There are more lies than truths told at family functions. From dinner to shooting the bull afterward, most of the stories shared never happened, but they’re harmless lies.
In my family, that “shooting the bull” devolves into the men sitting around trying to prove who knows best in remembering some of the most dominant Ohio State sports legends in their lifetimes.
They remember watching from the nosebleeds, or through their first television, all the miraculous things Archie Griffin, Eddie George, Jerry Lucas, Jimmy Jackson and Scoonie Penn did while at Ohio State.
I’m in my final year as an undergraduate at Ohio State, and I imagine decades from now when I partake in the debate of the greatest athletes to grace Columbus, it’ll go something like this: “Let me tell you about the most complete, dominant athlete in the world who won a gold medal at the Olympics while he wrestled in college.
“And let me tell you how I never saw Kyle Snyder in person and I didn’t watch him nearly enough on TV.”
When you’re told college will be “the best years of your life,” it’s generally referring to the experiences gained, lessons learned and friends made that last a lifetime. I’ve had plenty of those, and outside of trivial matters, I wouldn’t want my time at Ohio State to be any different than what it has been: except for a chance to watch Snyder every moment I could have.
All of that is the truth.
Snyder will wrestle for the final time at home as an Ohio State Buckeye Sunday in front of what might be a sellout crowd at the Schottenstein Center. And it will be another opportunity — like many other Ohio State students — I will miss seeing a man who is sure to be on the Mount Rushmore of Ohio State athletes, with the likes of Jesse Owens and Jack Nicklaus.
It would take me more than this entire column to list his individual achievements, so a quick glance at his university bio should suffice for why Snyder will be remembered at Ohio State as one of its all-time legendary athletes.
If there’s one moment that tipped the scales toward Snyder’s improbable career, it was becoming the youngest world champion in USA wrestling history during summer 2015, between his freshman and sophomore seasons. That following spring, he beat two-time defending national champion Nick Gwiazdowski at Madison Square Garden to capture his first NCAA title.
All he did a few months later was win a gold medal as a 20-year-old at the Olympics in Rio De Janeiro.
That should’ve been more than enough to convince me that Snyder had to be seen in person, or I’d regret it for the rest of my life. Only one other athlete from Ohio State had gone to the Olympics while a student before Snyder — it was Lucas. He was clearly dominant on the international stage, so why would I deprive myself from watching an Olympic champion in person, while I had the chance?
That’s just not something a student gets to do at his own school.
Yet, when given the chance again, when he announced he would return for his senior season, I didn’t give it a second thought outside of, “Oh, that’s cool.” The mistake was mine for not watching Snyder.
I never paid attention to wrestling before I enrolled at Ohio State — and I still don’t. That’s not to say that I don’t find the sport entertaining or fascinating — I do. Wrestling season aligns with college basketball, which has always been my sport of choice for entertainment.
However, a casual sports fan should be able to appreciate Snyder’s greatness and unequivocal skill at the collegiate level. A casual fan should have taken the time to sit in a mostly empty arena and watch Snyder’s unparalleled display of power.
I watched him on TV win gold and show off the American flag draped on his back to the entire arena in Rio. Just last week, I stopped what I was doing to watch Snyder finish a fall at Rutgers on TV. It’s honestly quite funny watching Snyder give his opponents false hope by allowing them to stand up and earn a point for an escape before Snyder buries them again.
But here I am on the eve of Snyder’s final match in Columbus with Ohio State, knowing I won’t be in attendance tomorrow because I’ll be heading to a concert in Kentucky. The little I know to be true about him will sound like false tales to whomever will hear me talk about all Snyder accomplished in his time at Ohio State.
“Yes, all of that is true,” I will say. “And I missed most of it.”