Kyle Snyder becomes youngest American to win World Wrestling Championship

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Kyle Snyder dropped to his hands and knees, an American flag covering his body. He went to lie on the mat.

One piece of Snyder poked out from beneath the flag, under the 13th stripe, his red wrestling shoes.

From the front, one could peek under the 50 stars to see three fingers hiding the face of the 19-year-old who had moments earlier become the youngest American to win a World Wrestling Championship.

“I don’t know what it means to me exactly,” Snyder told media shortly after he picked himself off the mat, where he appeared to be praying, ensconced in that cloth cocoon. “Hanging out with my friends is fun, but this is pretty cool.”

Snyder, a 19-year-old who was the Big Ten and NCAA runner-up at Ohio State as a freshman last season, upset the defending World champion from Russia in the World Championships 97kg freestyle final in Las Vegas on Friday night.

This wasn’t Gardner over Karelin, but Snyder came into the tournament ranked No. 15 in his weight class. Russian Abdusalam Gadisov was No. 2.

A dried stream of blood ran from his left nostril to his upper lip as Snyder was told in a group interview minutes later that he had become the first U.S. teen to win a World title, breaking the youngest-ever record held by perhaps the greatest American grappler of all time, two-time Olympic champion John Smith.

“I like making history,” Snyder said. “I want to be known as one of the greatest wrestlers to ever live.”

Snyder became the third American to win gold at Worlds this week, the most World titles earned by the U.S. in one year since 1999. The current U.S. icon, Olympic champion Jordan Burroughs, wrestles Saturday for a chance to make it four, which the U.S. hasn’t tallied in one year since 1995.

Snyder overcame Gadisov with a two-point takedown with 23 seconds left in the six-minute final. That gave Snyder a 5-4 lead, and though Gadisov made it 5-5 seconds later, Snyder held on to win via a tiebreaker.

“Before the tournament started, I was expecting to win,” he said.

Snyder said he would have watched the final from the stands “eating Skittles” if he hadn’t eeked out the first of his five matches Friday, 2-1 over the 2014 World bronze medalist from Ukraine just before noon.

He rolled through the afternoon in Vegas, a city he can’t fully take in for another two years. Snyder anticipated a final against the Russian, whom he said he’s watched since seventh or eighth grade.

“He’s the guy I wanted to wrestle most,” he said. “He’s been doing a lot of winning.”

Snyder moved to Columbus last year with a blue-chip pedigree, going 179-0 in his first three seasons at a Maryland Catholic high school and then, in 2013, becoming the youngest American in over 20 years to win a World Junior Championship.

But as a Buckeye, he lost in the final of both the conference and national championships in his first year of college wrestling.

“When you feel pain like that, you never want to feel it again,” Snyder said of his NCAA defeats.

Snyder will sit out the coming NCAA season to focus on qualifying for the U.S. Olympic team. One spot is available per weight class at the Olympic trials in Iowa City in April.

Snyder has a bye into the Olympic trials final as a Worlds medalist, but he may well have to beat the reigning Olympic champion Jake Varner to make it to Rio.

That’s just what Snyder did to get to Vegas, edging Varner 2-1 at the U.S. Open in May and then, more easily, 4-1 and 3-0 at the World Team Trials in June.

Snyder will eventually go back to Columbus, even though he’s not going to wear a Buckeyes singlet in NCAA competition for another year, if he ever does again.

“If I can wrestle the best guys in the world, then I should be able to go to class a couple of times a day,” he joked.

MORE WRESTLING: Watch Jordan Burroughs rip a phone book in half

World Cup Alpine season opener gets green light

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After checking the snow on the Rettenbach glacier in Soelden, Austria, FIS officials announced Thursday that the traditional World Cup season opener is set to go ahead as planned Oct. 26-27 with men’s and women’s giant slalom races.

Current conditions at Soelden show a solid 30 inches of snow at the summit. The race finishes at an altitude of 2,670 meters (8,760 feet), far above the currently snowless village.

The first races of the season are never guaranteed to have enough snow, though last year’s men’s race at Soelden had the opposite problem, being canceled when a storm blew through with heavy snowfall and high winds. 

France’s Tessa Worley won the women’s race last year ahead of Italy’s Frederica Brignone and U.S. skier Mikaela Shiffrin, who would go on to dominate the rest of the World Cup season.

The Soelden weekend is followed by three dormant weeks until the season resumes Nov. 23-24 in Levi, Finland. The World Cup circuits then switch to North America. The men will run speed events Nov. 30-Dec. 1 in Lake Louise, Alberta, then head to Beaver Creek, Colo., for more speed events and a giant slalom Dec. 6-8. The women run slalom and giant slalom Nov. 30-Dec. 1 in Killington, Vt., and head to Lake Louise the next weekend.

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Olympic marathon and race walk move from Tokyo to Sapporo draws some pushback

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In the wake of a dropout-plagued set of world championship endurance races in Qatar, moving the 2020 Olympic marathons and race walks from Tokyo to the cooler venue of Sapporo is a quick fix for one problem, pending the potential for untimely heat waves.

But the move has drawn some opposition for a variety of reasons.

First, many organizers and politicians appear to have been caught by surprise. Tokyo’s governor, Yuriko Koike, was “taken aback” and Sapporo’s mayor, Katsuhiro Akimoto, learned about the move from the media, Kyodo News reported. Koike even sarcastically suggested that the races could move all the way northward to islands disputed by Russia and Japan.

South African sports scientist Ross Tucker suggested that running in heat and humidity poses an interesting challenge for athletes, some of whom may be able to catch up with faster runners by preparing for the conditions.

British marathoner Mara Yamauchi made a similar point, saying the move was unfair to those who already were preparing for the heat, humidity and other conditions.

Belgian marathoner Koen Naert said he will make the best of the change but complained that some of his preparation and every runner’s logistical planning would no longer apply.

The angriest athlete may be Canadian walker Evan Dunfee, who placed fourth in the 2016 Olympic 50km race and nearly claimed bronze as a Canadian appeal was upheld but then rejected. He says runners and walkers can beat the conditions if they prepare, which many athletes did not do for the world championships in Qatar.

“So why do we cater to the ill prepared?” Dunfee asked on Twitter.

The move also takes athletes out of the main Olympic city and takes away the traditional, tough less frequent in modern years, finish in the Olympic stadium.

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