By NICK SNOW
STILLWATER — Growing up together, Brian and Kyle Crutchmer engaged in sibling competition. They used to find any excuse to fight — be it food, clothing or the fact that Brian was a week older than Kyle.
“When we were young there was a lot of fights,” Kyle said. “Whether it was a pair of socks or the fact that his birthday was a week before mine, it used to make me a little mad, waking up with my parents all singing to him and stuff. There was always that little bit of a rivalry. ... So they put us in wrestling.”
Beginning in sixth grade as a way to just keep the brothers from beating on each other at home, the Crutchmer brothers have developed their wrestling talents to a world-class level. But it’s that same rivalry they had when they were kids that has made the biggest difference as they prepare for the U.S. World Team Trials beginning Friday in Gallagher-Iba Arena.
“It helps us out a lot,” Brian said. “It makes us a lot better.”
“When I see him doing well, it pushes me a little harder and vice versa,” Kyle said. “He gives me insight on stuff and I give him some insight on stuff that I’ve learned. It’s a great rivalry. We’re always helping each other out all the time.”
Their relationship has grown from the time of cramped car rides to Wisconsin for wrestling tournaments as youngsters, where pit stops were necessary just to keep some resemblance of peace.
Now, it’s almost like they’ve become best friends. No longer are they competing directly against each other, but rather sharing jokes and watching SportsCenter before practice.
“We do a good job at still maintaining our relationship as brothers,” Kyle said. “When we come in here, we’re friends here but when we go home we’re always going to be brothers.”
And like any good pair of brothers, there’s still that desire to constantly pester each other. While Kyle is younger, he has a size advantage over Brian — and he’s not afraid to let him hear about it.
Brian, in retaliation, usually responds by attacking Kyle and the two will playfully roll around on the mat.
“I like wrestling around with him,” Brian said. “He’s a lot stronger than me, but when we wrestle around, we just roll around. He doesn’t try to beat me up too bad by using all his strength. I try to go hard when I wrestle against him. I put it all out there.”
The key in this relationship though is to not let it go too far.
“We talk trash to each other every day,” Kyle said. “But we don’t ever take it too far. When we find out that someone is starting to get a little bit bothered by it, we normally stop. We give each other crap every day after practice. If I see him get taken down or something, I’ll say something — just little bitty words, nothing too big.”
“If I get beat or something at practice, I’ll want to come back the next day and whoop that person,” Brian said. “Then I want to see him and see if he’s doing something wrong or getting taken down, that way I can say something to him.”
The Crutchmers may trade barbs in the Oklahoma State wrestling room from time to time — all in good fun — but it’s that special bond that has made this pair unique. And as they prepare to wrestle on what will be the biggest stage either one has been on, chances are the other one won’t be too far away offering shouts of encouragement.
“We’ve talked about it before,” Kyle said. “It’d be very exciting to have both of us on the same world team. It’s a pretty big accomplishment for right now, but we’ve talked about it before. Right now, we’re just training hard trying to push each other to where we want to be and hopefully we do make the world team together. That’d be awesome. That’s the goal.”
It’s been quite a journey for the Crutchmers since the time they used to fight as kids. Now as they fight for a spot on the U.S. roster together, both brothers know that they wouldn’t be in the position they’re in without the other one.
“I’m just glad I get to share all this with him,” Kyle said. “It’s a pretty cool experience. Yeah, we’re working hard, but it definitely helps having someone you’ve been around your whole life going through the same things you’re going through. I think that’s made it easier on both of us.”