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Reclaiming Gold Kyle Snyder Ready For Round 3 Against Russias Sadulaev At Wrestling Worlds

By Craig Sesker | Sept. 17, 2019, 2:30 p.m. (ET)

Kyle Snyder celebrating his gold-medal performance in the men's freestyle 97kg at the Olympic Games Rio 2016 on Aug. 21, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.


Kyle Snyder’s Tweet speaks volumes.

“Lord willing, we stand here again. #Round3”

The post includes a photo of Snyder standing on the mat across from fellow Olympic gold medalist Abdulrashid Sadulaev of Russia.

One year after suffering a stunning first-period fall to Sadulaev in the final of the 2018 world championships, Snyder is ready for another shot to battle his freestyle wrestling rival at 97 kg.

The two young superstars are favorites to meet in the gold-medal bout for the third straight year when they compete at this year’s world championships in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan. The 97 kg. final is set for Sept. 22.

“I love competing in these big tournaments,” Snyder said. “I’m making improvements every day and I feel like I’m on the right track. I love the competition aspect of wrestling. The higher the stakes, the better it is for me. I want to wrestle the best guys.”

Snyder rallied to earn an epic victory over Sadulaev in the final bout of the 2017 worlds in Paris that enabled the United States to overtake perennial power Russia for the team title.

But Sadulaev stormed back and reversed his fortunes last year in leading Russia to the team championship in Budapest, Hungary.

Now a third meeting between Snyder and Sadulaev could very well happen, as could another battle between the strong teams from the U.S. and Russia for the men’s freestyle team title.

Still just 23, Snyder has already accomplished much in international wrestling.

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He became the youngest wrestling world champion in U.S. history at age 19 in 2015. He followed that by becoming the youngest Olympic wrestling champion in U.S. history in 2016. Then he earned a second world title in 2017 before collecting a world silver medal last year.

Sadulaev boasts a similar resume. He’s also 23 years old, and is actually a few months younger than Snyder. The Russian won two world titles and an Olympic gold medal at 86 kg. before moving up to Snyder’s 97 kg. weight class in 2017.

Sadulaev is an athletic, dangerous wrestler with an aggressive mentality and a big-move arsenal. As he proved at last year’s worlds, he can end a match in the blink of an eye.

Snyder had an interesting reaction to the stunning loss to Sadulaev last year.

“After the match with Sadulaev, it hurt for about 5 to 10 minutes,” he said. “That doesn’t mean I didn’t learn from it. I’ve matured in my approach to wrestling and I’m going to continue to work as hard as I can to be the best wrestler in the world. I’m excited to have another chance to wrestle him. I’m always up for a challenge.”

Snyder is a tough, hard-nosed physical wrestler with an impressive work ethic and a strong gas tank. The longer the match goes, the better he becomes as he wears down his opponents.

He excels on his feet, but he’s also worked hard to improve in the top position where he can turn opponents and pile up quick points. Already a powerful, technically sound wrestler, Snyder is constantly evolving.

“I’ve spent a lot of time working in positions where I’m not as efficient and where I struggle,” he said. “I’ve been working a lot on my gut wrench with my coaches. and I want to continue to improve on top so I can end matches quick.”

Snyder is part of a loaded American squad that also includes Olympic gold medalist and four-time world champion Jordan Burroughs along with world champions J’den Cox and Kyle Dake, and world medalists James Green and Nick Gwiazdowski.

“America can beat Russia,” Snyder said. “They’re going to have a tough team obviously and we lost a returning world champion (in David Taylor). But we still have a lot of great wrestlers on our team and we definitely have a team that’s capable of being the best in the world. We know we’re going to be right in there battling with Russia again.”

The world championships take on added significance this year as the event is the first qualifier for the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020. The top six finishers in each weight class at worlds qualify a spot for their country for the Olympics.

Snyder and Sadulaev enter the world championships as the top two seeds at 97 kg. They will be on opposite sides of the bracket.

Barring an upset, they will stand together again for Round 3 in the gold-medal match.

“I know I’m a better wrestler than I was last year,” Snyder said. “I hope we meet again in the finals. I’m excited for that challenge. I’m looking forward to having an opportunity to wrestle him again.”

Craig Sesker is a sports writer based out of Waverly, Iowa. He has covered three Olympic Games. He is a freelance contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.