Kyle Snyder is the pound-for-pound best wrestler on the planet, and Saturday night in Lincoln, Neb., he cemented his shot at a fourth-consecutive World or Olympic title. He defeated 2015 NCAA champ Kyven Gadson – the man who pinned Snyder for the title at 197 lbs in Snyder's freshman year – in consecutive matches at Final X, the new-and-improved version of the best-of-three finals of the World Team Trials process.
Snyder was guaranteed a spot to Final X as the defending world champion. Gadson earned the right to challenge Snyder by defeating U.S. Open champion Austin Schafer in the finals of the World Team Trials Challenge Tournament in Rochester, Minn., last month.
Buckeye fans will remember Gadson for his finals pin of Snyder in 2015, after the freshman phenom advanced to his first NCAA Tournament final by upsetting defending champion J’Den Cox of Missouri. It was the only time Snyder would leave the NCAA tournament without a championship.
Gadson finished his career at Iowa State with a pair of folkstyle wins over Snyder, but that success hasn't translated to the freestyle circuit: Snyder is 4-0 in their all-time freestyle series, including a pair of tech falls at last year's World Team Trials finals, and this weekend's 9-0 and 10-2 decisions.
The first match of Saturday night's series was all Snyder. Wearing an Iron Man singlet from The Rudis, Captain America had two takedowns and a step-out in the first period, and another pair of takedowns in the second.
In the second match of the best-of-three series, Gadson fired off a blast double right at the opening whistle, taking Snyder off the platform and into the ringside seats.
Check this. pic.twitter.com/YsGPMgG7l2— FloWrestling (@FloWrestling) June 10, 2018
The takedown represented his only points of the night, as Snyder responded with two takedowns of his own for a 4-2 lead at the break. He added three takedowns in the second period to finish 10-2, and make his fourth world team in as many years.
After the match, Snyder was asked about the possibility of again facing The Russian Tank, Abdulrashid Bulachevich Sadulaev, who Snyder handled in "The Match of the Century" at last year's World Championship. Captain America was candid, as usual.
"I don't think he is going to go up [to 97 kg]. I'll believe it when I see it," Snyder said. "If he comes back up, that's fine, I can't wait to compete against him. I feel like I can beat him worse than I did last time."
The Match of the Century pitted the reigning 92 kg Olympic Champion Sadulaev against Snyder, the reigning 97 kg champion. Sadulaev is rumored to be considering a move back to 97 kg for this year's World Championship, and another run at World No. 1.
With Snyder's win at Final X, two Buckeyes will represent Team USA at the Senior Men's Freestyle World Championships in Budapest, Hungary, October 20-28. Joey McKenna and Logan Stieber will face off at Final X in State College, Penn., June 16, for the world team spot at 65 kg.
For Captain America, the focus is already on winning Team USA's second World Championship in as many years.
“We won [a World Team title] last year, but I think everyone thought it was a fluke. For us, we have to prove it again," he said in the post-match press conference. "We showed that we’re the best in the world, but [the other countries] probably don’t take it seriously. They may say, 'Oh we had an off year and USA didn’t have to wrestle this guy or that guy.' But if you do it twice in a row, then there is nothing anybody can say. The pressure goes to them.”
Two more members of the Buckeye active roster are on the U23 World Team, as Myles Martin and Kollin Moore each earned spots at the U23 World Team Trials in Akron earlier this month.
In addition, redshirt freshman Brady Koontz earned his spot on the Junior World Greco-Roman team at the Junior World Team Trials June 8. He will wrestle for the 55 kg world title at the Junior World Championships, slated for Sept. 17-24 in Trnava, Slovakia.
Koontz swept through the bracket of the World Team Trial Challenge Tournament with three consecutive wins to set up the best-of-3 finals series versus the sitting U.S. Open champion. In the finals, he got past the 2017 Junior World silver medalist (50 kg) via 15-5 and 3-3 (criteria) victories.
His twin brother Dylan, also a Buckeye, nearly made the finals but lost a 6-6 decision on criteria in the semifinals.