When the IOC, following an executive board meeting Tuesday in Switzerland, made its shocking announcement, undoubtedly it was thinking of wrestling as a nameless, faceless — and, more to the point, decidedly unsexy — sport, the removal of which from the Summer Games in the interests of modernity would do little harm outside of its small, insular, cauliflower-eared circle of proponents.
But here, then, is the human face behind the abstraction, the symbolic victim of what those board members voted to do: Kyle Snyder is 17 years old, a junior at Good Counsel High School in Olney, a 5-foot-11, 215-pound marble slab of an athlete — undefeated in his high school career, and the top-ranked prep wrestler in the country at his weight class. For as long as he has wrestled competitively, one goal above all others has driven him: Olympic gold.
“It was kind of shocking to me,” he said, “that something I’ve dreamed about my entire life could just be taken away by a group of people for . . . for I’m not really sure the reason.”
He said this on Thursday, sitting in the bleachers at Good Counsel’s auxiliary gymnasium following the last practice before this weekend’s state championship meet. He had just spent much of the previous half-hour tossing, pinning and generally emasculating a 240-pound assistant coach named Dan Sirotkin, who wrestled at Harvard and who represents the closest thing around the Good Counsel team to a true challenge for Snyder.
“I’ve never had a high school kid take me down until him last year, and now I can’t come close to beating him,” Sirotkin said. “He’s a once-in-a-lifetime type of wrestler.”
Snyder has been wrestling in one form or another since he was 4, and has been serious about it since sixth grade, when he tagged along with older brother Stephen (who now wrestles collegiately at the U.S. Military Academy) to a Good Counsel practice. He has more or less dedicated his life to wrestling, dropping other sports one by one until only football remained. And then last fall, he dropped that as well.
“I just grew an overwhelmingly powerful love of wrestling, and it was all I could think about,” Snyder said. “I didn’t want to be out on the football field. I wanted to be getting better at wrestling. I think I have an addictive personality, and when I fall in love with something I keep thinking about it and thinking about it.”
“Wrestling is his calling,” said Snyder’s coach at Good Counsel, Skylar Saar. “He probably spends 80 to 90 percent of every waking hour thinking about wrestling.”