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Tyler Weeda: Always There for His Guys

While Peyton Robb was fighting for his life, Weeda invited the Robb family into his home and stayed by his side

Nebraska Assistant Athletic Trainer Tyler Weeda (right) tends to a Husker wrestler while head coach Mark Manning (center) and associate head coach Bryan Snyder stand by.
Courtesy photo from Nebraska Athletic Department

After outlining who Nebraska’s Assistant Athletic Trainer Tyler Weeda is, how he operates, and what’s made him so integral to Nebraska’s success, let’s dive deeper into the relationships he’s cultivated and some of the pivotal moments that have defined his career.

In doing these interviews, I found out that the hype is not just about his expertise in rehabilitation and preventative care. It’s not just about his wrestling background giving him a leg up or his penchant for innovation. It’s his love for his athletes that sets him apart and allows him to push them to seemingly superhuman feats.

“Being an athletic trainer is never easy because you’re always working with guys that are injured. He does everything. He’s so bought into the program and I think that’s why people love him so much,” said assistant coach Robert Kokesh. “He wants to see Nebraska win and at the top of the podium. He’s so invested into this program and the guys and the staff. He just knows how to get the best out of who he’s helping. He wants to get the most out of you – he doesn’t want just a little bit, he wants everything.”

As I touched on in Part I, Weeda has a unique ability to cultivate relationships with his wrestlers that allows him to get the best out of them because they’re bought in completely. In this part, I’ll touch on some examples that show just how much he cares about his guys. It’s not just a job to him, he genuinely cares about his wrestlers — and it shows.

And never has that been more evident than over the past month with Nebraska’s Peyton Robb being hospitalized after getting a leg infection at the NCAA Championships.

Peyton Robb Saga

In case you missed it, Nebraska had a major scare in March. All-American Peyton Robb was hospitalized with a rare and life-threatening infection in his leg that he sustained at the NCAA Championships in Tulsa, Oklahoma on March 17.

After noticing a large bruise on his shin on March 17, the second day of NCAAs, Robb went on to wrestle through it in that night’s semifinal round where he narrowly lost to Penn State’s Levi Haines. The next day, Robb wrestled in the consolation semis in the morning and started vomiting and shaking uncontrollably right after the match.

Robb was taken to the Emergency Room in Tulsa after the match where he was diagnosed with streptococcal cellulitis, a bacterial infection. He received an IV of antibiotics and returned to the arena to stand on the podium as he finished sixth. Robb traveled back to Lincoln on the team bus but quickly started taking a turn for the worse.

“On the bus ride back we were all getting a little concerned for him because he wasn’t looking too good,” said teammate Mikey Labriola. “The following day, coach was texting us about praying for him.”

On the night of March 19, Robb was rushed to the ER in Lincoln. His heart rate was high, his blood pressure was low, and he was in severe pain. The infection led to sepsis in his blood with blood clots forming in his lungs. The doctors started him on blood thinners which helped clear up the clots, but the pain in his leg was getting worse.

“It’s the same bacteria that you get in your throat,” Weeda said. “Strep puts off toxins into your blood and tries to attack your organs, so that was really the main concern for awhile was the amount of damage that was being done to his heart and his lungs and his kidneys.”

Upon getting his vitals stabilized, the doctors began treating the infection in his leg. As the swelling receded, the doctors started to see black spots which signify dying tissue. The doctors were forced to surgically remove tissue from Robb’s lower leg on each side of his shin until the nectrosis was gone. Daily surgeries followed to cut out any lingering necrotic tissue, leaving two very large open wounds on each side of Robb’s leg that the doctors went back in daily to assess, clean and remove tissue as necessary.

“Luckily for him, it didn’t penetrate too deeply into the muscle tissue itself, but he obviously lost a bunch of skin and lost all of his fascia tissue over his tibialis anterior and then lost some of the muscle tissue,” Weeda said.

With two gaping incisions, Robb was in excruciating pain. He was then transferred to a hospital with a specialized burn unit. He was diagnosed with necrotizing fasciitis, an extremely rare infection that sees as low as 70 cases a year in the United States. One in five people who contract this rare infection die.

While Robb was in the hospital, Weeda opened his home up to Robb’s parents, letting them take over the basement “as long as they didn’t mind being around a two year-old.”

“I feel like I owed that to him. Every kid that comes into our program, I have a responsibility for. Obviously, in a situation like that, it’s much more than wrestling,” Weeda said. “It’s much more about being a good human and taking care of people who are in need. The thought of them staying at my house for as long as they needed to was never really even a question.”

I guess Burroughs called that one.

“It’s just what he does. I doubt he even had to think about it,” Burroughs said of Weeda letting Robb’s parents stay with him. “These are his guys – he has 35 sons and I really think he feels like a father figure because he’s been there for so long that people revere him in that way.”

Weeda was at the hospital for most of the ordeal, helping the Robb family take in the news — both good and bad.

“I wanted to be there every minute I could,” Weeda said. “That way when they got reports from all these different doctors telling them good news or bad news, I was always going to be the person there to level it out for them.”

Robb was released from the hospital on April 1 and has since been taking part in outpatient treatment, including time in a hyperbaric chamber. Now that he’s home, Robb will next undergoe skin grafts. Once those heal, then he’s all Weeda’s and the rehabilitation begins.

“From my standpoint, I’m just happy that we’re finally to a place where I can start to think about getting my hands on him and getting him back to where we need to be,” Weeda said. “My mind was already going back to the rehab process and getting him back. Kind-of clicked right back to JB’s situation breaking his ankle, that’s where my mind went. I was able to help out with that situation and that prepared me for this situation. Everything will be fine.”

In Weeda’s mind, there’s no question that Robb will be back this coming season for his senior year as he chases that elusive national title.

“There’s no doubt in my mind that it’s going to be a really fun story next year after the national tournament is over with,” Weeda said. “If I got anything to say about it, he’ll be back. I told his parents that he’ll be fine. I’ve done it before and I know what we need to do.”

This Husker coaching staff has complete confidence that Weeda’s abilities and Robb’s toughness will be more than enough to get him back on the mat come November.

“Peyton is a kid who is very mentally strong. Just to do what he did at the last day of the NCAA Championships just shows his character and the kind of human being he is and what he wanted to do for the coaches and his team,” Kokesh said. “That’s why we love Peyton Robb.”

Rehabbing Legends

The relationships between Weeda and Jordan Burroughs and James Green were covered pretty thoroughly in Part I, but there’s still more there to dive into. Over the years, he’s helped these guys overcome some pretty hefty obstacles — some well documented and some not so much.

“It’s surreal. You don’t come into this profession thinking you’re going to work with the greatest athlete in US history in that sport,” Weeda said. “It just so happened that when I first got here, (Burroughs) was just starting out his senior-level career and obviously he started it off with a bang going 70 matches in a row without a loss.”

For Burroughs, Weeda was instrumental in 2013 when he broke his ankle and was able to win a World Championship less than four weeks later (video below). Then again in 2021, Burroughs powered through for a World title after tearing his calf in the World Team Trials.

“When I broke my ankle, him and I spent every day together for that three weeks before I headed out for the World Championships. And then again in 2021 when I tore my calf in the finals of the World Team trials. I had about 20 days until the World Championships and I decided to stay back in Lincoln for an additional week just to be with him,” Burroughs said. “He picked me up every morning for like seven days straight and we rehabbed like three times a day. At that point, I wasn’t even at Nebraska anymore. I had left to go to Philadelphia to be a part of the PRTC, but it was no problem.”

The fact that Burroughs wasn’t even a part of Nebraska’s RTC but Weeda still did everything he could to get him ready speaks volumes about who he is as a person. He wasn’t getting paid to do that — he just knew his friend needed him and he was there to help any way he could.

More than anything for Burroughs, the key to his winning those two titles was the confidence and mindset that Weeda helped cultivate in him.

“He’s trying to make you as tough as possible and resilient as possible, so even if you are injured it doesn’t matter – it’s just a state of mind,” Burroughs said. “You can still wrestle and you can still control your destiny.”

For Green, he recalled a time in 2017 when he was coming off a silver-medal winning performance at the World Championships at 70kg. Right after Worlds, Green got the labrum in his hip and two microfracture injuries repaired as well as bone spurs shaved off.

For two months, he was on non-weightbearing orders. So what did Weeda do? You guessed it — pool workouts. In the time between his surgeries in November of 2017 and the World Cup in early April of 2018, Green didn’t wrestle a single match. Weeda had him ready to go anyway.

“Within that period there was a bunch of rehab and a bunch of self talk like ‘Am I going to be ready?’” Green said. “He’s always instilling in you that confidence of don’t worry and trust the process and you’ll be ready to go. You’ll be able to do what you need to do.”

Green went 3-1 at the World Cup with his only loss 4-4 via criteria as he helped Team USA win the team title.

Then Green retired from competition in 2022 and became Team USA’s Developmental Coach. He works with up-and-coming talent that they think will be able to eventually make senior-level World Teams.

With his competitive days behind him, Green went ahead and had a partial hip replacement in February due to lingering pain. And it was Weeda that was right there ready to help him come back from that surgery too. As a Team USA coach, Green wants to be able to hit the mat with these young prospects.

“I want to be an active coach. Weeda already came up with a whole rehab and recovery plan for me,” Green said. “He sends me something every week. I know it’s going to get me back and better to be a good coach to my athletes and a central part to USA wrestling.”

Weeda’s contributions for Green didn’t just have to do with rehab. As a wrestler at 70kg (not an Olympic weight), Green was forced to drop down to 65kg (11 pounds less) as he tried to make an Olympic team in 2016 and 202One. The cut was a difficult one, but Weeda was right there to help him do it as safely and effectively as possible.

“Weeda took it upon himself to look up into nutrition and try to find ways that would be best for me how to approach it and make a descent to that weight and wrestle to my best ability,” Green said.

Unfortunately, it didn’t work out as Green fell short of his dreams of being an Olympian, but that didn’t stop Weeda from doing everything in his power to help. Green finished his career as a six-time World Team member, winning a silver medal in 2017 and bronze in 2015

As for this year’s team, there are always some injuries behind the scenes that happen, but for NCAA finalist Mikey Labriola, Weeda was able to keep him on the mat through bouts with broken ribs and staph infection in his knee.

“His dedication to the work he does and his athletes is unmatched. I kind of wrestled through most of it and a lot of people saw that I slumped through the middle of the season and I had some real tough matches where I won on last-second takedowns against guys that it maybe shouldn’t have been as close,” Labriola said of Weeda. “The reason I won those matches was because of him and the mindset that he instilled in me. The days I couldn’t work out on the mat because of staph infection, he would put me through some of the hardest workouts ever just to keep my mentality there and just to know that I can push through.”

Weeda’s Toughest Challenge

Other than Robb’s situation, which Weeda said was probably his most challenging moment personally as an athletic trainer at Nebraska, his toughest challenge professionally has been not getting a guy on top of the podium and not helping the team earn a team trophy at NCAAs yet.

“Since I’ve been here, we’ve had a lot of success on the senior level and had a lot of guys All-American, but we still have yet to bring home a team trophy and still have yet to have a guy on top of the podium,” Weeda said. “Every single year, as proud as you can be you sit back and think about all the guys that you’ve helped but you’ve still not helped anyone get to the top of the mountain. That still digs at me.”

And the toughest example of that for Weeda was watching how Kokesh’s career played out when he was so sure he was ready to win a national title as a senior. Kokesh is second on the Husker career wins chart with a 144-15 record, finishing as an All-American three times.

After placing third at NCAAs as a sophomore, Kokesh won his first Big Ten title at 174 pounds as a junior before going 5-2 at NCAAs to finish fourth. Kokesh tore his ACL in the quarterfinal match but battled back to win three straight matches in the consolation bracket before falling to Minnesota’s Logan Storley in overtime in the 3rd-place match.

After that, Kokesh had to endure the surgery that followed to repair his knee and the rehab that goes along with it. Weeda envisioned a similar outcome that happened for Burroughs who tore his knee in college before coming back for an undefeated senior season capped by an NCAA title and a Hodge Trophy.

“JB between his junior and senior year had a major knee injury. He rehabbed his butt off and came back and never lost a match,” Weeda said. “I was like, ‘That’s our goal.’ I worked with him all summer long to get him back and try to build his mind up and have him be a better version of himself than he was pre-injury.”

It’s during that summer that Kokesh says he really became close to Weeda and really bought into the rehab process and weight training.

“I grew up on a small town farm in South Dakota and I wasn’t real into the weights like a lot of people were – I wasn’t really strong in the weight room,” Kokesh said. “It really grew my mindset – I kind of had a fixed mindset at that time of my career in the fact of I don’t need to lift. He really showed me that growth mindset throughout the summer that even if you don’t think it’s going to help you, it will help you.”

Weeda and Kokesh were lifting partners six days a week throughout that summer. Weeda taking time away from his family to help Kokesh and push him gave him a new level of respect for his athletic trainer.

“That just shows you how much time he put into it. He wasn’t at home with his wife, so he spent a lot of time trying to develop me and build my mental aspect,” Kokesh said. “When someone invests that much time into you, you have to respect them.”

When Kokesh returned that following season, he started the season on a tear, going undefeated through the regular season before winning his second Big Ten title. Looking for an NCAA title to cap off his career, Kokesh fell to Tyler Wilps of Pitt 3-2 in the quarterfinal round. Kokesh beat Wilps the previous year at NCAAs on a torn ACL.

According to Weeda and Kokesh, the Husker senior shot at least 10 to 12 times on Welps in the final period but didn’t get the stall call or the takedown. The upset was crushing for both men.

“That match still haunts me because it just didn’t seem right. He literally had done everything right. He crushed the rehab and worked his butt off to get stronger and improve his technique. He was just laser-focused every single time out and it still didn’t work out,” Weeda said. “I remember sitting there in the chair after the match and he had already walked off the mat. I was still in the chair like gosh dang this doesn’t seem right. It was a surreal moment to where there’s no way that just happened. Robert being the true champ that he is got himself back up and went out there and took third.”

Kokesh went on to win four matches in a row to finish in third place, something he can use now as a coach to teach his guys about perseverance and coming back from a loss.

“A lot of coaching in my opinion is experience. You use a lot of experiences in your own career to help your athletes do better and succeed,” Kokesh said. “Tough loss at NCAAs? Hey, it happened to me. I came back and got third and you can do the same thing. Same thing with an injury – hey, it’s not going to be an easy road back, but at the same time you have to move forward. The past is the past and you have to look forward to the future and make what you can of it.”

For as tough as that loss was for Weeda, it taught him a valuable lesson.

“We’re going to do everything right to get you back physically and mentally, but that still only gives you the opportunity. That’s one of the things that I’ve really been able to grow and accept is all you can do is give yourself the opportunity,” Weeda said. “You have to be ready for the moment and whatever happens after that moment, you can be happy with because you know you did everything you could and you knew you were ready.”