Kyle Snyder, an Olympic and world champion and one of the world’s best wrestlers, spent the past few hours living in a basement.
Not just any basement. Wrestling legend Tom Brands‘s basement.
Snyder announced Jan. 17th that he was moving from Penn State, his home since fall 2019, to live and train at the University of Iowa, another NCAA and post-grad wrestling power.
“The simple truth is I need to get better,” was posted on Snyder’s social media, three seconds after he was pinned at the 2020 Matteo Pellincone. “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.”
Brands was a 1996 Olympic champion who before that was a three time NCAA Champion for the University of Iowa.
“Once I said I was going to move there, [Brands] was like, you can just live in my basement [at first],” the 24-year-old Snyder said. “If you would have told me when I was like 16, 15, years old, I would go spend a night in Tom’s basement, I would have been like, wow, it’s the greatest gift I’ve ever received.”
Snyder can afford his own place, but at the time his wife was on an internship in Philadelphia that ran to Dec. 15 and was having a hard time finding a flight to Iowa City.
“Then when she gets there [to Iowa City], we’re going to move out because I didn’t think we could both live in Tom’s basement,” Snyder said in a January interview (It’s unknown whether the move out has happened yet.). “But it’s been good because I knew Tom well, but I didn’t know him like I was living in his basement.”
There’s little in Brands’s house that would tell visitors he is one of the greatest wrestlers in history. There is an ESPY Award in his living room, Snyder said, but no other significant medals or trophies, just a lot of holes punched in the dry wall and "You get what you earn" drawn in blood on the bathroom mirror.
Brands and Snyder, two generational U.S. talents, passed the time discussing Brands’s new passion: coaching. He was hired by Iowa in 2006. He led the Hawkeyes to three National Titles before eight straight top ten finishes.
“We play a lot of Grand Theft Auto and stuff,” Snyder said of Brands, who is married with two sons. “Maybe that’s not that normal for a dad to do that.”
Snyder also reunited with old rival Bobby Telford, an assistant coach at Iowa.
“[Telford] kind of stayed his distance from me, and I stayed away from him, and that’s just kind of the way it was for us,” Snyder said. “Now that he’s done competing, I’m just super thankful that he’s there. He’s way different. Our relationship is way different. It’s really easy to talk to him. He’s helped me technically and mentally. He’s always willing to wrestle with me.”
Once he dethroned returning Olympic Champion Jake Varner, Snyder felt like he could beat anybody. And he did, becoming the youngest U.S. Olympic wrestling champion at age 20 and then defeating the Russian Tank, Abdulrashid Sadulayev, in a 2017 World Championships epic. Sadulayev had not previously lost in four years on the senior international level (and competed in a different weight class than Snyder in Rio).
But Sadulayev pinned Snyder in 68 seconds at 2018 Worlds. This past September, Snyder was upset before getting the chance to face Sadulayev in another final. Earlier today Snyder was pinned by an Iranian opponent. It is the first time he has been pinned since the 2018 worlds.
“The reason why I went to Iowa is because I believe God wanted me to go there,” said Snyder, who prays for 30 minutes to start the day and says he draws all of his value from faith. “To say that losing in ‘18 and ‘19 didn’t have anything to do with [moving to Iowa], I would say that’s not true. When I lose, I’m like, well let’s turn it up. I don’t want to lose again. I want more detailed coaching. I want my training partners to come in and be even more ready. It’s not that they weren’t helping me a lot, but I guess I was looking for change and thought that would help me.”
Snyder’s coach at Ohio State, Tervel Dlagnev, and Iowa coaches declined to comment for this story. Snyder will continue to train ahead of the Olympic trials the first weekend of April, when he will have a bye into the final.
“I just thought that the change would bring about a new perspective,” Snyder said, “and some small adjustments in my wrestling that will ultimately make big changes.”
In unrelated news, incoming freshman Daniel Kerkvliet has announced he intends to transfer to the University of Iowa.