Kyle Snyder won his first global title in five years — in the absence of his Russian rival — and the U.S. finished the world wrestling championships with the most medals outright for the first time in history.
Snyder, a 2016 Olympic champion, grabbed his third world championships gold — and first since 2017 — by topping Russian-turned Slovak Batyrbek Tsakulov 6-0 in Sunday’s 97kg final in Belgrade.
Also Sunday, American Yianni Diakomihalis took 65kg silver, falling to Iranian Rahman Amouzad 13-8 in the final. Seth Gross lost his bronze-medal match at 61kg.
The U.S. finished the weeklong championships with a program record-tying 15 medals — two more than second-place Japan — and a program record seven gold medals — matching Japan’s total. The U.S. finished past worlds tied for the most medals, but never in first place alone until now.
The medal standings were impacted by the absence of Russia and Belarus, whose wrestlers are banned from international competition due to the war in Ukraine. Russian wrestlers won the most medals at the 2021 World Championships (18) and were second to the Americans with eight medals at the Tokyo Games.
Snyder’s primary rival is Russian Abdulrashid Sadulayev. They met in four of the previous five global championship finals, with Sadulayev, nicknamed the Russian Tank, winning the last three meetings.
Snyder spent a week with Sadulayev in his native Dagestan last year, after the Russian beat him in the Olympic and world championships finals. In June, Snyder called Sadulayev’s absence “a bummer.”
“World championships, I’m thinking Russia, USA versus Russia, that’s what it is in my mind,” he said. “So to not have him there really stinks.”
Sadulaev posted on Instagram after Snyder’s title Sunday.
“You know who was absent there,” he wrote. “My friend, I’m ready to give you another chance to become a real king in the 97 kg weight class. Our viewers deserve the continuance of story.”
Before that, Snyder’s next major challenge may be domestic.
J’den Cox, a two-time world champ in the non-Olympic 92kg class, said he plans to move up to 97kg for next year. Cox also moved up to 97kg last year, but a potential showdown with Snyder at Olympic Trials was nixed when Cox missed the weigh-in deadline to start the event.
Snyder then swept Cox in two 97kg matches on March 16 in a special event in Detroit.
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