Jan. 17, 2014
WEST POINT, N.Y. -
The Army wrestling team welcomed 12-year-old Dylan Weaver to its practice on Thursday, Jan. 16, where he helped conduct the training session alongside his younger brother, Damian.
An avid wrestler, Dylan was diagnosed with a heart defect in late November and will undergo open-heart surgery next week.
"This is about getting Dylan back in his world and taking his mind off the surgery," said Dylan's father Scot Weaver, a long-time wrestling coach at David Brearley High School in Kenneworth, N.J.
A native of Lyndhurst, N.J., Dylan began wrestling around the age of five before eventually competing in tournaments at both the state and national levels. Dylan and Damian, 9, have each traveled across the country to take part in a number of competitions despite their ages.
"I've been a high school wrestling coach for 25 years and I wrestled when I was younger," Scot said. "At birth, we put Dylan in the stroller and my wife, who is an avid wrestling fan and a former athlete, would come to the matches, so he was around that arena all the time. The second he was two or three-years-old, we got him some wrestling shoes and got him into a wrestling club."
After finding out about Dylan's heart condition and the upcoming surgery, Scot decided to reach out to Army wrestling head coach Joe Heskett to see if Dylan could visit West Point for some words of encouragement. Heskett, who himself underwent heart surgery just one week after placing fifth at the 2007 World Championships, had been on Scot's radar from the time the two crossed paths in the high school ranks.
"I've known of Joe Heskett for a very long time," Scot said. "He competed against one of my athletes at the high school nationals and I would scout him out and try to develop a game plan for how to compete against him."
Scot and Dylan met Heskett at the Beast of the East Tournament at the University of Delaware following Heskett's hiring at West Point in 2010. The father and son immediately recognized the coach after following his career from high school and college wrestling to his current position as a head coach.
"Joe and Dylan started engaging in a conversation and Joe was discussing the strengths of strong character and commitment and work ethic," Scot said. "That has stuck in my son's mind ever since."
Heskett accepted Scot's request and offered to not only bring Scot, Dylan and Damian to one of Army's practices, but suggested that Dylan serve as Army's honorary coach for the day and assist in leading the team through practice.
"I told my son that and it completely overwhelmed him with happiness," Scot said. "After what Dylan has been through, for him to just get back in his world and be around wrestlers and people who care about him is something that I think is going to have a great impact on him."
After surveying the Army wrestling history displayed on the walls of Arvin Gymnasium's wrestling room, Dylan led the Black Knights through a warm-up session that including jogging, sprinting and formations. During the team drill, Dylan and Coach Heskett partook in a little drill of there own.
"Coach Heskett told me to stay in good position and to keep wrestling," Dylan said. "I'm learning to keep working hard."
"Today was about Dylan and inducting him into our Army Wrestling family," Heskett said. "He is a true warrior and his mentally tough approach to his surgery is inspirational. We are all very fortunate to be in a position to make a positive impact on such a terrific family."
As for the chance to not only visit the Army wrestling team, but to be a central leader during its practice, Dylan remains grateful for the opportunity and grateful to keep doing what he loves.
"It means a lot," Dylan said. "It means so much."