One-on-One with Kyle Snyder

Kyle Snyder, the nation's No. 1 wrestling recruit, has spent his senior season at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs. He won a Junior World title last summer at 96 kilos and has his sights set on repeating as a Junior World champion this summer in Zagreb, Croatia. Snyder compiled a high school record of 179-0 and has won virtually all the major high school-age wrestling events. The Maryland native signed with Ohio State and is expected to be an immediate impact wrestler for the NCAA title-contending Buckeyes. InterMat recently caught up with the 18-year-old Snyder.

How much longer will you be at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs?

Snyder: I'm going to here until after the Trials, and then in June I'll kind of be back and forth between Columbus and here.

You recently competed in the Dapper Dan Wrestling Classic. Was it difficult transitioning from freestyle to folkstyle for that event?

Snyder: Not really. I prepared for it. I spent some time getting off bottom and working on some top stuff. I spent most of the time during the match on my feet, and that's pretty much freestyle wrestling. It wasn't too big of a change. Obviously, I feel a little bit more comfortable right now with freestyle than folkstyle, but it wasn't too hard.

Kyle Snyder won the FILA Junior World Trials in Stillwater (Photo/Tony Rotundo,
What has your experience been like at the Olympic Training Center?

Snyder: The experience has been great. Being at the OTC has allowed me to partake in all the National Team and World Team camps that are here in Colorado Springs, so I get to work out with the best guys at my weight class and the weight classes around me. Also, I got to go on a few overseas trips and work out with the best guys in the world at my weight class and the weight classes around me. Overall, just being here and wrestling with the other residents I've learned things now that I probably would have had to wait until I got to college to figure out. There are certain positions that I normally wouldn't be put in if I was wrestling high schoolers ... that I get put into wrestling these senior level guys out here and I get to figure them out and correct it. I'm kind of a year ahead of where I would be if I stayed in Maryland and wrestled the high schoolers.

Why is Ohio State the best fit for you?

Snyder: First of all, I love the coaches there. Coach Ryan, Jaggers, Rosselli, and Thatcher, it's a great staff. I got to know them really well and I like what they are about. One of the biggest reasons why I chose Ohio State is because of the regional training center there, and the guys that they're going to have there while I'm going to be competing for Ohio State. They had five of the seven guys on the World Team, and they had everybody from 84 kilos up ... with Gavin, Bergman, and Dlagnev. I get to work out with those guys while they're competing for the United States. It's going to be a pretty easy transition from when I'm done competing in college to competing internationally because they have that regional training center set up. I also think that with the guys that we have there right now we're going to be a title threat next year, and I believe we're going to win it next year.

So the plan is definitely to wrestle next season as a true freshman at Ohio State?

Snyder: Yeah, I'll wrestle at 197 pounds.

Did you attend the NCAAs in Oklahoma City?

Snyder: Yeah, I did.

What did you think of the Buckeyes' performance?

Snyder: Obviously, I was pretty happy that Logan won his third title, and that Heflin made it to the finals. I thought Heflin could have won that match if he was a little more offensive, but J'den wrestled a solid tournament and a solid match in the finals to get it done. I was pretty happy with how everybody wrestled. I think Nick Tavanello had a really good tournament making it to the round of 12. That was great for him. I thought Kenny Courts could have been an All-American and should have been an All-American, but Ophir Bernstein of Brown is pretty tough. I thought Johnni DiJulius and Nicky Roberts wrestled pretty well, and I know Mark Martin has been battling that knee injury, so that kind of limited his wrestling. But overall I was pretty happy with how they competed. It seemed like they were wrestling well when they needed to at the tournament.

Kyle Snyder has won titles at many of the nation's premier high school wrestling events, including the Walsh Ironman (Photo/Rob Preston)
You have had some battles with J'den Cox over the years. Did Cox winning the NCAA title as a true freshman give you confidence to know that you can compete for a title immediately?

Snyder: I had confidence at the beginning of this year that next year I would be able to come in and contend for a national title as a freshman. Two of the guys I train with a lot here, Dustin Kilgore and Jon Reader, have both won NCAA titles. They talk to me and give me positive reinforcement about how I'm wrestling and have made me feel like I can step in and win it. J'den winning it this year obviously makes me feel like I should be in the title hunt.

Two members of your Junior World Team, Jason Tsirtsis and Alex Dieringer, won NCAA titles this season. Was that satisfying for you?

Snyder: Yeah, it was awesome. Jason was actually my roommate at the training camp, and I got to know Alex pretty well throughout the training camp too. It was really great to see them win and have success. Before the tournament started I thought both of them were going to win it. It's great to get to know somebody and start to care about them, and then watch them win a national title. It's pretty awesome.

How does the environment at the NCAAs compare with the environment at the Junior Worlds?

Snyder: They're different. There's definitely a lot more people at the NCAAs. I feel like international wrestling is more laid back. Everybody cares about winning and everybody wants to win, but it's a different atmosphere. I think the level of competition is pretty similar.

Kyle Snyder
Last summer you were able to win a Junior World title. How much confidence has that given you?

Snyder: A lot of confidence. But before I wrestled in the Junior Worlds I thought that I was going to win it. So when I did win it I wasn't really surprised about how I competed. I think that's part of the reason why I won it, because I knew I could. Other people that I look up to told me that I could. I just believed in myself and believed in what they told me, and made it happen. I want to make it happen again this year. But it has definitely given me a lot of confidence internationally knowing that I've competed against the best juniors in the world and have had success against them.

You mentioned that you want to win another Junior World title. Do you plan to focus on the FILA Junior events this spring and summer? Or do you also plan to also compete in senior level events?

Snyder: I'm going to wrestle in the FILA Juniors and the FILA Junior World Team Trials again this year and hopefully make the team and hopefully win again. But next year in 2015 I think I'm going to start competing at the Open and Trials on the senior level and try to make the World Team.

Olympic gold medalist Jake Varner recently returned to training freestyle after a layoff. Have you trained with Varner?

Snyder: Yeah, I actually got to wrestle with Varner at camp at NCAAs. That was the first time I have wrestled with him.

Does it excite you to know that you're going to have an Olympic champion in your weight class domestically to help push you to a higher level?

Snyder: Absolutely. Jake Varner and J.D. Bergman are both really tough guys. I've gotten the opportunity to wrestle with J.D. a lot because he trains at Ohio State. You're going to feel pretty good about making the team if you beat a gold medalist from the last Olympics, and be pretty confident in how you're going to wrestle at the Worlds or Olympics if you're wrestling someone that tough just to make the team.

Kyle Snyder was InterMat High School Wrestler of the Year(Photo/Tony Rotundo,
The international weight classes changed. Now there is a 97-kilo weight class, which is 213 pounds. Will it be a challenge to be big enough for that weight class, but also small enough to compete at 197 pounds in college?

Snyder: No, not really. I weigh about 220 pounds right now just walking around. I think during the college season I'll be able to steady myself around 206 pounds, just change my diet up a little a bit. I've never had a problem getting bigger and putting muscle on my body. That extra two pounds really doesn't make too big of a difference.

Cadet World champion Aaron Pico made the decision not to wrestle in high school or college and instead focus strictly on freestyle. Did you ever considering going that route?

Snyder: No, I never considered that route. My first goal was to be an NCAA champion, and then I started to learn about international wrestling and the Olympics a little bit later. Ever since I was a little kid I would watch the NCAAs on TV and I just thought it would be awesome to wrestle in front of that many people and win a national title. The team aspect of NCAAs is also pretty cool. I just couldn't give up the experience of wrestling at the NCAAs and wrestling in front of sold-out crowds, whether it be at Ohio State, Iowa, or Penn State, that's just a lot of fun.

We're seeing more and more young wrestlers in the U.S. achieve at a higher level than ever before. You and Aaron Pico both won World titles last summer. There were two freshman NCAA champions and 12 freshman All-Americans this year. Why do you think wrestlers in the U.S. now more than ever are able to get to such a high level at such a young age?

Snyder: There are more regional training centers and more opportunities for guys like me, Pico, Cox, Tsirtsis, and others to get into a college room early and train at the regional training center and make the FILA Junior World Team or make the FILA Cadet World Team, and compete internationally at a young age and build up that confidence that when you walk into the NCAAs that you're going to win it.


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lesman67 (1) about 4 years ago
Sounds like a great kid. It was unbelievable when he came off his back to win the title at the Jr. Worlds. He is correct, Ohio State should be in contention for the title as much as Penn St., Iowa, Minnesota, Cornell, and Oklahoma St. It's great to have him as a Buckeye, welcome aboard, Kyle.