| Kyle Snyder (USA) hoists his 2016 Olympic gold medal.
Photo: Tony Rotundo, WrestlersAreWarriors.com.
Snyder’s legend grew on Sunday afternoon inside Carioca Arena 2 as he became the youngest Olympic wrestling champion in U.S. history at age 20 with a 2-1 victory over eight-time World and Olympic medalist Khetag Goziumov of Azerbaijan.
Scoring opened in the gold medal match with Snyder securing a single leg and driving Goziumov out of bounds for one point. The two traded points off shot clock violations in the second. Snyder was able to fend off every Goziumov attack throughout the match and secure the U.S. its 50th Olympic gold in men’s freestyle.
“It was a tough match. I wrestled that guy like a month ago and he beat me, so I’m happy that I’ve been able to improve on that performance, and, I keep saying it, I’m really thankful and grateful that I’ve even had this opportunity wrestle and my family and friends have been down here, to share it with them,” said Snyder.
Snyder has achieved the unthinkable by winning a World title, NCAA title and Olympic gold over the last 12 months. The last U.S. wrestler to accomplish that feat was six-time World and Olympic champion John Smith in 1987-88.
Prior to today, 2008 Olympic champion Henry Cejudo held the mark for youngest U.S. Olympic champion at 21 years-of-age. Both Snyder and Cejudo graduated from Coronado High School in Colorado Springs, Colo.
“I’ve been super emotional at times on the mat when I’m wrestling. I think it’s just, maybe I was in shock. I don’t know. I was definitely really happy, happier than I’ve ever been on a wrestling mat,” Snyder added.
Fellow American Frank Molinaro epitomized the heart of a champion in his bronze medal match against 2015 World champion and World No. 1 Frank Chamizo of Italy.
It was a back and forth battle throughout, and came down to the finals seconds. Trailing by two with short time on the clock, Molinaro exploded through a single leg, gathered both of Chamizo’s ankles, and pressed for the takedown as the buzzer sounded. In the end, Molinaro was not given the takedown and fell by a final score of 5-3.
“He is such a good wrestler,” Molinaro said after his bronze medal bout. “Solid. Fighting out there to win. He works as hard as I am. Sometimes it just comes down to inches. I have been very fortunate and blessed to be on the good end of a few of those. It was just his day.”
Molinaro went 2-2 on the day with impressive wins over European champion Magomedmurad Gadzhiev of Poland and two-time Olympian Andriy Kvyatkovskyy of Ukraine.
“It has been an amazing experience. Bruce (Burnett) and Cody (Sanderson) have taken me from not every knowing how to wrestle freestyle to being one of the best guys in the world. I just had another son while I was out here. I am not going home with the bronze medal, but I am going home to a healthy boy, two healthy boys, and a great life. I am still happy,” said Molinaro.
Chamizo won Italy its second Olympic medal in men’s freestyle wrestling history. The only other Italian medalist was 1980 Olympic champion Claudio Pollio.
Staking claim as the best 65 kg wrestler in the World was electrifying Russian star Soslan Ramonov. In the gold medal match Ramonov torched 2012 Olympic champion Toghrul Asgarov of Azerbaijan, 11-0.
Ramonov entered Rio ranked No. 2 in the World and was a World champion in 2014. He joined 86 kg champion Abdulrashid Sadulaev and 74 kg silver medalist Aniuar Geduev as Olympic medalists for Russia.
Counting the two runner-up finishes today, Azerbaijan finished with Olympic medals in five of the six men’s freestyle weight classes. The country had only earned six such medals prior to the Rio Olympics.
The other bronze medalist at 65 kg was 2015 World silver medalist Ikhtiyor Navruzov of Uzbekistan who defeated two-time World bronze medalist Mandakhnaran Ganzorig of Mongolia in a wild, controversial bout, 8-7.
Also scoring bronze for Uzbekistan was World No. 17 Magomed Ibragimov at 97 kg. Ibragimov capped an impressive run in Rio with a 6-4 decision over 2012 Olympic silver medalist Valerii Andriitsev of Ukraine.
Navruzov and Ibragimov picked up men’s freestyle Olympic medals number seven and eight for Uzbekistan.
World No. 15 Albert Saritov of Romania tacked on an Olympic bronze at 97 kg to his World bronze from 2011 with a 10-0 technical fall over World No. 6 Elizbar Odikadze. Saritov won the sixth men’s freestyle Olympic medal for Romania.
The U.S. finished men’s freestyle competition with Snyder’s gold, bronze from J’den Cox and two fifth place finishes from Frank Molinaro and Tervel Dlagnev.
“The sport of wrestling, it’s a fight,” said U.S. freestyle coach Bruce Burnett. “The gold medal the last match of the tournament that’s putting us on a plane forward, and I feel really good about it.”
Complete brackets and match-by-match results from the 2016 Olympic Games can be found at unitedworldwrestling.org.
2016 OLYMPIC GAMES
Aug. 14-21 at Carioca Arena 2 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
65 kg/143 lbs.
Gold – Soslan Ramonov (Russia)
Silver – Toghrul Asgarov (Azerbaijan)
Bronze – Frank Chamizo (Italy)
Bronze – Ikhtiyor Navruzov (Uzbekistan)
5th – Frank Molinaro (United States)
5th – Mandakhnaran Ganzorig (Mongolia)
7th – Alejandro Valdes Tobier (Cuba)
8th – Borislav Novachkov (Bulgaria)
9th – Franklin Gomez (Puerto Rico)
10th – Zurabi Iakobishvili (Georgia)
Gold – Soslan Ramonov (Russia) tech. fall Toghrul Asgarov (Azerbaijan), 11-0
Bronze – Frank Chamizo (Italy) dec. Frank Molinaro (United States), 5-3
Bronze – Ikhtiyor Navruzov (Uzbekistan) dec. Mandakhnaran Ganzorig (Mongolia), 8-7
97 kg/213 lbs.
Gold – Kyle Snyder (United States)
Silver – Khetag Goziumov (Azerbaijan)
Bronze – Albert Saritov (Romania)
Bronze – Magomed Ibragimov (Uzbekistan)
5th – Elizbar Odikadze (Georgia)
5th – Valerii Andriitsev (Ukraine)
7th – Reza Yazdani (Iran)
8th – Mamed Ibragimov (Kazakhstan)
9th – Magomed Musaev (Kyrgyzstan)
10th – Javier Cortina (Cuba)
Gold – Kyle Snyder (United States) dec. Khetag Goziumov (Azerbaijan), 2-1
Bronze – Albert Saritov (Romania) tech. fall Elizbar Odikadze (Georgia), 10-0
Bronze – Magomed Ibragimov (Uzbekistan) dec. Valerii Andriitsev (Ukraine), 6-4
U.S. men’s freestyle results
65 kg/143 lbs. – Frank Molinaro, State College, Pa. (Nittany Lion WC), 5th
WIN Magomedmurad Gadzhiev (Poland), 2-2
LOSS Toghrul Asgarov (Azerbaijan), 10-0
WIN Andriy Kvyatkovskyy (Ukraine), 8-5
LOSS Frank Chamizo (Italy), 5-3
97 kg/213 lbs. – Kyle Snyder, Woodbine, Md. (Titan Mercury WC/Ohio RTC), Gold
WIN Javier Cortina (Cuba), 10-3
WIN Albert Saritov (Romania), 7-0
WIN Elizbar Odikadze (Georgia), 9-4
WIN Khetag Goziumov (Azerbaijan), 2-1