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Gold Medalist, Ohio State star: Penn State wrestling staff, NLWC move a ‘blessing’

Olympic Gold Medalist and Ohio State star Kyle Snyder says Cael Sanderson and the Penn State wrestling family have welcomed him with open arms since leaving Columbus in 2019.



Penn State wrestling, Kyle Snyder, Nittany Lion Wrestling Club, Cael Sanderson
Aug 21, 2016; Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; Kyle Frederick Snyder (USA) celebrates winning the gold medal in the men's freestyle 97kg wrestling event during the Rio 2016 Summer Olympic Games at Carioca Arena 2. Mandatory Credit: Michael Madrid-USA TODAY Sports

There’s little doubt that the wrestling world currently runs through State College. Nestled in the foothills of the central Pennsylvania mountains, Cael Sanderson has established a pipeline for some of the greatest wrestlers in the world through the Penn State wrestling program and the Nittany Lion Wrestling Club. After clinching a spot on the United States National Team again last weekend, Olympic Gold Medalist and three-time NCAA Champion Kyle Snyder reflected on his decision to join the NLWC from Ohio State and spoke to the impact the Penn State wrestling family has had on his career.

Kyle Snyder: Joining Nittany Lion Wrestling Club has been a “blessing”

It may not have seemed like there was much higher to climb for Kyle Snyder in 2019. But that October, the youngest Olympic Gold Medalist in American history and the only wrestler ever to win Olympic Gold, a World Championship, and a NCAA title in the same year announced the unprecedented move to leave Ohio State in favor of Cael Sanderson and the Nittany Lion Wrestling Club.

“This decision isn’t to suggest that one program is better than the next, but this is taking advantage of additional thinking and incorporating that into my wrestling,” Snyder wrote in his 2019 statement. “Anybody who thinks it’s easy to leave your home and go somewhere just to do it is reading this the wrong way. Anything worth pursuing of value is worth the pain endured in the process.”

Now almost four years on, the three-time National Champion says the difficult decision has paid off. Speaking after qualifying at 97 kg at the U.S. Olympic Team Trials in State College last weekend, Kyle Snyder explained the backstory behind his move to the NLWC and the impact the decision has had on his life and career.

“It’s had a great impact,” Snyder said. “It was kind of a crazy story. My wife was applying to medical school all over the place. And then I was gonna go wherever she got into school. And then she told me she wanted me to go to the best training situation. So it was pretty easy to see that the Nittany Lion Wrestling Club was the strongest place I could go. And then so, we just moved, you know, and it worked out great. She ended up getting into med school, too, so it was a blessing.”

Despite competing at the sport’s highest level, Kyle Snyder says he has a relatively obstacle-free life. On the mat, Snyder credits that to the effort of Cael Sanderson and the Penn State wrestling-NLWC staff. Off the mat, family keeps one of the most accomplished wrestlers in American history grounded.

“Well the NLWC coaching staff — [Jake] Varner, Cael [Sanderson], Cody [Sanderson], Jimmy [Kennedy], Casey [Cunningham], Mark [McKnight] — [are to credit],” he said. “There’s a lot of guys in there that help us make life easy in training and all that. And [I’ve] got great training partners.

“But my wife — she’s my best friend, and you know, we never argue, and she cooks all the meals, and she cleans up, and so being at home is easy for me. And my dad is one of my heroes, and my mom. And I talk to my brothers and sister every day. So [I] just got a close relationship with my family and they helped me a lot.”

You can watch our full interview with Olympic Gold Medalist Kyle Snyder on the Basic Blues Nation YouTube page.

Penn State wrestling family sends three to Paris at Olympic Team Trials

The Blue and White will certainly do their part for the Red, White, and Blue in Paris at the 2024 Summer Olympics. In addition to Kyle Snyder, the Penn State wrestling family qualified two additional wrestlers for the Summer Games at the U.S. Olympic Trials last weekend.

Kyle Dake swept NLWC teammate Jason Nolf to qualify at 74 kg. Dake will look to improve upon his Bronze Medal at the 2020 Games. At 86 kg, Penn State wrestling greats Aaron Brooks and David Taylor battled it out in the matchup of the weekend, which ultimately saw Brooks take down the defending Gold Medalist. Zain Retherford also defeated NLWC teammate Nick Lee at 65 kg, but will have to wrestle in Turkey next month to qualify for the Olympics.

All told, the NLWC had eight of the 12 competitors in the freestyle finals. Five NLWC members finished in the top four at their weight to earn spots on the U.S. National Team.

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Matt is a co-owner and Editor in Chief of Basic Blues Nation. Launched in 2022, Basic Blues Nation is one of the fastest-growing websites covering all Penn State athletics, with over 3.5 million readers in 2023. Matt is also a credentialed member of the Penn State football beat, and is a member of the Football Writers Association of America.


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