Wyoming's Doyle Trout Has Successfully Wrestled On the Mat and With Life's Challenges
LARAMIE -- It was Easter Sunday afternoon, 2015. Doyle Trout was headed down the dirt road, to Waco, Neb., planning to meet up with his high school wrestling pal, Kyle German, and enjoy Easter Dinner.
He reached for the radio dial.
And his world turned upside down.
A tire on his car caught the gravel, swerved into a ditch, and hit a utility pole, knocking him unconscious.
"The next thing I remember is waking up, and I was like, `What the heck just happened?'" he said. "I started to piece it together, and I was 'Oh, no. You were in a car wreck.'
"I was trying to pull myself out, hoping I'd be fine. My legs were trapped and I was in pain. My first thought, I was distraught. I knew my life had changed forever. I called myself an idiot, stuff like that. I was beating myself up. Then people responded, and my thoughts were about working with people who were trying to get me out of the vehicle."
A four-time Nebraska state wrestling champion, who had a full-ride to the University of Wyoming, Trout subsequently had his left leg amputated. But the ties with Cowboys wrestling coach Mark Branch and the University of Wyoming were strengthened by the tragic moment.
"When I got the call (Monday) morning. I was on my way to work," said Branch. "The first thing I did was walk into (athletic director) Tom Burman's office. The first words out of his mouth were, `We're going to honor the scholarship.' I told him that's what I assumed your answer would be. That's what I told the family.' I had told his dad, `Nothing changes. Doyle is still part of our program.'"
And Branch told Doyle him that in person later in the day.
Shortly after the meeting with Burman, Branch was told that the school had arranged for him to use a state plane and fly to Nebraska. Branch, along with assistant coach Ethan Kyle, and wrestler Tyler Cox, who had been Trout's host on his recruiting trip to Laramie, drove to Cheyenne, caught the plane and showed up at the Lincoln, Neb., hospital.
Branch said there were already mentions of Anthony Robles, who was born without a leg and had won a the 125-pound national championship in 2011.
"Even in the hospital that day, the day of the surgery to amputate, people were talking about Antony Robles," said Branch. "I'm like, `Guys, it's unfair to the kid. Anthony Robles was born that way. That's all he ever knew.' I didn't want to put that kind of pressure on Doyle. We didn't know if he would ever wrestle again, and if he did, if he would be competitive."
Turns out he has wrestled again, and he has been competitive, albeit not a a national championship level.
Wrestling at the 125-pound class, he is 21-37 in his career. A fifth-year senior -- he redshirted as a freshman as part of the medical rehab -- Trout goes into Sunday's match against Utah Valley in Green River, Wyo., with a 7-15 record this season.
It wasn't easy, Trout admits, but his return to the mat has been rewarding.
"I wasn't sure what to think when coach Branch said, `You're still coming here, aren't you?'" Trout said. "I saw him and I wanted to break down because I gave him my commitment that I was going to come wrestle and I made a bonehead mistakes. Something I could have easily avoided.
"When he told me that, it put me at east a little bit. It showed what kind of guy coach is. He affirmed that my decision to go to the University of Wyoming was worth it. ... I knew that coach Branch cared about me."
He wasn't about to let Branch down.
Branch gets a sheepish grin on his face when he reflects on the initial conversations with Trout following the accident.
"I wasn't expecting him to have a college wrestling career," Branch said. "I told him he'd be involved. He could be a team manager, but he told me he wanted to wrestle. That was fine."
Trout said he was given hope by the doctors.
"They told me I'd be back to 100 percent," said Trout said. "I was not going to have any limitations, except losing my leg, and i'd be able to go out there an do full combat and be perfectly fine. And I had my dad to thank because he took it as another challenge. He's my biggest supporter."
Trout admits, he needed his dad's support in the weeks after the amputation.
"It wasn't like I didn't want to come to school ever, but it happened in April and the transition for going to school was the end of Aguust, and I was panicking, stressing out," said Trout. "I broke down once to my dad, `Please don't make me go. Let me take a year off.' But he knew if I didn't go that year I probably would never go. It was better for me that he threw me in the fire.
"He was a Marine so he has that mentality and I'm tankful for it. I'm glad he didn't let me sulk and be depressed. When I'm 40, I will be able to thank him for the way he handled it. It made me realize if I couldn't do it for myself I had other people I could do it for. And I still think of that. If I am struggling, I think about my teammates and doing it for them. I think about my coaches. I think about the people who support me."
There are no regrets now. The time at Wyoming has reaffirmed his self-confidence, forced him to move forward. And it has been an inspiration to his teammates.
The first year, Branch said, had its challenges.
"He never put on a wrestling shoe," said Branch. "He never got into the practice room. It was all rehab. He broke his femur on the right side (as well as the left leg amputation) so he was in a wheelchair and then crutches.
"He's going to college, figuring out how to get around on campus. ... You don't feel a part of the team unless you're in practice with the guys, unless you're in training. He felt like an outsider. When he got cleared to start training I realized I had to treat him like everybody else.
"Because of how I saw his dad handle him and knowing the relationship they had, knowing his dad had been such a positive example, I took some of that and gave him tough love, which was, `Get up and do it. You're not going to sit around and sit this out.'"
After that year of rehab, Trout was set to be a part of the team as a redshirt freshman, and Branch was going to make sure he was a complete part.
"We were in a preseason workout in the football stadium, and we were running up the ramp,: said Branch. "He was trying, with crutches. He was doing a pretty good job. All of a sudden, the team starts up another ramp and he's sitting it out, rubbing his leg. I yelled down from the top, 'What are you doing.' He said, `I got a cramp in my calf.' I said, `You dont' think they have cramps in their calves? Get up and do it.'
"It hurt me to actually do that, but it was the best place for him, to feel like he was part of the group. I knew I could not allow him to start separating himself from the group because that wasn't going to be good for his mentality.'"
He made his collegiate wresting debut that year with a victory, which was an emotional moment for not only Trout, but all those around him, including his fellow wrestlers.
"Branson Ashworth was the leader of our team, and I overheard him in the locker room say, `Doyle winning was probably the coolest thing I ever saw in my life,'" said Branch. "That's pretty powerful. I think it was very inspiration to the guys. I got more emotional. It brought tears to my eyes.
"We weren't necessarily throwing him out there to win, but we knew he could go out and be competitive. So, to go out there and win the way he did was joyful to me. It was inspirational and emotional for a lot of people."
Trout and Branch both know that once this season comes to an end he will move on from the competitive aspect of the sport. Branch, however, hopes Trout remains a part of the wrestling world.
"He has a really bright wrestling mind and I hope he stays involved in coaching or a consulting aspect," said Branch. "He'd be an amazing coach. ... That first year he was distant. He wouldn't even come to practices. I got hold of him and told him I wanted him to come in and watch the guys. I told him he would probably see some things that they could do differently to improve their technique. It was amazing. He saw things so detailed. He'd be a great coach, not only with the technical part, but obviously the mental part."
In his time at Wyoming, Trout said, he not only has learned about wrestling, but he has learned about being a person.
"Our coaches, they are great," he said. "When they are talking you shut up and listen. You take bits and pieces of what they say and you apply it to yourself. You listen and it's about being more than a wrestler, about being a good person. It has helped me grow as a young wise, maturity-wise, and dealing with depression."
"Sometimes, things don't go your way, but you have to keep grinding. You have to find a way. You have to realize you aren't in by yourself. That's something I had to realize. (At first) I thought I had to do it all myself. But I'm don't. It's about being part of a team."
Trout has definitely been a part of a team at Wyoming.