Eight men on Earth are current world champions in freestyle wrestling.
Two of them live and train in Columbus.
And both Kyle Snyder and Logan Stieber — former teammates at Ohio State — are in Paris with Team USA to put their titles on the line this weekend at the world championships.
Snyder, an OSU senior from Woodbine, Maryland, is the top seed in the 213-pound weight class after becoming the youngest in U.S. history at age 20 to win an Olympic gold medal last year in Rio de Janeiro.
Stieber, a four-time NCAA champion who graduated from OSU in 2015, earned his first world title in December. The Monroeville native enters this tournament seeded No. 2 at 134 pounds.
Much focus in wrestling has been on Snyder since September 2015 when he won gold at 19 in his first senior-level world championships. Two NCAA titles and Olympic glory followed, leaving Snyder to seek self-improvement as motivation.
Snyder has done so, saying he’s a better wrestler now than last summer at the Olympic. This year, he’s won gold at the Ivan Yarygin Grand Prix, Pan American Championships, and Grand Prix of Spain.
Despite all the achievements and accolades, Snyder is hungry for more victories when he takes the mat at 2 a.m. Eastern Time on Saturday.
“I feel great,” said Snyder, who plans to compete for the Buckeyes this season. “I’m excited to compete. Mentally, I feel I’m in a really good place. Physically, I’m there. Probably the biggest matchup of the world championships could potentially happen in my weight between me and the Russian.”
That wrestler is Abdulrashid Sadulaev, known as the “Russian Tank.” He’s undefeated since 2013, was a two-time world champion and Olympic gold medalist in Rio at 86 kilograms (190 pounds), but has moved up one weight class to take on Snyder. Both are 21.
“I welcome all challenges. No problem,” Snyder said. “I’m trying to be the best I can be. The best I can be will either beat him or lose to him. So we’ll see what happens.”
What’s expected to happen in Stieber’s lighter division is anyone’s guess.
“I probably have the most competitive weight class,” said Stieber, whose first match is set for 2 a.m. Eastern Time on Friday.
Top-seeded Vladimer Khinchegashvili of Georgia, the Olympic champion at 126 pounds, has moved up to Stieber’s weight class. So has Haji Aliyev of Azerbaijan, who earned Olympic bronze at 126 last summer after winning world titles at 134 in 2014 and ’15.
Stieber moved down to 134 kg to win his world title in December after failing to make the U.S. Olympic team last year at 143 pounds. He said he’s stronger at his new weight.