Ethan Kyle used to tell his brother he could never see himself becoming a high school wrestling coach.
But there was one high school program the former Oklahoma State wrestler, who had been the associate head coach under Mark Branch at the University of Wyoming for the past 11 years, admitted appealed to making the move away from college to high school coaching.
That program is the one he officially took over as head coach when the school board for Stillwater Public Schools approved his hiring Tuesday.
“This is probably the only high school job in America that I would be interested in,” Kyle said in a phone interview Wednesday. “Sure enough, you know, here we are.”
So what ultimately brought Kyle to leave the college ranks to return to his college hometown to coach high school?
“It’s a great question. It’s full of a bunch of different layers,” Kyle said.
The most significant of the layers could be heard at times over the phone during his interview.
He and his wife, Erin (a former University of Wyoming runner), have two small children – the youngest being just four months old.
Kyle weighed the rigors of coaching and recruiting at the college level, against those of being a teacher and coach at high school, in regard to the impact it would have in helping raising his kids.
“When you look at the change of pace from lifestyle and the travel that comes with a college job and all the extra weekends here and there stuff, (high school was) just more conducive to the family life that my wife and I would like to have,” Kyle said.
With family life in mind, Kyle’s college background was another layer in pointing him in the direction of Stillwater.
A member of the Oklahoma State wrestling program from 2003-07 – including being a team captain in 2007 – Kyle was part of four national championships with the Cowboys, and finished fourth at the Big 12 tournament in 2006.
And many of the college friends and families of the program – many of whom he’s kept in contact over the years – are still in Stillwater.
“Most people have really fond memories of their college experience, and I certainly have that,” Kyle said. “There's a number of really close families – actually, you know, one of our godchildren is still there and one of my best friends from a long time ago is still there – so we instantly jump right back into having a social fabric in place.
“I mean, things are set up for us to just slide right into really an ideal family life and professional life.”
The earliest seed was planted by one of those longtime relationships from college.
When Oklahoma State wrestling traveled to Laramie, Wyoming, in February – nearly a month after Doug Chesbro announced he was retiring the position at SHS – for a dual against the yellow and brown Cowboys, Kyle had an interaction with a college teammate.
Kyle said Oklahoma State associate head coach Zack Esposito mentioned about the possibility of Kyle taking over the Stillwater High program.
“He threw it out kind of in jest is kind of the way I took it,” Kyle said. “… I was like, ‘Yeah, well, things would have to line up because I can’t take a big cut in pay, necessarily.’ But things eventually came together, and the numbers panned out, so it became a no-brainer.”
Ultimately, Kyle said the driving force in him moving forward with the interview process for the job was Mark Perry Sr. – the father of Stillwater High’s last four-time state champion Chris Perry (who is now an assistant coach at Oklahoma State).
“We did want to actively go out and recruit people for the position. He was one of the guys that we recruited actively,” Stillwater athletics director Tucker Barnard said. “You don’t know if you have a chance to get these people hired or not unless you make it an attempt. ...
“We feel like if we hadn’t gone out and recruited that situation, we may have never known that he was an option. I don’t know that he would have just up and applied for the job on his own. We do solicit some help when we’re looking for these positions. We try to use our resources and we have college coaches around who are willing to help us.”
Kyle and his family are still in Wyoming, and he mentioned the earliest they will be moving to Stillwater would be early June.