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Wrestling: Kyle Snyder returns for senior year with fresh gold medal

Then-junior Kyle Snyder lifts Penn State’s Nick Nevills for a takedown on Feb. 3, 2017 at the Schottenstein Center. OSU lost, 32-12. Credit: Nicholas McWilliams | Former Sports Editor

Kyle Snyder didn’t have to return for his senior season at Ohio State.

The decorated heavyweight has accomplished virtually everything in his time as a Buckeye, winning a team national championship as a freshman, two individual national championships in 2016 and 2017, an Olympic gold medal in 2016, two world championships in 2015 and 2017, two Big Ten individual titles and owning three All-American seasons.

Competing professionally internationally will likely be fruitful for the Olympic gold medalist and world champion once he graduates, both in terms of success on the mat and financially.

So, why did he return for his senior season?

“The only reason why I wouldn’t come back is because of the financial opportunities that I could be potentially missing out on,” Snyder said. “I just talked with the coaches and my parents and decided that that stuff can wait and I’m just going to finish out my career here and then pursue international wrestling.”

The heavyweight said he made the decision to return during the spring. Snyder added he was able to receive “all of the operation gold money” from his wins in the Olympics in world championships, but couldn’t pull in any sponsorship money. He thought long and hard about forgoing his amateur status and pursuing compensation beyond what he was able to receive from the Olympics and world championships.

“They were pretty tempting,” Snyder said. “It would’ve been cool to be able to start making money earlier, but it’s only a couple years and the opportunities that were there last year will be there this year coming up.”

Snyder recently captured gold at the World Wrestling Championships in Paris on Aug. 26. His 6-5 upset victory in the finals against Russia’s Abdulrashid Sadulaev sent waves through the wrestling world and taught Snyder a few lessons he can carry into his senior season.

“I learned that mentally I’m getting stronger,” Snyder said. “I’m becoming more rigid in my mentality to where I can get more out of myself when I’m competing. I learned that there’s still some things that I can improve on. I see that in my wrestling, so that’s always good.”

What Snyder and the Buckeyes will accomplish in his senior season remains to be seen. What is clear, however, is that Ohio State — with a roster housing seven returning All-Americans, including 2015 NCAA champion Nathan Tomasello and 2016 NCAA champion Myles Martin — is poised to make another run at a national championship this season.

Snyder said the opportunity to compete alongside a striking amount of talent was attractive in his decision to return, and that there is nothing quite like wrestling on a team.

“This year, we have a really special team,” Snyder said. “I think we have the potential to be one of the greatest wrestling teams in the history of NCAA sports, in the history of NCAA wrestling. That’s exciting.”

Coach Tom Ryan said Snyder’s dedication to his team has become clear in the past three years.

“I mean the thing about Kyle that has always impressed me is that, despite the accolades, he doesn’t change,” Ryan said. “He came in here full of fire, he’s still full of fire. He loves this sport. He loves this program. He loves his teammates.”

Ryan suspects that leading the Buckeyes to a team national championship was the main goal in Snyder’s plan to return.

“He helped the team win nationals as a freshman and I think there’s certainly an element of him now, he wants to leave leading the team to another national championship,” Ryan said.

Snyder said that’s precisely why he’s staying around.

“The perfect end? A team title,” Snyder said. “We’re in Cleveland, so a team title at the [Quicken Loans Arena] would be awesome. And when I started my freshman year here we won a team title and then we took third and then second, so finishing off my career here with another team NCAA title would be awesome.”

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