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“I’ve always treated my sons like men,” Kevin said. “I gave them their choice on what they wanted to do. They did want to go as a package deal. I think they both understood there was a possibility they wouldn’t, but they stood together until the end.”

Brian was complaining about the wheelchair at Wal-Mart. Kevin heard Brian’s argument. He rolled the wheelchair to the side and bought a small pool. Kevin started working out with Brian, and within six weeks, Kevin said Brian was walking again. Brian was paralyzed for about six months.

Kyle and Brian shared a room growing up in Tulsa. The house had extra space, but the boys chose to share a bedroom and turn the extra area into a game room. When they moved to Stillwater, the brothers lived together until Brian left this past summer to become a recruitment consultant at a company in Dallas.


He gave up his last year of wrestling eligibility after graduating with a business administration in marketing degree in four years. Kyle plans to join Brian after graduation in May, and the brothers aim to open a wrestling academy together.

“Any time you lose a friend like that, that you kinda idolize because he was so good at what he did, it just kinda makes you think a lot more,” Kyle said. “That was something that I had to overcome in high school. Just the thought of losing someone so close to you can kind of mess with you sometimes. It’s scary a little bit.”

“You use all the negative energy from it, and you create it into a positive,” Kyle said. “You remember the stuff that he was good at, and he was so damn resilient, nothing could hold him back, even when he had the cancer. He fought real hard, so it was like, would he want me to come out here and lollygag and not do the things that I’m capable of doing because of something that’s a setback? I just used that as a motivation. I wanted to win for him.”

Kyle endured the toughest offseason of his career to recover before his senior year. He said the challenge put him in the best shape of his life. It also lit a fire while he was away from the mat, watching his teammates compete in the postseason.

“It’s part of being an athlete,” Kyle said. “You go through a lot of injuries, you go through things that can hold you back. It makes you stronger. I’m blessed to be able to do it this year. Last year’s experience, it gave me a whole new outlook on this season.”

Kyle was arrested in 2013 during his redshirt year. He was charged with threatening an act of violence and malicious injury to property in Tulsa County, according to a Tulsa World article. He was accused of threatening to kill a man and hitting his vehicle.

“He pretty much sat me down and told me, ‘Hey, if you don’t cut this shit out, you’re done,’” Kyle said. “He put everything in perspective for me, how much I’d be missing. He came on to me almost like a father. I felt the guy who cared for me; I felt the guy who wanted to see me succeed. It changed everything. When you find out someone cares for you like that, you shouldn’t run away from it. You should accept it, and that’s what I did. I wanted him to understand that I was all in and I wanted to be a Cowboy.”

“Our job here is to help people, not punish them all the time, but help them find their way,” Smith said. “You just hope they evolve, especially if there’s things and issues that maybe they need to get through. That shows the strength of good people. Good people recognize those deficiencies you need to work on, then they attack them and they work on them. He’s definitely been one guy that has shown great improvement in all parts of his college career, not just as an athlete, but as a student, as a teammate, as a person.”

“Going through some of the things that I’ve been through since I’ve been here, you realize that you have to grow up,” he said. “You can’t stay in la la land. Towards the end of your career, you have to find a job. You want people to respect you. You want people to think you’re professional. You can’t do that staying in the mindset of a freshman. Coach Smith’s helped me a lot in getting me to understand that you have to grow.”

Kyle walks to the center of the mat with his chest out in a dual against Penn State on Feb. 19, his left shoulder and pec covered with tattoos, a white leg sleeve on his right leg. It’s his last match in GIA, and he’s down 1-0 to seventh-ranked Mark Hall. He gestures for 14,059 fans to get loud before the third period starts.

“I’d be lying if I said I didn’t like to stand out a little bit,” Kyle said. “If there’s 10 people in the room and everyone’s doing the same, I’m the only one that’s gonna be doing something just a little different. That’s just how I’ve always been.”

Kevin was in the crowd Kyle urged. He’s usually nervous when he watches his sons wrestle. So much that, even though he was the wrestling coach at Tulsa Union, he didn’t coach his sons during their last two years. Instead, he watched their matches as a father, but the nervousness was still there, except for Kyle’s last match in GIA.

“I was shocked I wasn’t more nervous, but I realized I was just kinda more relieved in a way,” Kevin said. “Even though it’s the end, he’s gonna graduate. He’s turned into a man. He’s wrestled for a program that’s possibly gonna wrestle for a title. You can’t ask for any more as a father.”