Undersized for work in the trenches at 5 feet 11, 220 pounds, Kyle Snyder nevertheless started every game at nose guard for the Good Counsel football team last fall. The area’s top team depended on the sophomore to anchor the middle of its defense.
But by the time Snyder walked off the field last November after celebrating a resounding win over Gonzaga in the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference championship game, he had already come to a decision about his football future. He was quitting the sport to focus instead on wrestling.
What seems like an unusual choice — giving up a starting spot on a nationally ranked football team that annually sends several players to major college programs — was actually quite logical for Snyder, the area’s most dominant wrestler.
“I just love wrestling, and I constantly want to get better,” said Snyder, a two-time All-Met who was named the upper weight wrestler of the year this past winter. “I think if I play football I won’t be able to do that.”
Even his football coach wasn’t surprised by the decision.
“His balance and quickness and strength and leverage made him an incredible football player,” said Bob Milloy, who has been involved with high school football in the area for 50 years. “You’re dealing with a world-class athlete here. Hopefully, I’ll be watching him in the Olympics one day.”
With a career high school record of 116-0 and a growing national profile, Snyder, 16, has prompted buzz within the local wrestling community about just how good he can be.
Instead of juggling workouts for both sports, the rising junior has spent his summer training with top competition and attending national tournaments. As he heads to Fargo, N.D., for USA Wrestling’s junior and cadet national championships, which begin Friday, Snyder views the choice to focus exclusively on wrestling as the next step on the way to fulfilling his ambitious list of goals on the mat.
“I just want to win out my whole high school career, win four NCAA titles, win a few Olympic golds,” Snyder said after a recent workout with Maryland national team members at American University. “I don’t just want to make the Olympic team. I want to win a gold.”
Snyder, a Woodbine resident, took up wrestling at age 4 and began regularly attending workouts with the Falcons when his brother, Stephen, joined the team as a freshman. Back then, Coach Skylar Saar enjoyed watching the sixth-grader toss around older competition.
Now Snyder — who expects to drop down to 197 pounds to wrestle in college and beyond — moves on the mat with the authority of a much lighter wrestler, constantly attacking with a diverse arsenal of moves.
He’s never been taken down in a high school match, and recently, flowrestling.org ranked him the No. 2 pound-for-pound high school wrestler in the country.
Over the past two years, Snyder has regularly dispatched top local competition with ease. Bishop Ireton senior Andrew Lutterloh went 61-4 this season to earn All-Met honors with three of the losses (two tech falls and a pin) coming to Snyder.
Cardinals Coach Don Dight, who has coached in the area for 15 years, called Snyder “one of the most technically adroit guys I’ve ever seen.”
“He’s not old enough to drive a car, but he could probably push one wherever he wants to,” Dight added with a chuckle.
Saar said the biggest challenge is finding competition to challenge Snyder on a regular basis, which often means heading to local colleges to train. In the spring, Snyder wrestled up an age group at a pair of national tournaments and recorded top-three finishes, both times falling to college-age wrestlers.
“I’ve never seen a kid that dialed into what he wants to do,” Saar said. “He’s not afraid of anybody, and he thinks he should beat everybody.”
Many of those skills translated easily to the football field, helping Snyder earn a spot on the Falcons’ varsity squad as a freshman. Snyder, who has played football every fall since first grade, initially brought up the possibility of focusing on wrestling to his father, Steve, late in the Falcons’ run to a third straight WCAC title.
Steve Snyder, a former lineman at Towson, wanted to make sure his son didn’t make a quick decision. Kyle Snyder worried that people would think that he stopped liking football or is stepping away to avoid injury.
“Most guys play football for the scholarship and wrestle for the conditioning,” said Georgetown Prep Coach Mike Kubik, whose team often trains with Good Counsel. “He’s basically vice-versa.”
Snyder had grown used to the scheduling challenges of playing both sports. Last summer, he wrestled six days a week while still making time for four football workouts. During the football season, he tried to wrestle three times per week.
Now Snyder can focus all that energy into his wrestling career.
His brother Stephen — now a 285-pounder at Army — proved a valuable summer training partner when he came home for a few weeks, and Snyder attended all four pre-tournament camps set up for Maryland national team members.
In the fall, Snyder will have time to start taking unofficial college visits. (He’ll likely receive a full athletic scholarship in a sport where fully funded Division I programs must split 9.9 scholarships among all their athletes.) While he’s familiar with many of the local schools recruiting him, he’d like to check out Oklahoma, Penn State and Ohio State. He’s also excited about adding a few tournaments to his schedule, including the prestigious Super 32 Challenge in October.
Snyder might even take a break. Somewhat begrudgingly, he usually takes a full month off from wrestling every year to recharge. So far, with so many goals left to chase, he hasn’t allowed time for that.
“It’s not like I’m just sitting on the couch eating potato chips and playing video games,” Snyder said. “I love being on the mat, working hard and trying to get better. That’s what I want to do.”