OSU junior Kyle Snyder shows off his gold medal at the Welcome Back event for OSU Olympians. Credit: Ashley Nelson | Sports Director

OSU junior Kyle Snyder shows off his gold medal at the Welcome Back event for OSU Olympians. Credit: Ashley Nelson | Sports Director

Kyle Snyder stood tall at Ohio State as he reflected upon his passion for the sport of wrestling, expressing his strong will that drove him to achieve his highest goal: Olympic gold.  

Though he only competed for a single day in Rio de Janeiro, Snyder’s work ethic and love for the sport paid off.

“Winning the gold is fun. And getting the accolades, Twitter followers and doing the interviews is really cool. But I love wrestling for what it is,” said Snyder, OSU junior heavyweight wrestler, addressing a media event Monday at the Ohio Union.

The medals and recognition of winning were not the main aspects of his time in Rio that Snyder most enjoyed.

“Even if that wasn’t a part of it, then I would still love what I was doing and that’s what I cherish the most,” Snyder said.

His day of competition in Rio did not lack drama, as Snyder fell behind quickly in the first half of the semifinal match 0-4.

Buckeye wrestling coach Tom Ryan observed from the stands with confidence.

“My first thoughts were, ‘If there’s anybody that’s got to be down like that, I want it to be Kyle,’ because you know that he has the mindset and the hours of training behind him to come back from something like that,” Ryan said.

Snyder was feeling no different from his coach at OSU, as he remained calm with another three-minute half left in the match.

“I was excited to wrestle the rest of the match,” Snyder said.  “I wasn’t worried, my heart rate didn’t go up, I wasn’t stressed. I was just ready to wrestle.”

The comeback resulted in a 9-4 victory, placing him in the gold-medal match later that evening.

Snyder’s next opponent, from Azerbaijan, was a tough match. However, Snyder prevailed, capturing gold, winning 2-1. With this victory, Snyder became the youngest American Olympic wrestler to win a gold medal, along with being the only OSU wrestler to do such.

“The moments that I was prepared for came throughout the day, throughout my matches, and then the product of wrestling well was standing at the top of the podium and being able to listen to the national anthem,” Snyder said.

Snyder said he did not let the distractions presented by celebration of sport and athletic ability, deter him from focusing on his wrestling goals.

“Because I don’t value winning or just the gold medals, I didn’t fear losing,” Snyder said. “I wanted to wrestle the toughest competitors and the challenge is what I was excited for.”

Ryan’s presence in the arena was more than a presence of fandom, but of inspiration. The Buckeyes’ coach shared the magic of that golden moment, just seconds after the finals match.

“You knew (Snyder) could do it.  You go to an event, and you’re like, ‘Hey we can win this thing,’” Ryan said.

The evening before, Ryan and Snyder texted each other, sending words and thoughts of inspiration from Matthew 8:26.

“The night before, he was sending me some Scripture about fear and not being fearful,” Ryan said. “I mean, the night before the Olympics, there’s the Olympic Village and there’s a lot to do, and this guy is in his room reading (the Bible). He sent me that before the competition started.  He’s just really grounded.”

Snyder’s Olympic experience followed him back home to Columbus, where Ryan planned an event to which he was welcomed and embraced by his family, along with many Buckeye, Olympic and wrestling fans alike at the John Glenn International Airport.

Snyder wrapped up the media event by saying there was just one accolade that could top his Olympic adventure.

“I think maybe doing it again in 2020 might top it,” Snyder said.  “I think I can. I plan to, but we’ll have to see when we get there.”