When freshman heavyweight wrestler Chase Singletary first set foot in the Steelwood Training Facility, he felt he had a good idea of what he had signed up for.
As a two-time prep national champion, Beast of the East tournament champion and two-time Walsh Ironman title holder, Singletary came into his Ohio State wrestling career ready to help lead one of the best upper-weight rooms in the country.
Then, he wrestled Kyle Snyder.
“I remember … we were just rolling around and I went to pick up his leg and I was like, ‘This thing’s like picking up a tree trunk,’” Singletary said. “I got tired just holding his leg and I was like, ‘This is going to be a long year.’”
Not many collegiate athletes can say they share a locker room with a world and Olympic champion. But Singletary, as well as redshirt freshman heavyweight Gary Traub, count themselves among the lucky few.
However, with the great privilege comes great responsibility. In the words of Traub, both he and Singletary have big shoes to fill.
“Everyone knows you’re never going to replace a guy like Kyle Snyder … and I think that’s what the coaches have been trying to impress upon me and Chase,” Traub said. “Just be the best you can be and hope that translates well to the wins and losses.”
Singletary and Traub are no strangers to the demand of the sport. Both began wrestling as toddlers, working their way up to be able to compete in middle school and high school.
When it came time to choose where to take their collegiate careers, both wrestlers saw Ohio State as an opportunity to compete with the best of the best and a place they could grow the most as people and as wrestlers.
They also agreed that being on a team with Snyder was a big incentive. Singletary said Snyder’s work ethic sets higher standards for everyone in the room.
“He sets an example in every way. He goes out, competes, loves wrestling. He says it everyday,” Singletary said. “You can’t have a better role model than that.”
Traub recalls on his first day of practice, Snyder, fresh off his Olympic gold, walked in the room for drills and asked who didn’t have a partner. Traub, being the only solo wrestler in the room, hit the mat with Snyder.
Traub admits he got tossed around in the skirmish, but Snyder was quick to offer him pointers on certain positions.
“That’s kind of when I knew this guy’s the real deal,” Traub said. “He’s here to help everyone else get better, not just here to … beat you up.”
As Snyder’s days as an Ohio State wrestler are coming to an end, Singletary and Traub know they’re the next to step up to the plate in their weight class. Evidently, Snyder is aware of that fact as well.
Recently, Snyder sent a video in a team group chat of NFL Hall of Famer Michael Irvin’s “The U” speech. In it, Irvin mentions how he feared looking at those who handed him something so great and giving them back nothing, a feeling that Singletary relates to.
“My goal is to be the best wrestler I can be. That’s the ultimate goal, but it is a lot of pressure,” Singletary said. “If we can keep the program where it is, I’m going to do fine. If our program stays on top, that means we’re doing something right and I’m doing something right.”
Until Snyder hangs up his Ohio State singlet, Singletary and Traub are focused on learning what they can from their Olympic-champion teammate. While they intend to carry the torch next season, they also want to leave their own legacies.
“I’ve always been taught to leave something better than you got it,” Singletary said. “I’d want to leave this place better, but that lasting impact I want to leave is just … teaching [the next generation] to love the sport the way they’re teaching me now. I want to pass on what they’ve passed on to me.”