Freshman Kyel Snyder defeated a top-10 opponent against Minnesota, earning the USA Wrestling Athlete of the Week award. Credit: Samantha Hollingshead / Lantern photographer

Freshman Kyle Snyder defeated a top-10 opponent against Minnesota, earning the USA Wrestling Athlete of the Week award.
Credit: Samantha Hollingshead / Lantern photographer

Kyle Snyder is in his first season in the collegiate ranks, but he already has his sights set on the top.

“Any time I have a chance to wrestle somebody who has the goal of being a national champion, it’s good for me and it allows me to prove that this is my year to win it,” the Ohio State freshman said.

Snyder was named the USA Wrestling Athlete of the Week on Tuesday after defeating the sixth-ranked 197 pounder and two-time All-American Scott Schiller of Minnesota, 3-1.

“It was a surprise. The award wasn’t something I was looking to receive, but being able to beat a quality opponent and to be recognized for it is something to be excited about,” Snyder said.

The Woodbine, Md., native was unbeaten in his first three seasons at Our Lady of Good Counsel High School and was named the ASICS High School Wrestler of the Year as a junior. He posted a 179-0 career record before deciding to amp up his training and spend his time among professionals. Snyder said he has carried that work ethic all season at OSU and isn’t looking to slow down now that the championship season is taking over.

“We’re still wrestling pretty hard every day, a lot of live minutes and a lot of hard sparring,” Snyder said. “We are doing shorter, but more intense live sessions and everything is geared up to making sure you feel like a superhero when you step out on the mat in March.”

Snyder (22-2) spent his final year of high school away from home to work on his craft as a resident-athlete at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo., something his high school coach Skylar Saar thinks worked well for him.

“I think Kyle is having a great season so far and he is adjusting well back to folkstyle wrestling after spending his senior year wrestling freestyle,” Saar said in an email. “Kyle has defeated some top-ranked opponents and doesn’t seem to be too affected by the … rigors of college wrestling.

“He has been wrestling with adults for the past year so he is used to the physicality. I think he has a very good chance to win both the Big 10’s and NCAA’s. I know he believes he will and I know he has the skill and mental toughness to do so.”

With the Olympics being the ultimate goal, Snyder has already built quite the resume. In 2013, Snyder won a Junior World Title for the U.S. in freestyle and also brought home a bronze medal at the Junior Worlds in 2014.

Saar said he has always seen Kyle as a standout wrestler and isn’t surprised with his success at the college level.

“I have known Kyle since he was in elementary school and he was a very special talent even at a young age,” Saar said. “He was a leader from the day he stepped in our room so it did not surprise me that he was voted a team captain at Ohio State as a true freshman.”

His leadership has reflected its way into the OSU wrestling room, and teammate and three-time National Champion Logan Stieber said Snyder has what it takes to be great.

“He gets better every week, you can see him learning and improving on what he needs to every day,” Stieber said. “I always say he is the most mature person on the team.”

Snyder is ranked third in the country at 197 pounds and is the only freshman to be recognized in the top 19.

As the Big Ten Championships draw near (March 7-8), Snyder is the No. 1 seed with eight other conference opponents behind him ranked in the top 16 in the country. Snyder said there is no doubt that having the tournament at OSU will help.

“Being at home is definitely going to help me. Competing at St. John Arena versus somewhere else and being able to sleep in your own bed and cutting weight in your normal routine and having the fans we have and your family here helps how you feel and how you go out and compete,” Snyder said.

As for the opponents themselves, Snyder said he is eager to get on the mat with the best in country.

“I’m super excited about how many ranked guys are in the Big Ten,” he said. “I knew when I committed to Ohio State that I wanted to wrestle the best guys and the Big Ten tournament is sort of like a mini-NCAA tournament.”

Snyder leads the Buckeyes with 12 major decisions and is tied for the second-most wins (22). Because of his spot in the lineup, Snyder has had chances to clinch dual-meet victories for the team by earning the final needed points, and coach Tom Ryan said he hasn’t been disappointed.

“We are happy for him and he is well deserving, but we have almost come to expect it with him,” Ryan said. “He’s focused on the big picture in this sport, his thinking is more, ‘I love this,’ and his thinking is so much higher than individual awards. It’s like running over a pebble in your car, you don’t even know you hit it.”

Snyder and the No. 3 Buckeyes will travel to Edinboro, Pa., to face No. 15 Edinboro on Sunday at 1 p.m. for the first round of the National Duals.