Friends and faculty remember former UB student Jonah Snyder


Jonah Snyder will always be remembered as a kind, passionate and caring individual who never failed to put a smile on someone’s face. Friends described Snyder as someone who helps them to be their best.

Snyder, a 20-year-old from West Seneca, died in a medical emergency at a pro wrestling gym, Black and Brave Wrestling Academy in Moline, Illinois on Sept. 7. Snyder passed away en route to the Genesis Medical Center. Snyder was a UB student for two years as a communication major and was a tuba player on the UB marching band.

Nancy Ortiz, Snyder’s girlfriend and junior communication major at UB, said his family is still waiting to hear back on some reports but she said as far as she knows, he was in “perfect health.”

Ortiz said Snyder talked about wrestling and watched it almost every day. He studied technique and worked out every day.

Ortiz said Snyder had the wrestling academy on his mind for years and it was his “destination.”

“He always said college wasn’t for him,” Ortiz said. “He knew that professional wrestling was his dream and he couldn’t wait to get out of the college lifestyle and pursue training in a professional manner. He did say he was going to miss the people [at UB] because everyone was always so kind to him.”

“When he would talk about wrestling, his voice would burst with excitement and his eyes would light up. It was his passion – he described it as his passion. Everyone could see it,” Ortiz said. “He would kind of be quiet when you’d first meet him, but if you got him to talk about wrestling, he just opened up.”

Ortiz said the program was supposed to last a few months and once Snyder was done with the program, the director of the program, Seth Rollins, would certify Snyder to be in the wrestling program, which would have qualified him for potential wrestling positions in companies.

Snyder considered being in various fields in wrestling such as the communication field.

“Those were all backup plans to his ultimate dream, which was to be in the ring wrestling and being a champion,” Ortiz said.

Ortiz said Snyder always talked about having the wrestling belt in his hands after he would win.

Snyder was on the wrestling team at West Seneca High School before he came to UB.

Ortiz met Snyder during her freshman year in the marching band. They were placed next to each other for every game. When the band split into practice groups one day, Ortiz said Snyder seemed “really cute and nice” but she was too shy to talk to him. She said it turned out he felt the same way.

She said no one has ever made her happier than Snyder. She described him as a teddy bear.

“He could make anyone smile. He was so generous and caring to everyone without exception,” Ortiz said. “He’s greatly missed. He was just so wonderful. Words can’t describe how wonderful a man he was and still is.”

Ortiz saw Snyder for the last time on Sept. 2 at the opening Bulls football game. He was sitting in the stands because he had to leave early.

“It was really special [to see him in the stands] because he didn’t plan on having ties with the university at that point but it meant a lot to me that he took time out of his day to come see me and the marching band perform,” Ortiz said.

The marching band was a big part of Snyder’s life, according to Ortiz.

“He cared about everyone on the band. It was a big part of his life and to see him showing support for me personally and the organization – it meant a lot,” Ortiz said.

James Mauck, director of Athletic Bands, had Snyder as a student for two years in UB’s pep band and marching band.

Mauck described Snyder as “very affable, fun, dedicated and really funny.” He spent a lot of time with Snyder over the years.

He said Snyder was a wonderful student and a great friend to band students.

“Whatever he decided to do, he was dedicated to,” Mauck said.

Mauck said Snyder loved the marching band and the kids who were in it. He said everyone “misses him terribly.”

Mauck said Snyder visited the marching band a week before he passed away.

“He was all excited about heading off to wrestling camp and at the same time he said he was going to miss band,” he said. “You can say he wanted to be here but you can’t be at two places at the same time.”

Jack Jerabek, a junior history and political major at SUNY Geneseo, met Snyder in seventh grade in concert band. Jerabek said he was “incredibly close” with Snyder. Jerabek was also in the marching band with Snyder in high school.

“Snyder was known as the happiest guy alive and made an impact on everyone he met,” Jerabek said.

Jerabek said Snyder was always trying to help people out and make them happy.

“[Being in the marching band] was really something special for the both of us. He started a few years before me, but when I joined, he really made me feel like I was a part of things,” Jerabek said. “He always made sure people like me, rookies, were doing the best they could do. He really worked with people so they could be the best they can be.”

When Jerabek got the phone call from his friend about Snyder’s passing, he said he was in complete denial for at least two minutes.

“I just couldn’t understand the words that were coming out of his mouth. It just couldn’t make sense to me,” Jerabek said.

He said as soon as he received the phone call, he packed up his things from school and the next day, he went to Snyder’s house to comfort the family and make them meals.

His family has been “taking it rough,” according to Ortiz. “Jonah was their first born and was the oldest child of five. He was just such a wonderful person and to have someone like that taken away from such a wonderful family, it’s hit them hard.”

For those on campus who knew Snyder, there are support groups on campus to help with grief.

“UB has a diverse spiritual support community and for many students who experience a death and are away from home this can provide additional support,” said Elizabeth Snider, associate and clinical director of UB Counseling Services, in an email.

“Jonah was just a good guy. He was the sort of person you can share a laugh with no matter what the situation was,” Jerabek said. “It’s really hard because now he’s just gone and it’s hard to see someone so good--someone with that amount of goodness in his heart just get away from us all.”

There will be a moment of silence on Saturday at the football game for Snyder and the marching band will perform in collaboration with the West Seneca High School marching band on Oct. 9 in honor of Snyder.

Hannah Stein is the co-senior news editor and can be reached at Follow her on Twitter at @HannahJStein