As he was preparing to sign a letter of intent to continue his education and his wrestling career under scholarship at Williams Baptist College in Walnut Ridge, Bryant High School senior Kyle Thompson was recalling on Friday, how he started wrestling at BHS.
“A guy that was my brother’s best friend told me I needed to join the wrestling team when I got in high school,” he related. “I’d been doing Jujitsu and other martial arts and stuff. I was like, ‘All right, I will.’
“So halfway through my ninth grade year, I quit football and I joined the wrestling team,” he continued. “My ninth grade year, I was terrible. I hadn’t ever wrestled before so I didn’t know what I was doing.”
But that did not deter him.
“That summer after my freshman year, I went to the Arkansas Wrestling Academy, which is in Little Rock,” Thompson said. “I went there for the entire summer and I got pretty good.”
He wound up going 30-4 as a sophomore, wrestling in the 152-pound division on the Hornets team.
“As a sophomore, he turned it on,” noted Hornets coach Dondre Harris. “The light bulb came on and he finished third at State.”
That garnered all-State honors.
He took another step forward through some adversity that summer.
“My sophomore year was the first year I went to Brute Nationals (in Independence, Mo.),” he said. “I was in a huge bracket for my weight class and grade, one of the biggest brackets in the whole tournament. There were like 22 people in my bracket. My first match, I lost. So I had to go to the back end of the bracket and fight my way all the way back. I wrestled like five matches in about three hours. It was a killer. It was tough. But I learned a lot.”
He wound up seventh in the bracket.
As a junior, Thompson went 33-3 but just missed earning all-State honors again, finishing fourth.
“He would’ve gotten better than fourth as a junior but he got hurt during the tournament,” Harris noted. “He toughed it out and got fourth.”
And, again, he worked through another summer at AWA and, this time, competed in a national tournament in Fargo, N.D.
“I didn’t place but it was a great experience,” he mentioned.
This winter, Thompson finished off his career with a 33-4 mark as a senior, wrestling in the 160-pound division. That made him 96-11 over his three years. Placing third, he was once again all-State.
“He kind of grew up from his junior year to his senior year,” Harris said. “He kind of took over the team. We only had two seniors this season and he was our team captain. If there was a problem, he handled it. He made my job a lot easier.”
Asked about the key to Thompson’s success, Harris said, “Just his heart; his heart and determination. And he was the type of kid that went to Pat Smith’s Arkansas Wrestling Camp every year. That made him grow as far as his technique. But it still takes a certain type of kid, a certain type of person to wrestle. He’s got all the dog in him that he needs.”
“Being focused,” Thompson explained. “You’ve got to go get it. You’ve just got to have fight; just fight harder than everybody else then you’ll start winning. It’s not about who’s better sometimes. It’s just about who’s willing to fight for that entire six minutes.”
Before this year’s State tournament, Thompson, the son of Barry and Andrew Thompson, got a text from Williams Baptist coach Kerry Regner.
“The coach told me that they have an eye on me but he wasn’t going to be able to be there because he had tournaments for college,” Thompson said.
He visited the campus after the season.
“We talked to the coach and he figured out all of my financial stuff and how much he could give me and offered me a scholarship,” he recounted. “I was considering Central Baptist College in Conway because they have a good wrestling program. Coach (Ken) Prophete over there offered me a scholarship. But Williams was smaller. It seemed like a better place for me to go. It’s out in the middle of nowhere. I liked it.”
As for his academic plans, Thompson said, “They have a business technology major. I’m thinking about that. I was also thinking about majoring in Education and being a wrestling coach and teaching History.”