We are now into the Top 3 in our countdown of the greatest Husker wrestlers of all time. In case you missed them, here’s the list so far.
Honorable mentions: Jim Scherr, Mike Nissen and Corey Olson
No. 3 Bryan Snyder (1997-2002)
At the time of his graduation in 2002, Bryan Snyder was arguably the best wrestler in Husker history. He went 136-11 throughout his career, giving him the all-time best win percentage at Nebraska at .925. The 157-pounder went on to win four Big 12 titles while becoming the first Husker to earn All-American honors all four years of his career. Snyder went 69-4 in dual competition, securing the second most dual wins by a Husker and the second best dual win percentage (.945) behind only Mike Nissen, who went 36-0 in duals in the early 60s.
Now entering his 11th season as a Nebraska coach and his ninth as Nebraska’s Associate Head Coach, Snyder has an impressive coaching resume under Head Coach Mark Manning. In 2017, Snyder won the Terry McCann Award (USA Wrestling Freestyle Coach of the Year) and helped coach Jordan Burroughs to an Olympic Gold Medal in 2012 and four World Championships Titles (2011, 2013, 2015, 2017). He also has coached James Green to two World Medals. Snyder is the presumptive coach-in-waiting at Nebraska, as he’s poised to take the program over when Manning decides to retire.
A state champion from Easton, Pa., Snyder was one of the best recruits in the nation coming out of high school, with many ranking him as the top recruit at 134 pounds.
After a redshirt year where he went 6-2, Snyder wasted no time showing how dominant he was. Snyder went 32-5 on the year while capturing his first conference crown along with All-American honors. All of his five losses came to Top-5 wrestlers, including a narrow 6-5 overtime loss to top-ranked Chad Craft of Minnesota.
Heading into the 1999 Big 12 Championships, Snyder was questionable to even compete with a rib injury. He took the mat and breezed through the semifinal round before defeating Iowa State’s David Maldonado 3-1 in overtime to earn his first conference title. At the NCAA tournament, Snyder won three straight tight matches before dropping a 1-0 decision in the semifinal. He then wrestled back into the third-place match, but fell to the hands of Larry Quisel of Boise State, who lost his first match of the tournament before winning eight straight to finish third. Snyder’s fourth-place finish secured him All-American honors as a freshman.
As a sophomore, Snyder went 43-3 on the season, the most wins by a Husker sophomore and tied for the second most wins ever in a season for a Nebraska wrestler. He went a perfect 18-0 in dual competition with an 18-3 record against ranked competition.
At the Big 12 Championships in 2000, Snyder won his semifinal match 13-6 before winning the championship by forfeit, giving him back-to-back conference titles. At the NCAA tournament, Snyder fell in the first round to Edinboro’s Shawn Shapert 5-4 in what was the biggest upset of the tournament. Snyder won his next five matches before falling again in the consolation semifinal. He went on to finish fifth, again earning All-American accolades.
During his junior year in 2000-01, Snyder went 28-2 on the year. He went into the postseason with just one loss to his name, a setback to Minnesota’s Luke Becker which he ended up avenging twice later that season. The Husker junior easily won his third conference title, as he won his two matches by a combined score of 28-12, including a 9-5 win over Iowa State’s Cole Sanderson in the final. Cole is the older brother of legendary wrestler and current Penn State head coach Cael Sanderson.
At the NCAA Championships, Snyder was on a mission. He started the tournament off with two wins by pinfall on the first day of competition. He then beat Iowa State’s Cole Sanderson 7-2 in the quarterfinal round. Next, Snyder exacted revenge on Becker in the semifinals with a 3-2 decision victory. In his first NCAA finals match, Snyder took on Iowa’s T.J. Williams. After a scoreless first period, Snyder took a 1-0 lead with a second-period escape. In the third period, Williams started on bottom position and scored a reversal to go up 2-1 before Snyder escaped to tie things up at 2-2. After a scoreless overtime period, the match went to sudden death with Williams getting the choice of position due to the fact he scored the match’s only offensive points (reversal). Obviously, Williams chose the bottom position, putting Snyder in a tough position of needing a 30-second ride to stay in the match. In the end, Williams secured an escape seven seconds in, dashing Snyder’s title hopes.
As a senior, Snyder was even more dialed in, going 33-1 on the year. He went a perfect 17-0 in duals that year and went undefeated into the NCAA tournament. At the Big 12 Championships, Snyder won his two matches by a combined score of 21-6 to earn his fourth conference crown, but it was the ultimate championship that Snyder was striving toward after coming so close the year prior. At NCAAs, Snyder breezed into the final after winning his first four matches in dominant fashion: 25-10 tech fall, 25-10 tech fall, pinfall in the quarterfinal (video below), then a 5-2 decision in the semifinal.
In his final collegiate match as a Husker, Snyder faced off against Minnesota’s Becker, who Snyder defeated in the semifinal round a year earlier. Snyder started the match with a double-leg takedown but was ruled out of bounds. Becker then scored the match’s first offensive points with a takedown late in the first period, but Snyder got an escape and a takedown of his own with 24 seconds left to go up 3-2. Becker tied things up at the end of the first period with an escape. Snyder and Becker traded escapes in the second and third periods to finish regulation tied 4-4. In what had to feel like deja vu for Snyder, the match went to overtime, which ended scoreless. Onto sudden death the match went, and since Becker scored the match’s first offensive points, he got to choose the position. Again, Snyder faced the unenviable task of having to ride his opponent for 30 seconds to hold on. And just like the year before, Snyder dropped his match in the NCAA final when his opponent escaped in seven seconds.
In my opinion, Snyder is probably one of the best college wrestlers ever to not win an NCAA title. And since college wrestling’s rules changed away from a sudden death format in 2004, it’s hard not to wonder if Snyder would have won one or both of those NCAA titles under today’s rules that don’t equate to a coin flip where the first to score offensive points gets to decide position in the sudden death round.