Kyle Snyder is only one of 11 Americans to win a championship at the tournament billed as the "toughest in the world." Fellow Buckeyes Logan Stieber and Nick Heflin hope to join him in that elite company this weekend, as the trio lead Team USA into battle against stout international competition.
The Yarygin, already one of the most prestigious tournaments in the sport, takes on even more significance this year, as it is the first of United World Wrestling's inaugural ranking series events.
“The wrestling community deserves a clear ranking system for the sport’s top athletes,” said United World Wrestling president Nenad Lalovic in announcing the series last December. “Rankings makes it easier for our fans, athletes and coaches to understand the impact of each tournament and match. That’s brand new for our sport.”
Points in all tournaments will be awarded based on the wrestler's finish plus the number of competitors present in each weight category. The rankings will be used to determine seeding at the Senior World Championships in Budapest; for freestyle, ranking events include the Yarygin, the Tbilisi Grand Prix, the South African Open and the Medved.
Snyder, in addition to his status as the reigning, defending, undisputed NCAA, Olympic and World champion, is the defending Yarygin champ at 97 kg, sewing up three consecutive tech falls en route to the finals, where he pinned Rasul Magomedov of Russia at 5:02 to earn gold.
Snyder is only the 11th American man to ever win the Yarygin. Prior to last year's tournament, the last American men’s freestyle champion was Steve Mocco at 120kg in 2009.
Stieber and Heflin, both Ohio State wrestling alumni, are eager to see their names on that list as well.
Logan Stieber, the 2016 World Champion at 61 kg, is making his second appearance at the Yarygin and looking to make some noise after falling short of a second world championship in Paris last August. He had easily the most difficult draw of the tournament, and fell out of contention when he lost via tech fall (11-0) to Russia's Gadzhimurad Rashidov in the Round of 16.
The four-time NCAA champion and Hodge Trophy winner battled an injury later in the fall that kept him sidelined at the World Clubs Cup in Iran, but by all indications he's all systems go in Krasnoyarsk.
Moscow for the night. Not that cold yet— Logan Stieber (@_LogieBear_) January 23, 2018
Well, it wasn't that cold three days ago... Life comes at you fast, as they say.
-30 in Russia today pic.twitter.com/TnaMfTpS4H— Kyle Snyder (@Snyder_man45) January 26, 2018
Stieber is the first Buckeye to wrestle in the tournament, with preliminary rounds and repechage kicking off at 11 p.m. Friday, with the medal round slated for 6:45 a.m. Saturday.
Snyder and Heflin, at 97 kg and 92 kg, respectively, wrestle Saturday night starting at 11 p.m., with the medal round Sunday at 6 a.m.
For Heflin, the road to his first Yarygin title, unfortunately, goes through the toughest man in the tournament not named Kyle Snyder. Abdulrashid Sadulaev, who you may have heard of, is the front-runner to take the 92kg crown.
Sadulaev is competing in his first Yarygin since 2014, when he defeated Shamil Kudiyamagomedov to win the 86kg crown. Also in Heflin's bracket is another 2014 Yarygin champion and 2012 Olympian, Anzor Urishev, also of Russia.
Heflin dropped just one match at the 2017 World Clubs Cup, dropping a nail-biter in his final match of the tournament. Hossein Shabazi edged two-time All American in a 4-2 decision. Heflin was very aggressive in the second period but was held at bay by Shahbazi, who protected the lead to the final whistle.
Day One of the Yarygin went well for Team USA. Frank Molinaro captured bronze at 70 kg, and Alli Ragan secured a silver medal at 59 kg in women's freestyle.
TrackWrestling is streaming the Yarygin live - for free - all weekend.