Nineteen-year-old Ohio State wrestler Kyle Snyder didn't win a Big Ten or an NCAA title last season.
A world championship will have to suffice.
Snyder, a Woodbine native who went to high school at Good Counsel in Olney, completed a stunning run Friday through the world championships, beating Russian Abdulsalam Gadisov at 97 kilograms (213 pounds) to become the youngest winner at worlds in U.S. history.
"Nothing has really changed. I just stuck with the process. Back then I thought I was the best wrestler in the world, but I lost a couple times. Hey, that happens," said Snyder of his NCAA defeats. "I believed that if I listened to my coaches and worked as hard as I can, I'm going to get the job done eventually."
Fellow 19-year-old Russian Abdulrashid Sadulaev won his second consecutive world title, beating Turkey's Selim Yasar, 6-0, at 86 kilograms (189 pounds).
Oksana Herhel of Ukraine won in women's 60 kilogram (132 pounds) freestyle, and Azerbaijan's Haji Aliyev took home the world title in men's 61 kilogram (134 pounds).
American Leigh Jaynes-Provisor surprisingly won a bronze medal at 60 kilograms.
But it's Snyder who has emerged as the story of the tournament.
Snyder, who lost to Penn State's Morgan McIntosh in the Big Ten final, is taking a redshirt season from the Buckeyes in what seemed to be a long-shot attempt to qualify for the Rio Games.
Snyder had shown tremendous improvement since his NCAA season ended in March though, and he entered Las Vegas as a dark-horse medal candidate.
Now he's the prohibitive favorite to represent the United States in Brazil.
Snyder showed wisdom beyond his age by successfully defending a challenge from Abbas Tahan of Iran while he was on the shot clock, drawing a caution point to secure his semifinals match.
Snyder and Gadisov both scored five points, but Snyder won the final because he had more 2-point moves than his opponent.
"I wasn't about to take second at Big Ten, second at nationals and come out here and take silver at worlds. Not going to happen," Snyder said.
Snyder, a 2013 junior world champion, is now the youngest world medalist and finalist in U.S. men’s freestyle history. He was wrestling in his first senior world championships.
"It just feels really good," Snyder said. "It felt like all the hard work I put in paid off. Wrestling is not a sport where you can just go to practice and not think about it for the rest of the day. I think about wrestling constantly.
"A lot of time goes into something like this. Guys like Gadisov and other guys in my bracket are a big reason why I am where I am today. I appreciate them, and I know without them pushing me to be better, I wouldn't be where I am."
Snyder scored a takedown early in the second period to lead 3-1, but Gadisov came right back with a takedown of his own. After Gadisov scored a pushout to lead 4-3, Snyder powered straight in on a low-level leg attack for a takedown and a 5-4 lead with 23 seconds left.
Gadisov scored a late pushout to tie it 5-5, but Snyder had the edge in criteria and earned the win. Snyder ran around the mat holding an American flag in celebration of his historic win as fans stood and cheered.
"The crowd was incredible, they were amazing," Snyder said. "It made a big difference. The fans were awesome."
Snyder went undefeated and was a three-time state high school champion at Good Counsel. He spent his senior year at Colorado at the United States Olympic Training Center.
Many in the wrestling community have begun to wonder whether Sadulaev — and not American Jordan Burroughs — is the best pound-for-pound wrestler in the world.
Sadulaev certainly made his case with the brilliant series of matches Friday.
Sadulaev didn't get scored on until the semifinals — at one point cartwheeling over his opponent to escape danger — and didn't need the full six minutes until he beat Iranian Alireza Karimimachiani, 6-2.
Sadulaev was barely tested in the finals by Yasar, who can take solace in the fact that he wasn't pinned.
"All the opponents are older and stronger and the weight category is not that easy. It just seems easy. It's not," Sadulaev said through an interpreter.
Herhel defeated Tserenchim Sukhee of Mongolia, 10-7. Aliyev was rewarded for his aggressiveness, as he beat Mongolia's Nomin Batbold, 10-0, in just 2:06.
Despite being pinned just 18 seconds into her semifinals match, Friday was still a big day for Jaynes-Provisor at 60 kilograms, a non-Olympic weight.
Jaynes-Provisor, 34, wasn't even ranked heading into the tournament, and she missed time this summer after she and her husband, American wrestler Ben Provisor, were involved in a car accident on Father's Day.
"A lot of people would say that 34, you're past your prime. You career is pretty much over," Jaynes-Provisor said. "Ben would never lie to me. He told me that I could do this, and I believed him because he is brutally honest at times."
The world championships conclude today, headlined by Burroughs in his attempt for a third world title.
The Baltimore Sun and other news services contributed to this article.