Kyle Snyder has been on the fast track to success ever since he first stepped onto a wrestling mat as a young boy. But nothing could prepare him for the intense pressure he would face as a college student staring down some of the greatest competitors in the world—nothing except for his faith in Jesus.
In this CSJ Conversation with managing editor Chad Bonham, the 2016 Olympic gold medalist, two-time world champion, and two-time NCAA champion talks about how he found faith, how his relationship helps him deal with elite international competition, and what he wants aspiring athletes to know about commitment:
Chad Bonham: Tell me about your religious upbringing.
Kyle Snyder: Growing up, our family went to church occasionally and I went to a Catholic High School my first three years. But I don’t think I really had a personal relationship with Jesus or truly knew in my heart that He was my Savior. The process began when I came to Colorado Springs my senior year in 2014. That’s when I started learning more about Him. The next two years was a process of sanctification through Christ and then finally accepting Him as what He says He is.
Bonham: What was the process that you went through to reconcile your faith with the competitive side of your life?
Snyder: The more I learned about Christ and the more scriptures I read, the easier it was for me to apply what He was saying to competition. Christ has put the love for wrestling in my heart so that I can glorify Him with my words and my actions.”
Bonham: How else has your faith helped you compete?
Snyder: My faith allows me to calm down in what otherwise would be a very stressful, hectic situation through prayer and through my confidence in Christ.”
Bonham: Is there a Bible verse that you specifically lean on as an elite wrestler?
Snyder: Luke 6:38 says, “And with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” I believe that there’s a direct correlation between your ability to compete at a high level and how hard you’re willing to work and what you’re willing to endure.
I also love the fruits of the spirit (Galatians 5:22). That’s what you are promised when you truly have Christ living inside you. With the fruits of the spirit, you’re able to handle all things. I have joy in my life no matter what the result of any competition. I know that I’m called to go out there and compete as hard as I can, but the result is not ultimately in my hands. All I can do is try my best. I don’t give myself the title “wrestler.” I give myself the title “a son of God” and “a believer in Christ,” and that never changes.
Bonham: With all that you’ve accomplished already, can you identify the most special moment in your wrestling career?
Snyder: The only time I’ve cried after winning a match was at the 2015 World Championships. I’ve cried after losing a match but I’d never cried after winning a match. I had lost in a couple of semifinals that year and it had been difficult. In that match, I wrestled against one of the best pound-for-pound wrestlers in the world from Russia—someone that I had looked up to even when I was young and way before I began competing internationally. To be able to wrestle well against him and win that match was very special for me.
Bonham: What does it mean to represent the United States at the Olympics and other international competitions?
Snyder: It’s very humbling to have the opportunity compete for the United States. I’m thankful for any chance that I get to wear that Team USA signet. I want to represent our country in the best way I possibly can. No matter division there may be, no matter differences people may have, you come together—especially in the sphere of sports—and I’m just thankful that I get to be one of the guys who gets to go out there and compete.
Bonham: What is your message to other wrestlers or athletes who want to compete at a high level but also want to honor God through their sport?
Snyder: Commit to Christ like you would commit to anything in your life that you love dearly and even more than that. A lot of people are caught up in saying they believe in Jesus and they think that’s enough. Yes, we are saved by faith, but a true faith can be seen by the works and by the fruits that you have in your life. I encourage people to assess themselves, assess who Jesus was, and determine whether or not you’re pursuing a life that resembles His. None of us will be perfect, but our goal should be to pursue His example and to continue to mature. Through our obedience, He will reward us with more knowledge and the ability to carry out that knowledge. That’s His will for our lives. Don’t take the easy way out by saying you believe in Christ once and never pursuing it more than that. Like the Bible says, even the demons know who Jesus is and they tremble at His name. Continue to pursue Him. If you’re not pursuing, you’re falling behind. There’s no in between. That’s what I’ve learned in my journey.
Kyle Snyder is featured along with several other high profile wrestlers in the upcoming FCA Wrestling New Testament (2nd Edition).
(Photos: Team USA; Ilgar Jafavov; Hotrocks05)