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Wrestling at Tokyo 2020: Snyder’s Silver caps record-breaking performance for US team

United World Wrestling hyped the finals match at 97 kg as the Olympic Main Event. Defending Olympic Gold Medalists, Kyle Snyder of the US, faced Abdulrashid Sadulaev of the Russian Olympic Committee in the Championship final. Heading into the bout, the US and the ROC were tied in the unofficial team medal race. The 97 kg match became a winner-take-all chapter in a century-long rivalry between amateur wrestling’s powerhouse nations.

Early in the first period, Snyder was put on the thirty-second shot clock but failed to score, putting Sadulaev up 1–0. The Russian forced a one-point step out to take a 2–0 lead into the break. In the second, Snyder shot in but was lifted for a two-point exposure, extending Saduleav’s lead 4–0. The Russian counter another Snyder attack to build a seemingly insurmountable 6–0 lead. Snyder finally broke through Sadulaev’s defense and scored a takedown of his own, narrowing the score to 6–2. With 28 seconds left in the match, Snyder attacked again but failed to score another takedown, forcing a 1-point step out. Though Snyder turned the pressure up late, Sadulaev built too much of an early lead and held on for a 6-3 win giving himself the lead and Russia the team Men’s Freestyle title.

Sarah Hildebrand, Bronze

In Women’s action at 50 kg, Sarah Hildebrandt took the Bronze Medal following a 12–1 technical superiority win over Oksana Livach of Ukraine. Hildebrandt’s win capped off the best US Women’s Olympic team performance. The US Women took four medals (Tamyra Mesas-Stock-Gold, Adeline Gray-Silver, Helen Maroulis-Bronze), the best the program has ever done.

The US Men’s team achieved a feat never accomplished in the United States. Every team member left Tokyo with an Olympic Medal (Thomas Gilman: Bronze, Kyle Dake: Bronze, Kyle Snyder: Silver, David Taylor: Gold, Gable Steveson: Gold), marking the best performance of a US Freestyle team since 1984. The 1984 team took home seven medals and six golds. While that may seem vastly more impressive, in 1984, the Olympics had ten weight classes, while only six are offered today. The Soviet boycott in 1984 created a vast competition vacuum, which opened up many of the weights. Also, more than twenty modern-day nations made up the former Soviet Union. Countries like Belarus, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Ukraine, Kazakstan, Armenia, and Ukraine that medal in 2020 would have compromised a single USSR team in 1984. It’s an entirely different and much more competitive field today.

Every team member left Tokyo with an Olympic Medal, marking the best performance of a US Freestyle team since 1984.

In total, the United States earned nine medals in both Men’s and Women’s Freestyle, the most of any nation competing in the Games. At the 2010 World Championships, the United States failed to medal in any weight in Men’s Freestyle, while Women’s Freestyle only earned two medals. In just over a decade, the US created one of the most successful Freestyle wrestling systems in the world. If the US Greco-Roman team, who only one match at the Games, could ever catch up, the United States could surpass Russia as the top wrestling nation.

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