Kyle Snyder's world-title streak is over. The man known as "Captain America" finished the 2018 men's senior freestyle world championships with a silver medal after he was pinned by "Russian Tank" Abdulrashid Sadulaev just 72 seconds into the match.
Prior to his loss to Snyder in Paris a year ago, Sadulaev was undefeated on the world's biggest stage, with a pair of world championships and an Olympic gold to his own credit, and like Snyder, riding a three-year gold medal streak. Snyder snapped that streak and extended his own, and in so doing set the stage for one of the biggest rematches of all time.
Early in the freestyle season, there was some discussion that the "Dagestani Destroyer" would stay down at 92kg, where he wrestled at the 2018 European Championships and Ivan Yarygin Grand Prix. As the world championships approached, it became clear that Sadulaev would in fact challenge the defending 97kg champ, renewing their rivalry.
"Sadulaev wasn't prepared well last time. Sadulaev is 10 times better than Snyder," said Magomed Guseinov, former head coach of the Russian freestyle team. "Being a coach with 47 years of experience, I guarantee Sadulaev won't give him a chance to score a single point."
True to the old coach's word, Sadulaev never gave Snyder the chance to score.
Barely 30 seconds into the first period, Sadulaev connected on a shot, and got Snyder on his back. Snyder managed to keep his shoulders off the mat, working to get out from under the Russian.
But it was not to be, as Sadulaev was a step quicker, and forced one of the strongest pound-for-pound wrestlers in the sport onto his back again, earning the pin and sealing the victory.
After falling to Snyder in a 6-5 decision that handed Team USA its third team victory of the past half century, Sadulaev went to work preparing for another run at Synder. In Budapest, he breezed through his half of the bracket, winning his bouts by a combined score of 45-3, including 10-0 tech falls in both the quarter and semifinals.
Aside from his loss to Snyder in Paris, Sadulaev is undefeated in international competition since 2013.
With Ohio State assistant coach Tervel Dlagnev matside, Snyder took a methodical approach to his tournament, reeling off a five-point decision, a pair of tech falls, and then a 3-0 decision over two-time world bronze medalist Pavlo Olinyk of Hungary to return to the final bout of the bracket.
Fans of "Captain America" might be forgiving for thinking Snyder was a lock to win another title, but that would do a disservice to the man he wrestled for gold. Sadulaev is one of the most respected wrestlers in the sport, and his camp was convinced he had improved enough over the past year to get the job done.
They were right.
While the loss to Sadulaev stings for Snyder, his fans, and fans of the U.S. men's freestyle team in general, in the bigger picture, a rivalry isn't really a rivalry if it is one-sided. There seems little doubt that these two battle-test combatants will meet again, and that when they do, it will be a match for the ages.