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Tyler Weeda: The Unsung Hero of Husker Wrestling

Nebraska’s Assistant Athletic Trainer for Wrestling has been publicly praised by many within the program for being a big part of its success

Nebraska wrestling athletic trainer Tyler Weeda (right) embraces Mikey Labriola after his win in the NCAA semifinal round.
Courtesy photo by Nebraska Athletic Department

It’s not often that an athletic trainer garners the type of attention and praise that Nebraska’s Assistant Athletic Trainer for wrestling Tyler Weeda does.

Throughout the season talking to head coach Mark Manning, Weeda’s name came up unsolicited multiple times. Then during the NCAA Championships in Tulsa, he got a shout-out by NCAA finalist Mikey Labriola live on the broadcast,

Then former Husker and current Developmental and Residential Coach for Team USA James Green tweeted him out asking for someone to please do a story on Weeda.

After that came praise from Jordan Burroughs and his wife Lauren, saying Weeda has been instrumental in his senior-level success.

So I asked myself: Who really is Tyler Weeda? What makes him the best in the eyes of so many high-level competitors and coaches?

So I set out to find the answers to these questions. First, I talked to Green, a four-time All-American and Big Ten champion at Nebraska before going on to make six World teams for Team USA while capturing two World medals before going into coaching. Then I talked to Manning, Nebraska’s head coach for the past 23 years. After that I talked to Burroughs, a two-time NCAA champion for Nebraska and seven-time World and Olympic champion for Team USA. I also got a chance to talk to Labriola after talking to Weeda himself. Then came a chat with former Husker wrestler and current assistant coach Robert Kokesh, a three-time All-American and two-time Big Ten champ for the Huskers.

Leaving no stone unturned, I was blown away by what these greats of the sport said about their athletic trainer. The respect, admiration and trust they have in Weeda is unparalleled. In their eyes, Weeda truly is the greatest athletic trainer in wrestling.

“He’s the man behind the scenes, and I’ve been trying to get him some notoriety for a long time because he deserves it,” Green said.

After talking to all of these Husker greats, there’s no way that I can include everything I learned about Weeda in one article, so consider this article Part I in a two-part series.

So, Who is Tyler Weeda?

A native of Belle Plaine, Iowa, Weeda joined the Husker Athletic Department as a graduate assistant in 2011 before being elevated to an Assistant Athletic Trainer in 2013, working exclusively for the wrestling program.

Weeda came to Nebraska after wrestling for and graduating from Coe College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa where he graduated in 2011 with a degree in athletic training and strength and conditioning.

In his own words, it is Weeda’s perceived failures in his own wrestling career that have pushed him to excel as an athletic trainer, trying to get guys to max out and reach their true potential.

“A lot of this goes back to my own competition days and the failures that I had as a competitor. When I got the opportunity to get back into wrestling from the athletic trainer standpoint, one of my main goals was to try to figure out my own issues and why it didn’t work out for me,” Weeda said. “Going through a deep dive of the mental side of the sport and even some of the physical stuff – like what could I have done differently to maximize my potential? Once I got here, coach Manning and (Associate Head) coach (Bryan) Snyder kind of empowered me to be who I am and not standing in my way and just letting me do my thing.”

Establishing Relationships

If it weren’t for his ability to build relationships with these guys, Weeda wouldn’t be able to do what he does. In order to build and heal the body, Weeda needs his guys to buy in fully to what he’s doing and what he wants them doing.

“If they truly believe in you and you believe in them, that’s really when you’re going to get the results in a quick fashion,” Weeda said.

As they say, the proof is in the pudding. And you don’t get guys like Burroughs and Green to shout you out and keep coming back to you after they’ve left the program without knowing what you’re doing.

“(The recognition) is cool, but to me it speaks more about the relationships that I’ve been able to establish with those individuals,” Weeda said. “Wrestling is very very difficult, but the people you get to meet along the way with it and the relationships you establish along the way is really what’s most meaningful. To have them think of me in that light is really cool.”

Weeda doesn’t see guys like Burroughs and Green as these larger-than-life super talents who have gone on to achieve greatness on the mat. To him, they’re just friends.

“Those guys are my friends and I don’t really look at them like superstars of the sport like other people do,” Weeda said. “To me, it’s much more special to be able to call those guys friends because they’re great human beings. They’re absolutely spectacular wrestlers that have done so much for USA Wrestling, but to me they’re just my boys.”

More so than the physical rehab, it’s the mental approach to the game where Weeda truly excels, whether that be the mental aspect of wrestling or just talking about life.

“The times he’s been most pivotal to me aren’t the times that most people would know about. It’s not the times he’s healed me from an injury to get ready for World Championships, it’s been the hours that we sat in the sauna and just contemplating life,” Burroughs said. “He’s a seeker and he desires to live life at its fullest. He’s someone that I’ll always respect and appreciate and I think he needs to be honored. Hopefully this can give a little bit of insight to the world exactly how special his is.”

As for the bit about the sauna, Weeda couldn’t agree more.

“It’s wild to step back and think about the amount of sauna conversations I’ve had with both of those guys (Burroughs and Green). That’s where I enjoy my time the most with them is just doing a 20-minute go in a sauna and just talking about life,” Weeda said. “The sauna is a beautiful thing because it breaks you down and brings out all your truth serum because you’re in a miserable state so you just talk truth the whole time.”

And it’s that built-in relationship that helps Weeda rehab these guys so quickly and efficiently. They fully believe in what he’s saying.

“Our relationship is so strong that they’re going to believe in the path that I’ve set forth to get them better, so then it becomes easy to get those guys back to where they need to be in a quick amount of time because the belief is already established,” Weeda said.

“I always respected him and respected his opinion, so I know if he’s telling me something that it’s the real deal. It means a lot, and I’m listening,” Burroughs said. “People know that he’s worked with the best athletes in the most difficult times and he’s got us locked in.”

Tyler the Innovator

As an athletic trainer, Weeda is tasked with working alongside medical professionals, coaches and athletes to help develop health and nutritional plans to meet the goals of the program. Mainly, he’s tasked with analyzing and diagnosing an athlete’s injuries while customizing nutritional and exercise plans to rehabilitate and recover from injuries.

But according to everyone I talked to, Weeda does all that and much more, especially as he works with the wrestlers in Nebraska’s regional training center who are training for the Senior level.

“He’s been very instrumental the last 12 years he’s been with us. He doesn’t get paid to do the RTC thing. He’s taking care of our guys who are part of our RTC – the James Greens and Jordan Burroughs who have gone on to represent our school and represent our country,” Manning said. “That’s a different dynamic. He’s traveled abroad with us different times, and it shows how much he’s invested in our program.”

“What he does is much beyond what his job entails and what it calls for. He’s helped the senior-level guys and he’s clearly bought into the college program. He does more than just rehab injured athletes,” Burroughs said. “The love and the appreciation that he shows the athletes in trying to get them to tap into a deeper level of potential is unmatched.”

Part of Weeda’s approach to his craft includes a drive to always getting better and figuring out new ways to prepare his athletes. Whether it’s workouts in the school’s diving pool, the sauna, cold showers or heat exposure — he’s always looking for ways to improve his methods.

“Over the years, each offseason I’ve kind of tried to pick up one new idea and one new skillset. Now, it’s kind of evolved into different nutritional practices and different ways of recovery,” Weeda said. “I first try to test it out on myself and then I introduce it to the guys. I try to figure out how can this one piece be used in the competition of wrestling. How can we add it into their training regimen?”

All athletic trainers deal with rehabbing injuries, but not all of them put as much work into preventing injuries the way Weeda does. Manning called the practice “prehab”.

“He knows the sport – he wrestled in college and high school. I always hope our guys take in all the information that he shares to understand how instrumental he can be with not only his rehab when they’re hurt, but the prehab and instead just not getting hurt,” Manning said. “You don’t have to get hurt to learn how to rehab. You get stronger in areas like shoulders, knees and ankles where Tyler is really good at that. He gets our guys bought in to that process.”

For Burroughs, Weeda has not only been instrumental in much of his success in competing with major injuries like when he won a World Championship in 2013 three weeks after breaking his ankle, but he’s also been a major part of his longevity in the sport as he’s racked up 10 World and Olympic medals and is still looking to add a couple more.

“He’s really into preventative care. You have to make your body sturdy and you have to put yourself in a position where you can prevent injuries by doing the little things right – make sure that you’re recovering and making sure you’re going through proper protocol for your warm-up, making sure you’re eating the right foods for the proper nutrition,” Burroughs said. “From fasting to sauna to cold tub to hot tub, there are so many things he implements that no trainer does that. He’s a coach, he’s a wrestling coach. And more than that, he’s just a good man. He’s always transparent with you and willing to be vulnerable with you in the trenches with you, and he is going to be critical of you in situations where he thinks you need to hear it.”

One of the constants that I heard about from everyone I talked to were Weeda’s pool workouts. Apparently, they’ve become somewhat legendary — not only because of how well they prepare the athletes but also for just how tough they are both physically and mentally.

“Because I know I have such a good relationship with them, I try to mentally break them. And they know that,” Weeda said. “There’s a big trust factor there because they can come off as ‘Who is this guy to try to make me do A, B and C in a pool?’ It all goes back to the relationship that I’ve built with them. I don’t like to just do general rehab exercises that I know is going to get that knee better. I also want to dig down into their brain and go deep. I call it going down into the deep water which we literally do going down into the diving well at the pool 14-foot deep. I try to go inside their heads and try to recreate what is going on in your mind during the toughest parts of wrestling matches.”

“I went through a bunch of pool workouts that I hated. I became the best swimmer,” Green said of his time rehabbing after hip surgery in 2017. “Even after my rehab, I started putting in those pool workouts just because it made me a better competitor both mentally and physically. I liked what it did to my body overall and how I can put myself in the moment just being in the pool. I always go back to the pool because I had a lot of battles there. You either push yourself or you don’t.”

“Instead of running or biking to get cardio in, we just got them in the pool and it was great therapy for the body,” Manning said. “He’s really dynamic and he has some good ideas. He really thinks outside the box.”

Weeda the Wrestler

As a former wrestler, Weeda has a level of built-in knowledge of what his guys are going through. Most athletic trainers aren’t former athletes in their desired sport, but the fact that Weeda has been on the mat gives him extra credibility with his athletes.

“He is a wrestler coming from that background,” Green said. “He’ll put his shoes on and he’ll literally hand fight with you.”

According to Manning, it’s that wrestling background that has helped Nebraska stay so healthy in comparison to a lot of other programs around the country that see their guys covered in bulky knee and shoulder braces by the time the postseason rolls around.

“They know that Tyler’s wrestled. He knows where the body is weak and where wrestling people beat up their shoulders and elbows and knees,” Manning said. “He understands flexibility, and the prehab is important in protecting those areas.”

With Nebraska largely being able to avoid the kind of injuries that end seasons such as knee and shoulder injuries, it’s allowed the Huskers to be consistent players in the postseason. Nebraska has finished in the Top-10 at NCAAs seven of the past eight tournaments.

Nebraska’s relative health isn’t just one cure-all. Instead, it’s been a combination of things like bringing in better recruits, changes to preseason workouts, managing weight training, improving weight management and weight cuts.

“It’s a culmination of a lot of different things that have evolved over my time here. A lot of it is because of how tight we are as a staff and how much we listen and communicate and little tweaks that we make year to year,” Weeda said. “I think we do a good job of managing the workload from November through the Big Ten schedule. Quite frankly, a lot of dudes are limping into the Big Ten tournament every year and that hasn’t been us. We’ve always had just enough time to get guys fully healthy.”

Pay the Man

As integral as Weeda has been to the Husker program, Manning knows full well how important it is to keep him around as Nebraska chases team trophies and individual titles.

“I got to get a little plug in there. Blow the dust off the check book a little bit,” Manning said. “You don’t have to give him Matt Rhule money, just take care of him a little bit. I really hope our university takes care of him financially because he goes above and beyond the call of duty and we need this guy at Nebraska.”

As other programs have tried to poach Weeda away, Burroughs has seen the Husker coaches do everything in their power to convince the athletic department to sweeten the pot to ensure he stays in Lincoln.

“I believe he’s had the opportunity a few times during his tenure at Nebraska – places that were going to offer him more money and maybe potentially a nicer location,” Burroughs said. “Our coaching staff did everything they could to vouch for him and fight for him to get a raise and get more recognition. It shows just how valuable he is to those guys that they don’t want to let him go.”