In sixth grade, Kyle Crutchmer was playing football and baseball and he was getting in trouble at school. So his dad decided to put him in wrestling to try and fix that. Initially, the future collegiate All-American didn’t have much success on the mats.
“My first year in wrestling I won one match. I was not very good, I was just kind of angry all the time.”
But that changed, in high school, Crutchmer put together a career record of 198-30, he became a two-time state champion in Oklahoma, a Junior National Champion and was named a Free-Style All American in 2011. He was recruited by several colleges to wrestle and chose Oklahoma State, who has one of the most storied wrestling programs in the country. There, he earned two Big 12 titles and became a two-time NCAA All-American.
Crutchmer started to believe he could have that kind of success when he was a sophomore in high school.
“Going into my sophomore year of high school was when I really kinda realized that I thought maybe I could make a career out of it. I started winning big matches, started winning national tournaments, getting exposure then I started getting a lot of calls my junior year about going to a college and that’s when I kinda really knew it was going to happen.”
Though he accomplished so much in wrestling, he still counts graduating from college as his best accomplishment.
“First would be graduating from college, that took a lot of work, a lot of years. A lot of hard work, dedication. (I was) cutting weight, traveling all the time and wrestling.”
Though he graduated from Oklahoma State with a degree in education, Crutchmer knew he wanted to be a professional athlete, it was his dream since he was a little kid.
“My whole life I’ve wanted to be a professional athlete. I mean I know everybody says that but I’ve always envisioned myself being able to making money doing a sport. When I was growing up I wanted to be an NFL player but obviously not being the tallest man on the earth derailed that. I found a love in wrestling. Right now, you look across the board all wrestlers are kinda dominating the MMA world so, I just wanted to jump on board with that.”
The highly decorated wrestler was involved in several fights in high school so the idea of fighting didn’t throw him off. He had thought about doing it since he started watching it in high school but it wasn’t until he had success in college that he knew he could do it.
“When I was in high school I was in a lot of fights, I’ve been in a lot street fights in my life. I’ve told people this before, I was not the greatest human being when I was growing up. I’ve always liked fighting and as my wrestling career picked up, all my friends, we’d have little fight parties and invite a lot of people over and just hang out and watch fights. Really man, it really kicked me into gear then, I kinda thought about doing it but I didn’t know I had the intangibles to do it until like I said, I started did really well in college in wrestling then it came to the surface that I could do it.”
What inspires Crutchmer to this day is his family, though they haven’t had much, his parents always provided for him and his siblings, even when his older brother had a serious medical condition. They helped him battle and he eventually went from told he would never walk again to a state champion wrestler in high school and a wrestler at Oklahoma State University.
“Growing up I tell people all the time, my family didn’t have much. My mom and dad were really young when they had me and my brother. We battled through some major, major things with my older brother Brian. He was in the hospital for like a year trying to figure out what was wrong with his spine. Trying to walk things like that. Just seeing someone like that go from literally saying you’ll never walk again to winning a state title and wrestling at a division I school and training as hard as he did with that thing that happened to him, I think it puts things in perspective for yourself and having my family and how strong of a presence they have in my career just kinda lifts me up and keeps you motivated on maybe changing one of our lives one day.”
What has helped change Crutchmer’s life in terms of MMA was the recruitment of him to AKA, one of the most well-known and respected gyms in the world. Though AKA wasn’t the only gym to reach out to him, Urijah Faber called Crutchmer and flew him out to Sacramento to visit team Alpha Male. Former UFC champion and Oklahoma State Cowboy Johny Hendricks also talked with Crutchmer about training with him. He loved all the scenarios he had before him, but it was fellow Cowboy alum Daniel Cormier that helped Crutchmer end up at San Jose.
“As far as decision went, at the time, I felt AKA is the bigger guys that’s going to have success. Having Daniel Cormier, I felt like I’d have a little bit more opportunities because we both wrestled at Oklahoma State so I felt like we had a brotherhood that I felt comfortable with on taking my, I guess talents to San Jose.”
When he got to San Jose on his first day, he was picked up by co-founder of the gym, Bob Cook. He was then driven to the gym and was asked to spar.
“I walked into the gym, I had all my bags with me cause I was going to leave with DC, right when I pulled up, I get in I there and they go, hey man, there’s some gear in the locker room, we want you to kinda mess around. The first day, I’ve never really fought or sparred with a professional, the first day I was sparring. I was really nervous I don’t think I did too good or even looked worth a shit, yea that was my first day, they threw me right in there with the wolves.”
It has been almost a year since the welterweight prospect joined AKA and he says he has learned a lot. He has been working with the likes of Cormier, Deron Winn JJ Okanovich and Adam Piccolotti. He has won his first two fights and is looking to improve to 3-0 after his upcoming fight
His upcoming fight is for XFN in Tulsa, OK on September 29 when he fights Brandon Wright who has a record of 4-4. The fight will be shown on Fight Pass and he is looking to keep his head down and get experience.
“I’m still new to this sport, I’m not going to go out there and predicting first round knockouts and all that shit. I just want people to enjoy watching me fight.”
There are wrestlers who fall in love with striking and decide to brawl, but Crutchmer says he isn’t one of those fighters. So on September 29, expect to see him wrestle.
“Hell no, I’m going to wrestle everybody. They can’t stop it, if they can stop it we’ll go from there.”
That wrestling and his gym affiliation will bring large expectations for the 25-year-old fighter but he doesn’t expect it to affect him.
“I’m about my family and my close friends, every body else, I could really give two shits about what they think. I’m just not one of those people who’s going to care about what everybody’s thinking at the time. I used to be like that but right now, I think my pressure if I have any, is coming from myself or my family.”
And though he says he is not ready, and he is keeping his options open, his goal is to make it to the UFC.
“I think what’s happened is we have a plan, I don’t know if I’ll ever be in Bellator, I don’t know if I’ll ever be in the UFC, but right now I am aiming to try and make it to the UFC. I think that’s what our plan is with my management team.
“Still open option, no close doors, I’m still early in my career. It just depends on how everything plays out in the next couple months.”