Now the owner of Olympic gold and two World titles, Kyle Snyder is one of the biggest names in American wrestling today. His losses to Abdulrashid Sadulaev and other monsters like Mohammadian aside, the Maryland-born wrestler has been one of the most consistently high-performing athletes for USA Wrestling over the past five years.
However, before his streak as a world power began, Snyder’s phenom trajectory was spoiled in the NCAA finals at the end of his freshman season. The blow to Snyder’s potential plans for 4 NCAA titles came from Iowa State’s own three-time All-American Kyven Gadson, who took the OSU standout to his back with an incredible Polish throw, pinning him at the end of the first period.
Snyder has since gotten his revenge and then some, competing against Gadson in freestyle at 97 kg, but that moment back in 2015 will forever live in infamy.
Let’s take a look at the throw that brought the crowd in St. Louis to its feet.
In collegiate wrestling, upper-body techniques are typically underutilized. Getting taken feet-to-back and held for maximum near-fall points is a potential six-point swing, an almost insurmountable lead in a close match. Any wrestler choosing to commit to a throw runs the risk of ending up on their own back, it’s a huge risk.
Thus it’s fairly common to see two wrestlers in college lock up from over-unders or another potential throw position, each hesitating until the position stalls out. More often than not, there is a significant delay between establishing the ties and pulling the trigger on the throw. It may be due to lack of technical comfort, it might be a confidence issue, but that’s the trend.
Perhaps the most important conceptual reason that Gadson was able to toss Snyder was that Snyder simply wasn’t expecting it.
The highlight below shows how Gadson transitioned immediately to his offense after fighting off Snyder’s first committed attack.
Pulling back on the over tie, Snyder shot his high-crotch to the lead leg of Gadson, turning the corner and standing with the leg. Gadson did well to attempt to kick the leg back and pivot back to square up, but Snyder hustled hard to keep control and built back to his base quickly.
As Snyder attempted to get height on the leg to work a finish, Gadson applied a whizzer on the leg-side and used his free hand to attack the wrist of Snyder. The whizzer controlled Snyder’s posture and stopped him from manipulating Gadson’s level, buying Gadson time to peel off the grip and break the single.
The key here was that Gadson immediately took advantage of that position. The whizzer became an offensive overhook, and Gadson hung on to the wrist until he was ready to pass it and dig an underhook.
Typically on a Polish throw, the attacking wrestler pivots for a more severe angle than is seen here. It ends up being a back-arch finish from most grips. But the principle remains, that the goal is to take your opponent’s weight over that controlled leg.
Again speaking to the idea of seamless transitions and seizing initiative, Gadson stepped around on the overhook side while simultaneously pummeling for the underhook. And, in doing so, didn’t give Snyder time to pummel back or attempt to set his feet.
After Gadson stepped around, he began to pivot toward that overhook side, causing Snyder’s weight to shift toward the hooked leg. Take a look at Snyder’s base leg, Gadson’s motion already created imbalance between his upper and lower body.
Gadson’s pivoting motion was aided by the underhook. To ensure that Snyder continued to move across the hooked leg, Gadson punched to his right with the underhook, both continuing to debase Snyder and turning his back toward the mat.
To complete the throw, Gadson dropped to the mat, rotating through to get his hips face-down.
From this angle, it’s easier to see how Gadson continued to use that overhook to yank Snyder’s shoulder to the mat—while also using the overhook to turn him to his back.
Once they hit the mat, Gadson got his hips flat and covered, using chest pressure to ensure Snyder was stuck for good.
It was an incredible moment; Gadson dedicated the victory to his father, who had passed away earlier in his collegiate career.
Of course, only months later, Snyder rebounded in incredible fashion. After defeating Olympic champion Jake Varner to make the World team at 97 kg, Snyder put away the reigning champion Abdusalam Gadisov in Las Vegas to win the 2015 World title.
Gadson has battled hard to stay in the mix domestically, making the national team in the process. Kyle Snyder has been his biggest obstacle, and with the addition of J’den Cox vying for the Olympic spot, the challenge of making the US team at 97 kg is daunting, to say the least.
One easy way to support Kyven Gadson is to follow and listen to the voices of the newly formed Black Wrestling Association.