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With wrestling roots deep in tradition-rich Oklahoma, Lake Hamilton's Justin Crutchmer seeking four Arkansas state titles

Day 1 of Arkansas state wrestling tournament in the books
Lake Hamilton's Justin Crutchmer is gunning for his fourth straight state wrestling championship. 

Lake Hamilton's Justin Crutchmer is gunning for his fourth straight state wrestling championship. 

By Kyle Sutherland | Photos by Tommy Land

LITTLE ROCK – Coming from a wrestling foundation that was forged with a family influence in one of the country’s hotbeds, Justin Crutchmer has utilized his expert knowledge and experience to compile a memorable career. 

After finishing as the state champion at 152 pounds as a freshman, 160 as a sophomore, and 170 as a junior, Crutchmer is seeking gold in the 190 for Class 5A on Saturday.

With the end approaching on a legendary prep career in multiple sports, Crutchmer is experiencing a variety of emotions.

“I do not think there are enough words for what I am feeling right now,” Crutchmer said. “I’m stressed out, I’m excited and I have thought about this since I was a freshman. After I won my first one, I was like ‘I am going to win four.’ I have just been in that same mindset ever since.”

Coming into the state tournament, Crutchmer has compiled a career record of 118-4 and is undefeated against in-state competition.

He got off to a good start in the quarterfinals on Friday defeating Eli Whitaker (Greenwood) by fall in 1:07 followed by Daniel Fitch (Beebe) during the semifinals by fall in 2:59. He will face Brayden McCoy (Mountain Home) in the finals on Saturday.

Out of 16 returning state champions, 15 advanced to the finals in their respective classes. The one big upset came during the 120 semifinals as Cooper Claussen (Springdale) defeated Ethan McCrary (Rogers Heritage) in a 7-0 decision. McCrary won the 106 class in 2022.

Class 1-4A's defending champions who will defend their titles are Gravette's Logan Miller (113), Arkadelphia's Ryan Rogers (138), 2021-22 champion Brayden Phillips (165) of Glen Rose, and Pottsville's Tripp Price (175).

Justin Crutchmer won both of his matches on Friday to advance to Saturday's semifinals. 

Justin Crutchmer won both of his matches on Friday to advance to Saturday's semifinals. 

Along with Crutchmer, Class 5A's defending champions returning to the finals are Searcy's Shane Sickels (113), Van Buren's Grant King (215), as well as Van Buren's Shiloh Summers (132) and Mountain Home's Austin Callies (157) who both win titles in 2021 and 2022. 

Finally, the athletes who are back in the finals for Class 6A are Bentonville's Zander Payne (132), Springdale's Bruce Quayle (165), Rogers Heritage's Briar Goodwin (285), along with 2021-22 champion Zayne Lewis (126) of Rogers Heritage.

Bentonville's Benjamin Smith and Har-Ber's Lane Parrish will battle for supremacy in the 150-pound class. Smith won the 132-pound class in 2022, while Parrish took 138.

Following the first day, Cabot led 6A with 117 points, Van Buren with 132.5 in 5A, and Pottsville finished on top in 1A-4A with 144.5 points.

Wrestling has been a way of life since before Crutchmer was born. His father, Kevin, has been the wrestling coach at Ouachita Baptist Universtiy since 2017 following a successful run at Tulsa (Okla.) Union High School where his oldest sons, Brian and Kyle, won state championships under his tutelage.

Having two older brothers who were well-versed in the sport not only drove Crutchmer’s competitiveness, but taught him invaluable skills of the sport.

“We moved to Tulsa when I was around one and from what I can remember me and my brothers were always wrestling in the living room,” Crutchmer said. “I’ve watched my brothers win state championships. Kyle won two, Brian won one and I have always just wanted to keep winning.”

Justin Crutchmer was a two-way starter on Lake Hamilton's football team and wiil be a preferred walk-on at Oklahoma State. 

Justin Crutchmer was a two-way starter on Lake Hamilton's football team and wiil be a preferred walk-on at Oklahoma State. 

Both Brian and Kyle Crutchmer wrestled for Oklahoma State – a perennial national power. Kyle currently competes in the welterweight division for Bellator MMA.

Along with the three brothers, there is their sister, Kayla, who made her own mark as an outstanding athlete and is one of the primary reasons the Crutchmer family moved to Arkansas from Tulsa.

Following an all-state softball career at Union High, Kayla Crutchmer accepted a scholarship to play at Central Arkansas. Around that time was when the wrestling head coach position at Ouachita Baptist University came open and Kevin Cruchmer accepted it so the family could be closer to Kayla.

Kayla Crutchmer holds UCA records for stolen bases in a career (102), single season (39), and single game (4).

Justin Crutchmer, like his two older brothers, will attend Oklahoma State and compete athletically - but it will be on a field, not a mat as he accepted a preferred walk-on spot with the Cowboys’ football team in January.

Crutchmer excelled for the Wolves on the gridiron as a three-year starter. He helped them reach the 6A state finals as a sophomore in 2020 when he was named all-conference defensive back, but was thrusted into an offensive role early in his junior season that ended up working out great.

In his junior and senior seasons, Crutchmer combined for 3,976 all-purpose yards and 48 total touchdowns, along with 147 total tackles and 5 interceptions defensively.

While most would be led to believe it is a no-brainer that Crutchmer would select wrestling for his future, he decided early in his high school career of the direction he wanted to go.

“When I was a freshman, I thought I was going to wrestle in college,” Crutchmer said. “My dad and I talked about it the summer of my sophomore year. He asked me what I wanted to do and I told him that I wanted to play football.”

Lake Hamilton head wrestling coach John Utley, who is also an assistant for the football team, mentioned that the Wolves will not only be losing a special talent, but essentially another coach with almost two decades of first-hand knowledge.

Both of Justin Crutchmer's brothers wrestled at Oklahoma State. 

Both of Justin Crutchmer's brothers wrestled at Oklahoma State. 

“He is going to be virtually irreplaceable for us,” Utley said. “He is a great leader and the kind of kid you love to be around. We really do not have anybody in the room to make him better, but what he does for our other kids is make them better because he will go around and work with all of them.

“That has been one of his big contributions. He does those types of things that leaders do.”

There is no debate Crutchmer will go down as arguably the best to ever compete in Arkansas prep wrestling and Utley would put him on the same pedestal as some of the best overall athletes to come through Lake Hamilton.

“He would no doubt be right up there,” Utley said. “Football is very demanding, and he goes from football to wrestling and does not miss a beat. He is just as competitive on the first day of football practice as he is on the last day of the state tournament in wrestling.”

Follow the links to find all individual and team results throughout the tournament. 

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