9-4 deficit with two takedowns and two step-outs by Humphrey in the final 2:29 to tie the match on the scoreboard. Niyazbekov actually took a 3-0 lead off a takedown and step-out, before Humphrey scored a takedown at the 2:31 mark and immediately used a gut for two and a 4-3 lead at intermission.
2nd round — lost to (Mongolia), 6-0
Batbold scored three takedowns: the first at 1:47 while Humphrey was put on a shot clock; the second off a scramble at 3:38 and a third coming when the Mongolian countered a shot attempt by Humphrey. Humphrey earned a second chance to medal when Batbold won two more bouts to reach the finals.
Repechage — lost by fall to Bajrang Bajrang (India), 5:01
Barjang was leading just 3-0 at intermission when he scored a second takedown with a single near the edge of the mat. Barjang eventually used the move to turn and hold Humphrey on his back for nearly a minute before scoring the fall with a minute left.
Gold Medal Match
Haji Aliyev (Azerbaijan) won by tech fall over Nomin Batbold (Mongolia), 10-0
Bronze Medal Matches
Vladimir Vladimirov Dubov (Bulgaria) dec. Masakazu Kamoi (Japan), 3-2
Vasyl Shuptar (Ukraine) dec. Bajrang Bajrang (India), 6-6, criteria
86k/189 pounds — Jake Herbert (NYAC/North Allegheny, Pa.)
1st round — lost to Sandro Aminashvili (Georgia), 6-1
The Georgian scored three takedowns — one in the first period with the final one coming at the 4:50 mark— shortly after Herbert got on the board with a step out. Herbert was eliminated when Aminashvili lost his next match to Turkey’s Selim Yasar.
Gold Medal Match
Abdulrashid Sadulaev (Russia) dec. over Selim Yasar (Turkey) (Dec 6-0)
Bronze Medal Matches
Sandro Aminashvili (Georgia) won by injury default over Magomedgadzhi Khatiyev (Azerbaijan), 1:27
Alireza Mohammad Karimimachiani (Iran) won by tech fall over Mihail Petrov Ganev (Bulgaria), 12-0
97k/213 pounds — Kyle Snyder (Titan Mercury WC/Woodbine, Md.)
1st round — def. Pavlo Oliynik (Ukraine), 2-1
Both of Snyder’s points came when Oliynik — a former World bronze medalist — was twice cautioned for passivity and failed to score a takedown when placed on a shot clock. The Ukrainian scored when Snyder stepped out at the 4:36 mark.
2nd round — def. Radoslaw Baran (Poland), 8-0
Snyder led only 2-0 — off a step-out and passivity call against the eight-ranked Pole — before 19-year-old American exploded with three takedowns in the second period, including a pair when the Ohio State Buckeye countered shots and came from behind.
Quarterfinal — won by TF over Jose Danie Diaz Robertt (Venezuela), 11-1
Snyder scored five takedowns, including two off an effective slow single — the first giving him a 5-0 lead before intermission and the second coming at the 3:31 mark shortly after Robertt forced Snyder to step out.
Semifinal — def. Abbas Moha Tahan (Iran), 6-3
After the Iranian tightened the bout at 4-3 on a single-leg takedown 40 seconds into the second period, Snyder recorded two more points when Tahan failed to score on the shot clock limit at 5:13 before the final point came when the Iranian stepped out at 5:47. Snyder scored his first takedown 11 seconds into the match, then added a second takedown 18 seconds later to lead 4-0.
Gold-Medal Match — def. Abdusalam Gadisov (Russia) — By virtue of scoring a second takedown, off a low single, with 23 seconds left, it didn’t matter that the Russian “tied” the score at 5-5 with five seconds left as Snyder became the youngest champion ever for the U.S. on a World stage. Snyder also scored a takedown midway through the first period and led 2-1 at intermission before Gadisov tied the bout 3-3 on a single-leg takedown early in the second period.
Bronze Medal Matches
Khetag Gazyumov (Azerbaijan) dec. Elizbar Odikadze (Georgia), 4-1
Pavlo Oliinyk (Ukraine) dec. Abbas Mohammadtaher Tahan (Iran), 3-2