When Steven Holloway trotted out to face the beast, Kyle Snyder, a big, Scooby Doo “ROH?” rolled through Value City Arena on Sunday evening.
There were 15,117 wrestling fanatics in the stands for the dual meet between No. 2 Ohio State and No. 4 Iowa. It was the second-largest wrestling crowd in the history of the building, and the 12th-largest crowd for an on-campus meet in the history of on-campus meets.
The Buckeyes were up five points heading into the final match — which is to say they had it locked up with Snyder, the best pound-for-pound wrestler in the world — and the well-educated crowd was stoked for the capper.
Snyder was supposed to face Sam Stoll, who is the third-ranked college heavyweight in the country. In Stoll’s place, Holloway was trotted out. Outside of West Burlington, Iowa, Holloway is not exactly a household name. Reporters ripped through their official “game notes,” which are issued by the university. There wasn’t much of anything.
This was Holloway’s first dual-meet appearance of the season. His natural weight is 197 pounds. His job was to step up in weight class and try to make it out alive against a reigning world and Olympic champion and three-time All-American. It was man vs. train.
“In practice this week, (coach Tom Brands) asked me if I wanted to wrestle Kyle Snyder, and I said, ‘Let’s do it,’ and we went from there,” Holloway said.
Brands decided to rest Stoll. The conference and national championships are on the horizon and Stoll, like most large wrestlers, has a history of knee surgeries. So, Holloway got the call.
“(Snyder) is touted as the best in the world right now,” Holloway said. “Who wouldn’t want to go out and test himself against that?”
Holloway is not weak of heart. Bless him.
It went like this: Snyder would score a takedown, let Holloway up, then take him down again. Snyder nearly had Holloway pinned at the end of the first period. The match was halted on a technical fall — a 15-point lead — late in the second period. At that point, Snyder was up by a score of 24-9.
“Big guys, heavyweights in general, they have the power and all that,” Holloway said. “This guy is smooth. He has great technique. I’m a 197-pounder and I’m faster than most heavyweights, but he was right there.
“I mean, he’s good — but nobody wants to go out there and get tech falled.”
Holloway, a redshirt sophomore, is a two-time Iowa state high-school champion. He will get back on the practice mat and keep working toward his goal, which is an NCAA title. Viva yo, dude.
Snyder’s lopsided victory was the denouement to a lovely afternoon for the home team. Ohio State coach Tom Ryan tried to tweet the meet into sellout territory, and he came close. Buses carrying high-school and youth teams from all over the state rolled in to discharge youths of all ages, all of them wearing hoodies.
The dual was broadcast live on the Big Ten Network. The atmosphere inside the building was electric. The iron of the Buckeyes’ lineup — wrestlers in the four heaviest weight classes — stemmed a Hawkeyes surge. Then there was Snyder, who can swat airplanes to the ground.
Ohio State (10-0, 5-0 Big Ten) won 22-12 and, in the process, handed Iowa (9-1, 4-1) its first loss of the season.
“We want to get used to this,” Ryan said.
In the shadow of football, we tend to forget that Ohio pumps out more wrestling (and basketball) talent than just about any other state in the union. Ryan is building a wall at the borders, keeping a lot of the talent and aiming for a second national title.