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Wrestling: How Ohio State balances international and collegiate competition

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

Ohio State’s wrestling room holds more world championships than some countries. When that’s the case, there are bound to be some conflicts.

At least two Buckeyes will be competing internationally during the 2017-18 NCAA season. Senior heavyweight Kyle Snyder announced last week he will be competing in the World Wrestling Clubs Cup in early December and at the Ivan Yarygin Memorial Grand Prix in Russia at the end of January. He also will wrestle Reza Yazdani of Iran and Abdulrashid Sadulaev of Russia in highly-anticipated matchups in their respective home countries.

The World Wrestling Clubs Cup will take place in Iran on Dec. 7 and 8. Ohio State has a dual meet on Dec. 10 against Indiana. The exact date of the Yarygin tournament in late January is unknown. The Buckeyes will meet Michigan State and Purdue on Jan. 26 and 28, respectively.

Junior Joey McKenna will be competing for the United States’ U-23 World Team from Nov. 21 to Nov. 26 in Poland at the United World Wrestling U-23 Championships after qualifying over the weekend. McKenna will be absent for Ohio State’s Thanksgiving Throwdown meet against Cleveland State and Kent State on Nov. 21.

Head coach Tom Ryan made it clear that competing internationally not only is allowed at allowed at Ohio State, it’s encouraged.

“The objective for us as a staff, and the commitment we have to these student athletes is, we’re going to do everything we can to help you improve,” Ryan said. “To be the best version of you, and if being the best version of them means that they’ve got to miss a dual meet to get overseas and wrestle some Russians and Iranians and Turks to help them really uncover what some of their weaknesses might be or lesser strengths, then we’re going to do that.”

Ryan said wrestling differs from many other NCAA sports, such as football, because losing a couple of dual meets does not “greatly diminish” a team’s chances to win national championships in March.

For a special case, such as the Olympic gold medalist and two-time national champion Snyder, competing internationally might be necessary to maintain shape against level competition.

“Instead of having a Kyle Snyder go to a tournament and not get out of the first period, he’s better off going to Russia and wrestling some people that can really challenge him in a way that will help him grow,” Ryan said.

Snyder competed internationally during the season in 2016 and is familiar with the task at hand. He said Ryan and the coaching staff have been extremely helpful in allowing him to pursue opportunities, and that he enjoys competing internationally when it presents the challenges he needs.

“The NCAA, there’s a couple good guys, but internationally there’s still some guys that can wrestle pretty hard with me, and I want to compete against them and that’s where you learn the most about yourself,” Snyder said.

The change in scenery is also accompanied by a change in style. Folkstyle wrestling, which is use in the collegiate arena, is more focused on controlling your opponent. Freestyle wrestling, which is practiced on the international scene, is more focused on exposure points and allows tactics such as locking the hands. Getting experience wrestling freestyle is important for those with professional aspirations, such as Snyder and McKenna.

“I’m excited to wrestle freestyle, as that’s what comes after college and that’s where the World Championships and the Olympics are,” McKenna said. “Obviously that’s a main focus for post-collegiate wrestling so it is important to wrestle in those events when I can.”

This winter will be the first time McKenna has pulled double duty during a collegiate season. Still sore from successfully qualifying for the U23 Worlds in Poland, the junior is encouraged by what he has seen his teammate accomplish before him.

“Having a guy like Kyle on the team who does wrestle internationally during the season kind of changes the perspective on that,” McKenna said. “He’s able to do both, so you wonder, why can’t I?”

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