Sports

It's Kyle Snyder's world, as his World Cup foes learned

Phenom from Ohio State tech-falled all four opponents in Cup

Team USA’s Kyle Snyder scores points for exposure against Georgia’s Givi Matcharashvili in a 97 kg match during the third session of the 2018 Freestyle Wrestling World Cup at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City Sunday. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette)
Team USA’s Kyle Snyder scores points for exposure against Georgia’s Givi Matcharashvili in a 97 kg match during the third session of the 2018 Freestyle Wrestling World Cup at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City Sunday. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette)
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IOWA CITY — Sunday night gave us WrestleMania, the annual pro rasslin’ extravaganza of athleticism and over-the-top acting, punctuated by cartoon violence.

If he wants to go that route after he wins as many more World and Olympic real-wrestling championships as he wants, it’s not hard to picture Kyle Snyder prospering at it. Snyder has charisma, a connection with fans, and understandably, plenty of self-confidence.

“I’m usually in better shape and stronger (than his opponents),” Snyder said Sunday, and that was after an amateur wrestling triumph. Another one.

Snyder is a still a pup in international wrestling at 22, and he’s just a month from having finished his collegiate career at Ohio State with his third NCAA title. He won the decisive match in the United States’ 6-4 victory over Azerbaijan in Sunday afternoon’s championship match of United World Wrestling’s World Cup at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.

But here’s what he has beyond his three NCAA titles: Freestyle gold medals at the 2015 and 2017 World Championships, and a gold at the 2016 Olympics. He is the youngest American to win freestyle gold in the Worlds or Olympics.

Snyder won all four of his matches in this two-day event by technical fall, a 10-point decision that immediately stops the match. His matches were as brief as they were decisive.

Sunday morning, it took Snyder just 55 seconds to record a 10-0 win over Georgia’s Givi Matcharashvili. The Georgian had won his first two bouts by that same score.

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Snyder’s finale was a 14-3 mauling of Roman Bakirov, who had beaten two world-ranked foes here.

After facing Snyder, however, Bakirov walked out of the arena and into the tunnel looking like he suddenly knew how far he was from being the world’s best at his weight.

“He’s pretty good,” Snyder said about Bakirov, “so it was nice to tech-fall him.”

Snyder represents the new-kids side of the sea change in U.S. freestyle wrestling. Jordan Burroughs, who has five Olympic and World championships to his name is the old guard.

Burroughs didn’t win Olympic gold in 2016, but did snap back to win again at the Worlds last year. in Paris He beat his first three foes by a total of 29-2 here, then pinned his Azerbaijani foe.

“I’ll be 30 this summer,” Burroughs said. “These guys still can’t stop me.”

Since Burroughs wrestles at 164 pounds, though, he probably isn’t WrestleMania material despite his ferocious competitiveness and gift of gab. Snyder wrestles at 214 (97 kilograms), which is like being released from detention after his college career.

He had to wrestle at 285 (heavyweight) at Ohio State, so he was giving away a lot of weight to most foes. Which was only fair given his whopping advantage in talent.

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In February, Michigan’s Adam Coon beat Snyder, 3-1, in a dual meet. Coon weighs about 280, and is talented and quick. But Snyder avenged the loss with an overtime decision in the Big Ten tournament finals, and edged Coon again in the NCAA finals, 3-2.

It was epic stuff for college wrestling. But now Snyder is back to no longer competing at heavyweight and oh, the poor opponents.

Trailing 5-3 with two matches left, the Azerbaijanis needed a win over Snyder in the next-to-last bout to keep their championship hopes alive. Uh, no.

“I would always pick myself when it comes down to going out there and wrestling for the team,” Snyder said.

Seems reasonable.

Snyder has a big part of the good-guy wrestling role down pat. He’s nice to young kids. Twice here after matches, he gave his singlet to youths who are members of a wrestling club in Wisconsin Rapids, Wis.

Aspen Tritz was thrilled to get the singlet Snyder wore when he disposed of Bakirov, but unlike pal Jackson Freeman, he declined to wear his new souvenir.

“Really sweaty,” Tritz said.

Not as much as the one worn by the guy Snyder took down, turned, and kept turning.

Azerbaijan is no slouch as a wrestling nation. It had won two World Cups since the last time the U.S. did it, in 2003. This nation of about 10 million people sent a team that came here and battled.

Iran and Russia, who had combined to win the last eight World Cups, did no such thing. They had their stated reasons for not coming to Iowa for this one, and yadda, yadda, yadda.

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That was unfortunate. This was a slickly produced event, telegenic and entertaining, the kind international wrestling can always use.

Those two nations probably knew the writing was on the wall. They weren’t winning this one on American soil against one of the strongest U.S. teams ever. Not unless Snyder, Burroughs and a few of their teammates had run off to join the WWE circus.

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