Byer continues wrestling, chores in farm accident’s wake
By Maria Bichler
FRAZEE, Minn. – From the Frazee-Vergas High School wrestling mat to his family’s 100-cow Holstein dairy, Landon Byer continues wrestling and farming following a round baler accident this fall.
Every morning begins at 4:30 for Byer, 18, who milks cows with his dad, Marvin, in a double-8 parallel parlor on their dairy near Frazee, Minn. Byer returns for the afternoon milking except during the wrestling season. Those days he is at practice until 6 p.m.
“I have been wrestling since I was 3,” Byer said. “My brothers (Ethan and Bryon) went to practice and I went along with. It’s a big thing in our school, and my dad wrestled, too. I like the thrill of it.”
Amidst school and practice, Byer also mixes the dairy cows’ TMR comprised of haylage, baleage, corn silage, a protein mix, and molasses as well as tending to the 30 Black and Red Angus feeder cattle, bedding the dairy cows and watering calves.
His schedule was uprooted the evening of Sept. 4, 2017.
“There was hay on the roller [of the baler] and I was unplugging it when the power take-off (PTO) started and sucked my shirt in and then sucked my left arm in,” Byer said.
For five minutes, Byer was unable to release himself to safety while his arm was entangled at his bicep. The moving belts of the baler burned Byer’s skin.
“I was worrying and bracing my other arm so I wouldn’t get sucked in,” Byer said. “My collar wouldn’t rip so it kept bringing my head closer and closer and pulling me in.”
With the tractor running, Byer said his cries for help were unheard. His dog, Colby, however, heard him and began barking.
“My dad heard the dog, and he came running and turned the tractor off and cut the belts to get my arm out.”
With his arm free, but severely burned and damaged, his mom, Tammy, and Marvin rushed Byer to the emergency room in Detroit Lakes, Minn., a half-hour drive.
“I thought my arm was broken, and I would lose it,” Byer said. “I was in a lot of pain.”
At the hospital, Byer was given units of blood while his arm was numbed to control the pain. The next day, Byer was taken to the hospital in Park Rapids, Minn., where he underwent two surgeries – one to debride his injury site and another to perform a skin graft.
“I had to have 33 stitches to sew my muscle back together, and they took skin from the inside of my thigh – a piece three inches wide and a foot long, plus two other spots – to perform my graft,” Byer said.
Byer returned home Sept. 16, the day before his birthday.
“They let me out for my birthday,” he said. “I didn’t really celebrate. I sat around and couldn’t walk very well.”
Byer completed therapy for one week to regain strength and motion in his arm.
“The doctor told me I would never again be able to wrestle,” Byer said. “I was upset thinking it wouldn’t be a good senior year not being able to wrestle, being ranked high in the state.”
But as the week progressed, Byer was given the go ahead. He would be able to wrestle once again.
“I was really excited to get back in the wrestling room and get started,” he said.
The season opened Nov. 20 and Byer was there the first day of practice. Despite being healed, Byer faces his share of difficulties on the mat.
“I don’t have much feeling in my arm. All my nerves are dead. My left arm isn’t that strong anymore and … feels like I am getting poked by needles,” he said. “There is one spot where the skin graft tore open. I’m getting worried about [my arm]. I don’t want it to tear anymore. But, I don’t think it has changed the way I wrestle.”
Despite his injury, Byer’s record stands at 12-2 this year in the 113-weight class, and he hopes to place in the top three as an individual during the Minnesota state wrestling meet in February. Last year, Byer placed 6th as an individual in the weight class of 106 while the team placed third.
Next, Byer plans to attend Ridgewater College in Willmar, Minn. to major in dairy management and to one day take over the family farm.
“I am grateful to have my arm and people looking out for me. Thank God my dog was there. I am looking forward to going to college and finishing and coming back to take over the farm.”