By Lea Young
While most kids dream about being a UFC fighter, one kid dreamed of becoming a WWE Champion. Yes, “WWE,” as in World Wrestling Entertainment. Although he hasn’t made it to the WWE just yet, O2MAA’s Kyle Snyder-Olivares has become a force to be reckoned with not only in wrestling, but also in judo and jiu jitsu in Hawaii.
Snyder-Olivares began training at O2MAA with jiu jitsu black belt brothers, Mike and Chris Onzuka in August 1997 at the age of nine. Fast-forward 14 years later at the age of 23, Snyder-Olivares is now a brown belt in both judo and Brazilian jiu jitsu (3rd degree) with the accolades to prove it.
At the age of 13, Snyder-Olivares began competing in the men’s blue/purple no-gi division as an orange belt due to the lack of competition in the kids division. He is Hawaii and Relson Gracie’s first-ever green belt, who technically skipped his blue belt and was promoted to purple at the age of 16 (he was actually a blue belt for one day so he could compete in the Pan American Jiu Jitsu Championship). Not only is Snyder-Olivares a multiple time NAGA Grappling champion, Hawaii Triple Crown champion (and belt holder), but he is also a 6x Hawaii State judo champion as well.
During the most recent Hawaii Triple Crown event held at the Hawaii MMA Expo, Snyder-Olivares’ performance in the brown/black belt open division proved that he deserved every right to be competing against some of the best black belts in the state. In the first match of the division, he submitted Frank Cabral, a GF Team black belt, via toe hold/knee bar combination in 2.5 minutes into the match. Later he went to on to fight Atos’ black belt, Mike Fowler, the favorite to win the division, losing via the “bread cutter” choke. Snyder-Olivares eventually finished in 2nd place, and was the only brown belt to enter the division.
In an interview with MMASUCKA, Snyder-Olivares shared some of his thoughts and experiences that helped him become the talented grappler that he is now:
While most kids want to participate in team sports at a young age, what made you want to start grappling instead of playing soccer or football? Was there ever a time when you wanted to take a break and try another sport aside from grappling?
Actually I did play other sports like flag football and basketball. One of the reasons why my dad put me in jiu jitsu is to get more flexible. Before I was going to start tackle football, my doctor said I could only play if I could touch my toes with my legs being straight. He did this because I had knock knees. I couldn’t do it so my dad found Relson Gracie jiu jitsu. Just last year I wanted to take a break from grappling to try and play lacrosse. After watching videos on how violent they are, boy did I quickly change my mind.
How did competing in the men’s division at such a young age affect you and your performance in future competitions?
I truly believe that competing in the men’s division at a young age helped me now with knowing how to play against someone who’s much stronger than I am. It matured me quickly in jiu jitsu. It forced me to become smarter with what I use in competition. It forced me to be more aggressive than other kids my age. It also taught me to train smarter in a sense of trying to keep my body healthy. One slip against a much older and stronger person and I’m in trouble.
Tell us about one of your most memorable wins (gi, no-gi, wrestling, or judo) throughout your life.
The biggest win for me was when I beat Joel Tudor in a Super Fight here in Hawaii. He was ADCC competitor, he just won the U.S. Open, and a jiu jitsu World Champion.
What advice would you give to kids starting grappling at the same age you did?
I want the kids to know that every class is a link on a chain, once you miss a class the chain can fall apart. Pay attention, drill, and be humble. Even if you see a move taught in class that you think you already know, take it in, look at the details because what you see can add to it and make it work better for you.
Do you ever think about MMA fighting one day? Why or why not?
For sure I think about competing in MMA one day. The drive to compete is always there. I would have to train kickboxing for about 2 years before I would even think of stepping in there though.
Snyder-Olivares is a true testament to the saying that hard work pays off. When he is not at work, he spends his nights training at the academy, sometimes staying past 11 pm on weeknights. He is constantly looking to improve, learn new techniques, as well as helping to groom some of Hawaii’s most talented young grapplers. We will still hold out hope that he eventually does fulfill his childhood dream to make it to the WWE one day, but until then, we can watch him steadily climb to the top of the ranks of jiu jitsu in Hawaii and possibly throughout the country.
Kyle Snyder-Olivares x Frank Cabral at the MMA Hawaii Expo:
Photo credit Laurie K – MMA Hawaii
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