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

Kristoffersen topples Hirscher to win giant slalom at worlds

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ARE, Sweden — Norwegian skiing is in safe hands, even with its beloved king now in retirement.

Henrik Kristoffersen gave Norway its second individual gold medal of the world championships by toppling an under-the-weather Marcel Hirscher to win the giant slalom on Friday.

With Kjetil Jansrud also victorious in the downhill last week, Norway appears in great shape heading into the post-Aksel Lund Svindal era.

Svindal signed off his illustrious career with a silver medal behind Jansrud in the downhill, and said he was leaving behind a strong generation of Norwegian skiing talent.

Kristoffersen is at the forefront of that — especially now that he has ended his long wait for a medal at a world championship.

The 24-year-old Kristoffersen had finished fourth in his last three races at the worlds — the giant slalom and slalom in 2017 and the slalom in 2015 — and headed into his second run of the GS in third place behind leader Alexis Pinturault and Hirscher, the favorite and one of skiing’s all-time greats.

However, Kristoffersen produced an aggressive run under the lights, his speed and flow particularly apparent in the bottom section, to win by 0.20 seconds over Hirscher. Pinturault won the bronze medal, 0.42 seconds back.

“It was about time to get a medal,” said Kristoffersen, who wasn’t necessarily expecting it to come in GS.

Kristoffersen’s last win in the discipline came at Meribel in 2015 and he has been consistently behind Hirscher, the seven-time overall World Cup winner and defending Olympic and world GS champion. He finished second to Hirscher at last year’s Olympics in Pyeongchang.

Kristoffersen was without a win in any discipline for a year but said he gained confidence from the course being doused with salt to maintain the snow surface amid unseasonably warm weather. The temperature in Are for the first leg was 8 C (46 F).

“There’s no one that skis on salt as much as Norwegians do,” he said. “Even though I haven’t trained on salt in GS in a long, long time, I have it from childhood.”

Hirscher’s preparations for the race were affected by a bout of flu that kept him in bed for much of the past two days. He acknowledged after the race that the likelihood of him lining up on the starting gate wasn’t high on Thursday.

“Normally,” Hirscher said, “if you have regular work on those days, you normally tell your boss I’m done for the day.”

Yet he managed to be only 0.10 seconds behind Pinturault after an error-free first run, keeping Hirscher on course for a record-tying seventh gold medal at the worlds. But he went wide at two gates in the top section of his second run, causing him to lose 0.41 seconds on Kristoffersen in the middle section.

“Second place is the first loser but Henrik had an amazing day with two great runs,” Hirscher said. “Henrik is at the top for such a long time. He was more than ready for a world title.”

Hirscher, who was noticeably sniffing after the race, added that he was “looking forward to getting back to bed again” to rest up ahead of Sunday’s slalom.

When Pinturault crossed the finish line in third place, Kristoffersen clenched his fists before walking into the finish area, crouching on one knee and acknowledging the jubilant Norwegian fans in the grandstand.

For Pinturault, it was his second medal of the championships after winning the Alpine combined on Monday.

Wesenberg wins first U.S. skeleton World Cup medal in two years

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With a bronze medal in Lake Placid earlier today, Kendall Wesenberg became the first American to reach the World Cup podium in skeleton in two years.

Wesenberg, who finished 17th at her first Olympics in PyeongChang, had a combined time of 1:51.10 in Lake Placid. Prior to today, her last podium finish at the World Cup was in St. Moritz in January 2017.

“This has never been my strongest track, so we really broke it down piece by piece, and I think it paid off,” Wesenberg said, according to USA Bobsled and Skeleton. “The second run, I kind of tried to throw it away at the top there. By the time I made it to corner 10, I was just thinking ‘build speed, build speed.”

Wesenberg, 28, grew up in California’s Central Valley, but her interest in sliding sports piqued while watching the 2010 Vancouver Games. When the commentators discussed the athletic backgrounds of the athletes, Wesenberg realized she played some of the same sports growing up. A quick Google search brought her to the USA Bobsled and Skeleton page. She told her siblings she was thinking of trying skeleton. They said she’d never do it. Challenge accepted.

Wesenberg emailed a U.S. coach and signed up for a combine and driving training in January 2011. Seven years later, she was sliding on Olympic ice.

Sliding coverage continues today on Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA, with women’s bobsled live at 3:15 p.m. ET and men’s bobsled live at 4:15.