After another grueling and taxing season of wrestling for the Ohio State team, two champions returned home after winning individual crowns at the NCAA tournament. Freshman Myles Martin and sophomore Kyle Snyder picked up their first national championships Saturday night at Madison Square Garden.
Each Buckeye won five bouts to claim titles in their respective weight classes. Martin defeated Bo Nickal of Penn State in the 174-pound class, while Snyder upset top-seeded Nick Gwiazdowski of North Carolina State to capture the 285-pound crown.
The wins by the Scarlet and Gray wrestlers propelled the team to a third-place finish. OSU entered the final day in fifth place but passed Iowa and Virginia Tech. A Big Ten rival, Penn State, led coming into the final day and won by a significant margin.
Pandemonium ensued after Martin took an 11-9 decision in the championship match, becoming just the 15th true-freshman champion in the 86 years of the tournament. The crowd erupted as the New Jersey native embraced OSU coach Tom Ryan before bolting to the stands to find his loved ones.
A similar scene occurred when Snyder drove Gwiazdowski to the mat in sudden victory for a takedown. The youngest world champion ever from the United States thwarted Gwiazdowski’s 88-match win streak, sending shockwaves through a sold-out Madison Square Garden.
Although Snyder faced Gwiazdowski for the first time in a match on Saturday, Martin had squared off against Nickal three times prior to the championship bout. All three were losses for the freshman.
“I felt like if those matches that I had before with (Nickal) weren’t under my belt, my wrestling would have been different in that match,” Martin said. “Just being able to have the confidence and the ability to stay in that position and wrestle through it and end up on top was pretty cool.”
Taking what has been learned from previous experiences has been a keystone of Ryan’s coaching tenure at OSU. A belief in focusing more on what can be improved on rather than winning or losing clearly showed as Martin gained the advantage and picked up the win.
Ryan was one of the first people Martin embraced post-victory. The bond between the two has grown since the beginning of the year.
“I just love that guy so much,” Martin said.
As for Snyder, the path to being named the NCAA’s top heavyweight has been intensely watched by wrestling enthusiasts from around the world. Earlier this year, Snyder captured a Big Ten title after winning a world championships at 97 kilograms.
Until January, Snyder wasn’t even supposed to be competing this year.
The Maryland native was amid a redshirt season to train for the Olympics before he opted to don the Scarlet and Gray again as a heavyweight. The removal of the redshirt turned out to be the right choice.
Even after just 11 matches, Snyder captured the top spot among 285-pound wrestlers. Those bouts, he said, served as a precursor and a learning experience.
“I think overall the more you can compete against anybody, doesn’t matter what size or what level, it’s going to make you a better wrestler,” Snyder said.
Snyder continues his preparation for the Olympic trials, where he might be joined by a teammate. Martin said he received an invite after winning the championship, but he said he needs to discuss the matter with coaches before making a decision on the matter.
Martin finishes the year at 33-6, the highest win total for the team this season. Snyder finished with a perfect 11-0 record.
Although the two individual titles and third-place team finish certainly add up to a successful trip for OSU, a national champion from last season suffered a tough defeat during the tournament.
Redshirt sophomore Nathan Tomasello, who captured the 125-pound crown in 2015, had his 43-match win streak severed in the semifinals by Iowa’s Thomas Gilman. Tomasello was pinned in overtime. The Parma, Ohio, native rebounded from the defeat, though. He would go on to win two more matches to finish in third place, which helped vault OSU into a third-place team finish.
Another OSU wrestler, Bo Jordan, also grabbed a third-place victory. The redshirt sophomore lost to his cousin, Isaac Jordan, for the fourth time on Friday, but he came back to top Virginia Tech’s David McFadden 8-2 for the bronze.