SARAH HOFFMAN/THE WORLD-HERALD
Doyle Trout’s right leg sports a scar from the early April car accident that cost him his left leg. The wrestling champion has spent his summer in physical therapy with Melissa Glinsmann, who says his toughness serves him well. “He’s not going to whine and tell me how bad it is.”
After car wreck, four-time champion wrestler Doyle Trout turns his tenacity toward grappling with a new foe: himself
LINCOLN Doyle Trout is ready to attack another early morning training session.
He lies on a table as he and his physical therapist, Melissa Glinsmann, work on strengthening his legs. They’ve been concentrating on that most of the summer, but lately their focus has turned to walking. So Trout stands and focuses on doing what most people take for granted — merely shifting his weight from one leg to the other.
“Kind of teaching which muscles need to be activated to walk correctly so he has more of that natural motion,” Glinsmann said. “He knows it’s going to be hard, he knows he’s going to have to work through it, he’s not going to whine and tell me how bad it is.”
Glinsmann says Trout’s mental toughness makes him an excellent patient.
As an elite wrestler, Trout knows how to push himself and deal with pain. Still, Trout takes to heart any encouraging words that come his way as he deals with a life-changing challenge.
“Before we started therapy here today, a lady came up and told me my story was inspirational to her,” Trout said this month as he finished another hourlong session at Madonna ProActive Health and Fitness Center.
“I kind of like that because that’s the kind of person I am. I want to set good examples for people. If they do the right things, it can take them far in life. Just because something bad happens doesn’t define you as a person. Overcoming it is what really defines who you really are.”
MATT MILLER/THE WORLD-HERALD
Trout pins Valentine’s Noah Eklund to win his fourth state title in February. Two months later, Trout lost control of his car on a gravel road and hit a pole, ultimately losing his left leg.
For many years, success on the wrestling mat helped define Trout. Dedicated to the sport, Trout had his biggest moment as a high school athlete in February during the state tournament at the CenturyLink Center.
Trout’s 126-pound division would be the final weight class decided on championship day. He’d be in the spotlight, trying to become the 25th wrestler in state history to be a four-time state champion.
“It’s what I’ve been training for my whole life,” Trout said the night before the final.
Trout realized that goal by dominating Valentine sophomore Noah Eklund in the final, pinning him at the 3:15 mark.
He looked forward to competing in national tournaments in the spring and summer before going to the University of Wyoming to begin his collegiate wrestling career.
But everything changed for Trout on Easter day, six weeks after his fourth state title.
On Easter afternoon, Trout was driving about 60 miles per hour down a gravel road outside his hometown, Waco. He lost control while glancing down at the radio. The car left the road and hit a pole. It took more than 30 minutes for rescuers to get Trout, who was wearing his seat belt, out of the car.
“As time goes on, I kind of have a harder time remembering all the details. I just remember being in an accident. I try not to think about it too much,” Trout said. “I was pretty fortunate, for the extent of the wreck, for the injuries I ended up having.”
“Significant leg injuries, though,” Glinsmann quickly adds as they worked his lower body through their session.
Trout broke his right leg, which now bears a long scar. Damage to the left leg was so extensive that it was amputated above the knee. He would be in Lincoln’s Bryan Medical Center for most of April.
News of the accident traveled fast, rocking not just family and friends, but the state’s wrestling community, many of whom had just watched Trout win his fourth gold either in person or on television.
How would the young, active athlete cope with such a blow?
“One of the first things I thought about after the accident was keeping him occupied because I was more worried about his mental health than his physical health,” said his father, Jon Trout. “Just having a progression of, ‘Do this, do that.’”
Jon said a positive attitude has always been a trait Doyle’s possessed. And it has served him well the past four months.
“Just because I got in an accident doesn’t mean I’m a totally different person,” Doyle said. “I just try to live my lifestyle the right way.”
Doyle graduated with his Centennial High School class in May with a 3.94 GPA.
“I don’t remember him ever having anything but straight A’s,” Jon said.
Doyle is still on track to begin college at Wyoming, planning to move there this week. But between graduation and the start of college, there’s been a lot of physical therapy and a new prosthetic.
SARAH HOFFMAN/THE WORLD-HERALD
Trout does physical therapy with Glinsmann at Madonna ProActive Health and Fitness Center in Lincoln.
He went to Shriners Hospital in Minneapolis in early July to get fitted. Two weeks ago, he was back in Minneapolis and came back wearing the “C-leg,” an above-knee, computerized prosthetic.
“Basically it’s one of the newer advances in prosthetic legs,” said Glinsmann, who added that the technology is less than two years old. “It actually has a battery inside of it that you charge every night. It has a little remote control with different settings, depending on what he wants to do. Whether he wants to ride a bike, whether he’s just going to be standing.”
Doyle’s therapy with Glinsmann helps strengthen his legs — he has dealt with swelling in his right leg — and get used to the walking action with the prosthetic. He still uses crutches.
“I’d say the progress I’ve made is pretty good,” Doyle said. “I do have high expectations for myself. It almost adds more fuel to the fire if I’m not doing as good as I want to be.”
Doyle said that when he took the first steps, “it was definitely weird, but it was a good kind of weird. The action almost feels normal again.”
His father said the goal was to have Doyle walking unassisted by the time classes start in Wyoming. But like the recovery process, patience is a requirement.
“I think they had some expectations that the prosthesis would be put on and he’d take off on his own. It doesn’t work that way at all,” Glinsmann said. “Sometimes it takes months, but he is ahead of the game.”
Added Doyle: “Right now my problem is I’m putting more weight on my right leg than my left, having that trust to put weight on my left side again. But that’ll just get better as I go to therapy. I can’t get discouraged about that because that’s just how it is.”
Doyle wasn’t able to be on the wrestling mat this summer, but the accident didn’t keep him out of the gym.
He went to some local camps and talked to youth wrestlers about his story. He went to Tulsa, Oklahoma, and watched teammates from Team Nebraska compete.
Team Nebraska’s singlets this summer included #doylestrong, a hashtag that cropped up soon after the accident for people to show support for him online.
Two of Doyle’s friends, Tanner Barth and Kyle Gierhan, came up with the #doylestrong idea.
“When they brought it up, it just stuck. That’s what they came up with, and it just spread like wildfire,” Doyle said. “It’s just cool how the wrestling family comes together in situations like this.”
“The biggest thing as far as money has been our local community,” Jon said. “They raised on one day during a silent auction over $50,000. And that basically was a two-hour event.”
Wyoming never wavered in its support. Cowboys coach Mark Branch released a statement two days after the accident saying the school would honor Doyle’s scholarship.
“It showed the kind of people they are,” Doyle said. “They’re really, really good people. They still believe in me. I’ve talked to the coaches a lot and they’re excited for me to get out there and hopefully eventually work with me.”
The accident hasn’t dampened Doyle’s hopes of competing for the Cowboys.
“Next summer I should be back to 100 percent,” he said. “I’ll probably get back on the mat in five months or so. I’ll probably be 75 percent or so by then, (and can) start drilling.
“I’ll basically have to learn how to wrestle again. But I love the sport. I have to learn to wrestle again with what I have. ... It’s probably going to be difficult. It will be like me walking on this prosthetic. I kind of get frustrated, but with time and more repetition I’ll get better and better at it.”
PHOTOS BY SARAH HOFFMAN AND CHRIS MACHIAN OF THE WORLD-HERALD
Top left: Trout, who earned a wrestling scholarship to Wyoming, was involved in a car accident that resulted in his leg being amputated. Bottom left: Trout exercises during physical therapy in Lincoln. Two days after his accident, the University of Wyoming said it would honor his scholarship. Right: Trout heads to the mat for the Class C 126-pound championship match at the state tournament in February. He became the 25th Nebraskan to win four state titles.
Competing and succeeding on the collegiate level with one leg isn’t unprecedented.
Anthony Robles, who was born with one leg, was a three-time All-American for Arizona State from 2009 to 2011. He won the 125-pound NCAA championship in 2011, finishing with a 36-0 record.
Branch said wrestling will always be there down the road for Doyle. But first he needs time to adjust to the changes that come with entering college on top of the physical adjustments.
“There’s so many more important things than wrestling for him. ... Right now he needs to figure out what the new normal is in his life,” Branch said. “Getting to know him, I’ve found out that he’s strong-minded and has a great attitude. He’s going to go down the right path in life.”
This summer’s rehabilitation has made Doyle want to pursue a career working with prosthetics.
But like the process of returning to full strength, Doyle will take things one step at a time.
“I just want to get back up and start walking again. That’s just my main goal now, shooting to get my life back together to what it was like before,” he said. “I’m not going to give up, I’m not going to let this change who I am.”
Contact the writer: