Posted: Nov. 3, 2017 8:00 am Updated: Nov. 3, 2017 3:31 pm
Kyle Snyder has won three consecutive world titles, including Olympic gold, and this past summer he toppled Abdulrashid Sadulaev a.k.a. “The Russian Tank” to earn the unofficial crown as the best pound-for-pound wrestler in the world.
Oh, and he has one more season left at Ohio State.
Snyder enters his final collegiate season as quite possibly the most dominant wrestler the NCAA has ever seen. Snyder, both the youngest world and Olympic champion the United States has ever produced, is also a two-time defending NCAA champion after losing in the national finals as a freshman.
Snyder insists he won’t have to look hard for motivation despite a schedule that won’t offer many challenges.
“When you love something, you’re more willing to endure pain, sacrifice and suffering,” he said. “When it comes to wrestling someone you might be better than, you still try and go out there and improve. But it’s Division I wrestling, so most guys are pretty good.”
Snyder is the overwhelming favorite for the Hodge Trophy given to the nation’s top wrestler, but rival Penn State is the favorite to win yet another national title. The Nittany Lions, winners of six of the last seven NCAA team championships, got all 16 first-place votes in the NWCA Division I Wrestling Coaches Poll released on Oct. 31.
Here are the story lines to follow with wrestling season set to begin:
NOT MUCH TO NITT-PICK
Penn State returns five wrestlers who’ve already won national titles in Zain Retherford (149 pounds), Jason Nolf (157), Vincenzo Joseph (165), Mark Hall (174) and Bo Nickal (184). The Nittany Lions went 14-0 in dual meets in 2016-17, and Retherford will be going for his third national title. Watch out for Hall, who won it all as a true freshman last March.
THE REST OF THE BUCKS
Snyder isn’t the only wrestler to watch for the Buckeyes, who open the season ranked second in the country. Nathan Tomasello won a national title as a freshman and will be looking for redemption after semifinal losses the last two seasons. Myles Martin won at the national meet at 174 pounds in 2016 but finished fifth last year after moving up to the 184-pound class.
COWBOYS AND WOLVERINES
Oklahoma State will open the year ranked third despite coach John Smith’s decision to redshirt many of his more talented youngsters. Dean Heil will lead the way after winning the last two national championships at 141 pounds.
“I look at where we’re at, and it’s a good team. We’ll have a pretty competitive team. I’m not sure we drop off any,” Smith said.
Fourth-ranked Michigan has a chance to have one of the best teams in school history. Heavyweight Adam Coon, a two-time All-American, is back after redshirting a year ago.
Missouri is ranked fifth after losing star J’Den Cox. … Iowa enters 2017 ranked seventh, which is low for the Hawkeyes. But all eyes will be on mega-recruit Spencer Lee, a two-time junior world champion and three-time Pennsylvania state champion who reached the prep finals last season despite an ACL tear in his knee. … N.C. State and Virginia Tech figure to be the teams to beat in the ACC, while Arizona State led by former U.S. national team coach Zeke Jones are the favorites in the Pac-12. … Iowa State, long a national power, has fallen so far that it didn’t receive a single top 25 vote. The Cyclones have a new coach in Kevin Dresser, who left the Hokies to try and restore the program to past glory.