COLUMBUS, Ohio — Wrestler Kyle Snyder had already done enough to make an argument for his place as one of Ohio State’s greatest athletes, but after his final championship performance, there can be no debate.
If there were a Mount Rushmore for Ohio State’s greatest athletes — factoring in only their accomplishments while they were in college — one of the four spots would belong to Snyder. That’s not said lightly given some of the names that have come through Columbus over the years, but Snyder is a generational athlete that Ohio State fans will look back on with a reverence reserved only for a special few.
He leaves Ohio State having won three individual national championships, the first college wrestler since 1989 to win three consecutive titles at heavyweight. Snyder also contributed greatly to the Buckeyes’ only team championship in program history, making the final at 197 pounds as a freshman. What’s most impressive, though, is that his college career came while balancing surreal accomplishments on the international stage that included travel to Brazil, Russia, Cuba and Iran.
When he won a gold medal at the 2016 Olympics, he became the first active Ohio State athlete since Jerry Lucas in 1960 to win a gold medal. Having just completed his sophomore season of college, he was also the youngest Olympic wrestling gold medalist in United States history. One year prior, he became the youngest American to win a World Championships gold medal and won another at the next World Championships in 2017. No wrestler in NCAA history won two World titles and an Olympic gold medal while in college.
How does that resume compare to other Buckeye greats? Here are my other three athletes atop the list.
If there’s one name on this list that’s set now and forever, it’s Jesse Owens. The Buckeye Bullet set four world records at the 1935 Big Ten championship meet, including a long jump mark that wasn’t broken until 1960. He won four NCAA championships in 1935 and four more in 1936, and he won all eight of those titles individually with no relays.
That alone would be enough. But, of course, there was more. While Owens never again competed for Ohio State after the 1936 Olympics, he was still an Ohio State athlete when he won four gold medals in Nazi Germany. Given the stakes involved, it’s hard to imagine any Buckeye ever topping such a performance.
Forget the 18 golf majors, none of which were won while Jack Nicklaus was in school. The Golden Bear still has a sterling case as one of the best to ever do it in Columbus. His time at Ohio State included an NCAA individual national championship in 1961 as well as two U.S. Amateur titles in 1959 and 1961. For good measure, he also finished second in the 1960 U.S. Open, two shots behind winner Arnold Palmer. That was the highest finish in that tournament by an amateur in nearly three decades.
There may not be a better modern-day representative for Ohio State athletics than Archie Griffin, but he was just as good on the field in the 1970s as he is off it these days. Griffin is most famous for being the only two-time winner of the Heisman Trophy, but his other accomplishments are numerous. He’s one of just four two-time winners of the Silver Football given to the Big Ten MVP, and he set an NCAA record by rushing for at least 100 yards in 31 consecutive games. He also helped Ohio State win four Big Ten titles and as such is one of only two players (along with USC’s Brian Cushing) to start in four Rose Bowls.