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Wrestling: The origins of Ohio State’s secret weapon: the pin chain

Ohio State senior heavyweight wrestler Kyle Snyder poses after winning a match against Arizona State on Nov. 12. Credit: Colin Hass-Hill | Sports Editor

Even after a dozen takedowns and a huge lead against unranked Austyn Harris during Sunday’s dual meet against Arizona State, something was still driving Ohio State heavyweight wrestler Kyle Snyder to pin his opponent. The inspiration comes from the pin chain, a silver chain necklace awarded to any Buckeye wrestler who wins with a pin.

Snyder pinned his opponent, and the Olympic gold medalist made his way to his corner and flexed for the crowd, pin chain and all, to much fanfare in Columbus.

“I wouldn’t have worked hard for a pin unless I knew there was the pin chain,” said Snyder, who had just six pins in his first three collegiate seasons.

The pin chain debuted earlier during Sunday’s match when 184-pound junior Myles Martin won his match with a pin. The moment was a bit anticlimactic. Martin, whom Ohio State assistant coach J Jaggers described as “a pretty quiet kid,” was awarded the chain near the team but a portion of the crowd seemed to miss it. However, the meet was not done yet, and neither was the pin chain, which Snyder wore to the post-match press conference.

The pin chain — which was inspired by the University of Miami (Fl.) football team’s turnover chain — elicited more reaction from the wrestling world at large, and a photo was tweeted out by ESPN business reporter Darren Rovell along with Snyder, who has a large following himself. The chain now has a Twitter account of its own.

The pin chain was the brainchild of Jaggers, who Snyder said has “all the good ideas.” This idea came about a month ago, the Buckeyes’ assistant coach said.

“It’s just something to excite the guys, to encourage them to go for more pins,” Jaggers said. “And then obviously there’s a recruiting element to it. Anything that kids think is cool or they want to be a part of, then that helps. We’re not denying that it’s a complete knockoff of the turnover chain.”

The chain itself originated from eBay for $30, Jaggers said. He chose silver to differentiate the chain from the gold of its Miami predecessor, along with staying true to a scarlet and gray color scheme. Jaggers estimated the cost of the Block O pendant to be about $10. His wife visited Joann Fabric and cut out the “O” before the two covered it in its black-and-scarlet glitter paper.

The pin chain is kept in an undisclosed location at the Steelwood Training Facility. It is housed in a silver suitcase, which used to contain a poker set, courtesy of Snyder. The “pin briefcase” was carried out to the mat by the senior on Sunday. The presentation is Ohio State’s unique spin on the concept of an incentive chain.

The chain will only accompany the Buckeyes to dual meets, home and away, before making its way to the Big Ten tournament and eventually the national tournament. The idea of a duplicate chain is also being tossed around, in case two wrestlers are ever competing on different mats at the same time, like at nationals, for example.

Jaggers showed the pin chain to the team the day before the meet and explained the concept, much to the team’s excitement. While head coach Tom Ryan was also made aware of the chain, Jaggers said the head coach “had no idea” the chain would take on a life of its own. Ryan now contemplates his deep love for the hardware.

The staff does not believe the pin chain will reach heights of popularity like Miami’s turnover chain, but Jaggers said it works just fine on a smaller scale in Columbus.

“The feedback has been good within our own community,” Jaggers said. “If it’s what brings a family with three kids back to the mat because the kids wants to see somebody don that pin chain, then it’s cool.”

The long-term goal of the pin chain is to help No. 2 Ohio State win a national championship in March. Standing in the way of that goal is the defending NCAA champion, No. 1 Penn State.

In a year where Ohio State and Penn State are locked in an arms race, bonus points by way of pins will be crucial come NCAA tournament time.

The chain is no toy, nor is it a publicity stunt. It has a purpose.

Bonus points are awarded at the NCAA championships to each team based on how matches finish. A match ending by pin yields two points for the winning wrestler’s team. The other victory outcomes are 1.5 points for a technical fall and one point for a major decision.

“Penn State’s got a great team this year,” Ryan said. “It could ultimately boil down to bonus points. At the national tournament, that would’ve been an extra half-point for the team. You have 10 guys wrestling matches each through the weekend and you have 50 matches, you pick up six or seven of those, that’s a 3 1/2-, 4-point difference. That could be the difference.”

The pin chain has already paid dividends on the mat, according to the Buckeyes’ coaching staff. A group Jaggers said does not include “a lot of prolific pinners” produced two on Sunday.

Every wrestler in Ohio State’s training room wants to wear the pin chain. Snyder made sure he wore it, but that might not have been his sole motive.

“He wanted that pin chain,” Ryan said. “He also wanted to flex. It’s hard to flex without the pin chain around your chest.”

Correction: An earlier version of this story inaccurately said Kyle Snyder and Myles Martin won via pinfall. In fact, they won via pin. Pinfall was not the correct term.

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