Learning experience: Challenges have helped Brightman grow at Mesa
For many student-athletes, choosing a major is one of the toughest decisions to make.
That was the easy part for Mesa State College wrestler Kyle Brightman.
“When I graduated from high school, I declared a major,” he said. “I knew I wanted to be a teacher and a coach. I’ve had the same major throughout college. I love being around kids.
“Maybe I’ll be a graduate assistant here. I want to keep going on with wrestling. That helps me do well in school and in the wrestling room. The better you can be at the national level, the better chance you have of getting a coaching job.”
Before he pursues a teaching and coaching career, Brightman hopes to accomplish more on the mat.
The 184-pound redshirt junior (7-9) has struggled the past three years with injuries, but is finally healthy. He won three matches in the Tracy Borah Duals last weekend in Gunnison.
“He’s always wrestled hard, but just figuring out how to win, he’s struggled with in matches,” Mesa State coach Chuck Pipher said. “He’s got some tough matches these next couple nights, so we’ll see.”
Mesa State faces a tough test with four duals in the next five days beginning tonight at CSU-Pueblo. The Mavs visit No. 17 Adams State on Thursday night. Friday afternoon, they’re at New Mexico Highlands, which dropped its five-year-old program last April for budgetary reasons, but reinstated it in May.
Mesa State hosts Colorado School of Mines at 3 p.m. on Sunday at Brownson Arena.
“We feel like we should win all three of these (road) duals,” Pipher said. “We feel like we have the ammunition to do it.”
That’s without Rhett Breed and Trevor Donarski, who are still out with knee injuries. Breed could return for the dual against Mines.
“It will be tough making weight four times in five days,” Pipher said. “That’s why we’re traveling 18 guys. The depth is starting to pay off for us. This trip will pay off in February.”
The Mavericks have four home duals after a trip in 10 days to Chadron, Neb., and Denver.
College wrestling has been a tough experience for Brightman, but he’s persevered through the challenges.
Brightman injured a shoulder his first year at Mesa State and redshirted. He returned the next year, but struggled in his first year of college competition. He was hampered by a hamstring injury last season.
“I’ve had a heart-to-heart with the coaches,” Brightman said. “You think about ‘how long can I do this? Is it worth it?’
“It’s a grind. That’s the only way I know how to explain it. I’m not where I want to be yet, but we’re getting into dual season and those duals matter for (regional) seeding. I haven’t peaked yet. For regionals, I should be peaking.”
Brightman has endured the grind of college wrestling without letting it affect him in the classroom.
He has a 3.75 grade-point average, made the Dean’s List seven consecutive semesters and is an academic All-American as well as a two-time RMAC scholar athlete. He’s also on the Student Athlete Advisory Committee.
“That’s been my biggest accomplishment, to be able to do that,” Brightman said. “Wrestling got me here, but I know wrestling competitively only lasts for a while. I wanted to have the grades. I’ll graduate with honors, so that’s nice.”
The education major is student teaching this semester at Fruita Monument High School. Brightman will graduate in May, but hasn’t decided whether to enroll in graduate school and wrestle one more year or start teaching and coaching.
“Sometimes you get in your mind, this is my last year (and) you turn a corner,” Pipher said. “He hasn’t made a decision and isn’t going to talk about it until after the season.”