FARGO — Less than a year ago, Brayden Weber collapsed on a wrestling mat and wasn’t breathing for a couple minutes. This week, the Becker (Minn.) High School senior is fulfilling one of his athletic dreams.
Weber is set to sign a letter of intent to play football for North Dakota State on Wednesday, Dec. 16, the first day of the early signing window for NCAA Division I football.
“For a little bit there, I didn’t think it would be possible for me to even play again,” Weber said. “To be able to get the opportunity to play again and still reach my dreams of playing D-I, it’s pretty cool to me.”
The 6-foot-2, 220-pound Weber is a preferred walk-on for the Bison and one of the 20-plus recruits expected to sign with NDSU during the early signing period. He recently verbally committed to the Bison.
“It’s great to see your kid’s dreams unfold before your eyes, especially after everything that he had to overcome this last year,” said Sara Waytashek, Weber’s mother.
Weber crumpled to the mat after his semifinal match during the Minnesota state wrestling tournament last February at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul. He said the moments that led up to his collapse and the immediate aftermath were a “blur.”
“They didn’t find a pulse in two spots that they checked so then they started CPR,” Weber said. “I wasn’t breathing on my own for over two minutes.”
Waytashek was in the stands about 20 rows up from the mat and didn’t see her son collapse because it happened at the edge of the mat and other spectators were standing up in front of her. When she was summoned to the mat, she initially thought it was for something like a leg or ankle injury.
“By the time I got down to the mat they were already doing CPR on him,” Waytashek said. “That was kind of shocking. ... He was turning blue and he was not breathing on his own.”
Medical personnel at the tournament performed CPR and had an automated external defibrillator ready to help revive Weber. Waytashek said the defibrillator wasn’t used to deliver an electrical shock and Brayden was responsive before he left the Xcel.
“By the time they got him in the ambulance, he said he was feeling back to normal,” Waytashek said.
Weber was later diagnosed with supraventricular tachycardia, a heart rhythm disorder, that required a surgical procedure. The procedure happened near the end of June at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. He has a cardiac recording device implanted near his heart. In July, Weber was cleared to play football.
The Becker Bulldogs played six games this past fall football season that was delayed and shortened due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Weber said one of the toughest parts during his road back was waiting to get clearance to return to strenuous physical activity because he felt fine otherwise doing daily activities.
“It’s been a roller coaster for sure,” Weber said.
Waytashek said as a mom she worried about Weber returning to athletics, but the medical care and frequent testing he’s received since last February have helped ease those concerns as time has passed.
“There was definitely worry there,” Waytashek said. “As a parent, you’d be crazy if you wouldn’t worry about your kids.”
Waytashek said her son was determined to get the chance to play Division I football and NDSU is one of the programs he’s targeted since junior high.
“NDSU has really been his dream since about seventh grade,” Waytashek said. “You won’t find a more determined young man, I can tell you that. He sets goals and he will do whatever it takes to reach them and maintain them.”