PUEBLO, Colo. – Olympian Kyle Snyder and 2017 PBR World Champion Jess Lockwood may be separated by 80 pounds and participate in different sports, but the two World Champions both share the same competitive fire and passion.
Even though Snyder and Lockwood didn’t talk specifically about Lockwood’s upcoming 2018 season, Snyder shared with PBR.com what advice he would offer Lockwood when it comes to the 20-year-old’s attempt at repeating as World Champion.
Snyder bookended two World Championships in 2015 and 2017 with a gold medal at the 2016 Summer Olympics. The 22-year-old is the youngest World Champion and Olympic gold medalist in USA Wrestling history.
He also won back-to-back collegiate championships at Ohio State in 2016 and 2017.
Therefore, Snyder has quite the resume when it comes to avoiding a championship let down.
“They were both difficult in the same respect,” Snyder said last week when Lockwood was invited to train in Colorado Springs with USA Wrestling’s men’s national freestyle team.
“Just keep doing it because you love it. That is the easiest way to stay focused. Try to improve in the areas you can improve in, but really the biggest thing for me was I enjoyed what I was doing it. That seems to me why he is doing it too. There shouldn’t be any more pressure or anything like that.”
Silvano Alves is the only rider in the PBR’s 24 previous seasons to win back-to-back gold buckles. He nearly won a third consecutive title in 2013 before J.B. Mauney’s miraculous comeback.
While neither athlete can truly understand the other’s physical journey up the championship mountain, there is a sense of appreciation for each other’s accomplishments in respected arenas.
“I never talked about that with him, but his stuff is work ethic,” Lockwood said. “He puts in the work and the time. I feel like I put in the work and time.”
Lockwood didn’t wait until his invite to the U.S. Olympic Training Center to begin his preparation for the upcoming season.
In fact, Lockwood only took off a week after the Finals to rest his broken ribs before he returned to the gym.
“Other than that, the only time I have taken off is two days,” Lockwood said last week. “I am working out every single day and staying in shape. Really since I started working out again after World Finals, I have been so motivated. After winning a world title, I have been working harder than I ever have really.
“I know it is hard to win a world title, and not many people do it, but a lot of people have won just one. I don’t want to be one that just won one. I want to go back-to-back. I want to beat Silvano and Adriano (Morae’s) records, and you don’t do that by sitting on the couch waiting for the season to start.”
Lockwood did take a break from his training this week to go on a winter vacation with some buddies.
USA Wrestling’s National Freestyle Head Coach Bill Zadick helped lead Snyder to back-to-back championships, and he sees similarities between Snyder and Lockwood.
“I see the same confidence,” Zadick said. “I see the same maturity. I see the same grounded nature about them in the way that they interact. It is really a reflection of their life and world view. It is really exciting. It is fun to discover those things.”
Zadick’s advice to Lockwood would be quite simple.
The 2017 National Olympic Coach of the Year explained that he can tell Lockwood is already accustomed to hearing the same clichés as “It is hard getting to the top, but it is harder staying at the top” or “the second and third time you do something is always harder than the first.”
“He obviously knows what he is doing,” Zadick said. “I would encourage him, as I do our athletes, to keep doing the things you know and the things that got you there. At the same time, you have to be innovative. You have to be thinking ahead. You have to be advancing your knowledge base to keep things fresh and keep you hungry.”
That was one of the major positives of Lockwood training with USA Wrestling last week.
The two-day stint may not have resulted in major physical gains, but the training session opened him up to new ideas to train, additional ways to approach his nutrition and recharge his mindset for another championship run.
Sometimes an athlete can benefit from a change in their routine so that they don’t get lazy or stale.
Lockwood believes his brief time in Colorado Springs could play big dividends in 2018.
“I am on the right track, but surrounding myself around guys that work hard like this – you don’t see that in bull riding too much,” Lockwood said. “Being here is preparing me big time for the 2018 season. Being around these guys and seeing how hard they train. Just their mentalities. (They think), ‘There is no one else as tough as me on the planet, so I know I am going to go out and dominate.’
“I am going to take that into the 2018 season.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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