SANTIAGO, Chile — Two-time Olympic medalist Kyle Snyder led the United States wrestling team to four Pan American gold medals on Wednesday, the first day of the event in Santiago. The 27-year-old, one of the top athletes competing in Chile, easily won all his bouts to secure his third consecutive continental title.
The star wrestler’s teammates came close to dominating just as much, and just like Snyder they are likely to secure a spot in the Paris Olympics next year and fight for medals there, too. The athlete from Maryland was Olympic champion in Rio de Janeiro in 2016 and won silver in Tokyo in 2021.
Snyder later said he had his mind in 2024 as soon as he won the final in Chile.
“My next thing is just take a little break and get back on the main train,” Snyder told The Associated Press after his title bout. “We’ve got the holidays, then there’s a couple of tournaments, one in January, one February. I need to get ready for the Olympic trials, April 19th and 20th. That’s what I’m going to be looking forward to getting ready the most.”
Snyder has been affected by injuries during the current Olympic cycle, but still won three world championship medals recently. He is currently riding the longest Olympic and World medal streak in American history; nine in a row since 2015.
“I like coming to the Pan Am Games. It gets your mind ready to what the Olympics will be like,” Snyder said. “This is a fun team. (Loved) playing card games, hanging out with them.”
Later, the 24-year-old Mason Parris, a bronze medalist in this year’s world championships, beat Venezuela’s José Díaz 2-0 in the 125-kilogram category. Despite the tight score, the American faced little risk of losing; his opponent clearly played for a late takedown, but failed.
“I was expecting that. He does some of that cheap stuff,” Parris said about his opponent after his win. “He got a little chippy with me, slapped me on the back of my head a few times. I am just here to compete, I am not here to fight.”
When asked about being teammates with Snyder, Parris’ face immediately lit up.
“I love wrestling with Kyle. We have a lot of fun, get in really good scrambles. Kyle is a great dude, love talking to him, also talk about his faith. It is great to be closer to him,” Parris said.
The 29-year-old Zane Richards brought the U.S. its third gold medal in wrestling with a 10-0 victory over Venezuela’s Óscar Tigreros in the 57-kilogram category.
The last final of the day had 27-year-old Tyler Berger topping Cuba’s Franklin Marén 3-0 in the 74-kilogram category.
The U.S. team finished first in the wrestling medal table in the past two editions of the continent’s largest multi-sports event, in Toronto and in Lima. Cuba came out on top in the sport’s medal table at the 2011 Pan American Games in Guadalajara.
“This tournament helps. The crowd was roudy, not always cheering for us, which makes it fun too. It raises the energy,” said U.S. team coach Joe Russell. “Snyder was a great leader for this team… It is hard to be critical to him sometimes.”
Image credits: AP