Everyone, Kyle Snyder says, is surprised by the heft of his gold medal.
Visitors to his apartment in Columbus, Ohio, want to see the gold he won as a wrestler at the Rio Olympics, and Snyder never says no. He heads to top of his dresser, where he keeps his gold medal. It’s not in some security deposit box. It’s on display in his bedroom.
When you visit Snyder’s place, you get a chance to wear the medal around your neck.
“Everyone says it’s heavier than they would think it would be,” Snyder says as he takes a break from a workout at the Olympic Training Center, where he’s preparing for the August World Championships in France.
He brings the medal along for speaking engagements and clinics. He estimates “thousands” have seen the gold since the Sunday afternoon in August when he triumphed in Rio.
“People just want to see it,” Snyder says. “When I was a kid, I always wanted to see one, too. So I try to let everybody see it, touch it.”
Get this: Snyder is only 21 years old. A little more than three years ago, he was walking the halls of Coronado High School as a senior. He had this wild vision during the year he studied at Coronado and trained at the Olympic Training center.
He wanted to rule the wrestling world.
He’s enjoying his reign, and he has a shot at so much more. He will be a mere 24 when the 2020 Tokyo Olympics arrive.
I watched the gold medal match in Rio. Snyder competed with a remarkable combination of daring and restraint. He was never scared, but never took foolish risks, either.
Minutes after earning his gold medal, he explained his philosophy. He banishes all fear in the minutes before each match and instead savors the thrills ahead. The more danger in the match, he says, the more he looks forward to the battle. He refuses to let dread dwell in his heart.
In those magic minutes in Rio, it was obvious Snyder felt no surprise about ruling the world. He expected to reign.
“No disbelief at all,” Snyder says. “It’s very believable that it happened.”
He’s enjoyed quite a ride since Rio. He visited the White House. He won his second straight NCAA individual title for Ohio State, along with Academic All American honors. He was honored in his hometown of Woodbine, Maryland.
But don’t worry about his supreme confidence slipping into overconfidence. Snyder realizes how difficult it will be to stay atop wrestling’s mountain. In 2012, American Jake Varner won gold in 97-kilo wrestling at the London Olympics. In 2016, Varner lost to Snyder in the Olympic Wrestling Trials.
Staying on wrestling’s mountaintop is as difficult as scaling that mountaintop.
“The hunger is the same,” Snyder says. “If anything, maybe I’m a little bit hungrier. Not because I won the Olympics, but because I have some very tough competitors in my weight class.”
That’s true. Snyder will face vicious competition in France, especially from Abdulrashid Sadulaev, better known as The Russian Tank. Sadulaev, like Snyder, is only 21. He dominated 86-kilo competition in Rio, destroying Turkey’s Selim Yasar, 5-0, in the gold medal match.
Watch out, Kyle. The Tank has moved to 97 kilos. Expect a Snyder-Sadulaev final at France and maybe at the Tokyo Olympics, too.
Snyder will arrive at the World Championships with the same complete confidence that lifted him in Rio. His calm assurance always is there.
“Oh, I think it comes from the love for what I have and comes from knowing I’m good at what I do,” he says. “Not to be cocky or arrogant, but I’ve wrestled a lot in my life and I’ve wrestled against really good people and I’ve done well against them.”
He’s hungry to collect more gold medals to share with his thousands of admirers and friends.
But a Russian Tank awaits him in France. It’s going to be quite a show.