Brady Weklund, fighter and farmer, heads to the United World Championship Wrestling in Spain

For fighters, there’s often an “eat or be eaten” mentality, as Team USA Grappler Brady “Cooperhead” Wicklund said. But that changed for him when he started growing his own food on a farm.

Wicklund, 31, feeds his rigorous training schedule with food from his garden on Watmo Road, as he prepares to fly to Pontevedra, Spain, for the United World Wrestling Championships October 12-15.

“When I was 18, 19, I was kind of a hell of a bitch and not doing much for society, you know. I went to prison once because I got into a fight,” Weklund said.

He has just finished working on his farm and is still shirtless, his upper body covered only in dark sunglasses, a black baseball cap and a few tattoos.

Just a freckled baby face

“I’ve always had a chip on my shoulder. I was bullied a lot in school when I was younger…I was a red-headed kid with a freckled face and was a bit overweight,” Weklund said. “I wasn’t fat, but I definitely ran with the athletic crowd. And I was the least athletic of them all.”

Young Weeklund started wrestling in middle school under the tutelage of wrestling legends Sonoma Roger “Dates” Winslow and Marty Klein, he said. Winslow showed him the basics of sports. He was like a second father figure to a young Wicklund whose father was working through problems with alcoholism.

“I didn’t really have that daddy to keep me in line,” Weklund said. “I wasn’t the best student in school – I loved farming and skipped class to go to work with my subjects.”

Weeklund participated in the 4-H and Future Farmers of America programs at Modesto Community College, even raising the Grand Champion to the Sonoma County Fair in 2009. While his directing was the best in the crop, Weeklund wasn’t an “outstanding wrestler” himself, at least until right Now.

He won a medal for the North Coast sections and participated in the state championship in 2009. But only for a short time.

An unfortunate tie put him against Morgan McIntosh in the first round of the tournament – “I Still Remember Baby Name” – who won the state championship and eventually became a two-time American at Penn State.

Upon graduating from high school, amid strained relations between him and his parents, Weklund said he was faced with an ultimatum from his mother: stop fighting and stay at the residence, or keep fighting and get out.

Wicklund chose to fight.

Homeless, out of despair

In a semi-reliable $600 Jeep Cherokee on Skaggs Island Road near San Pablo Bay, Weklund slept between days traveling to Santa Rosa Junior College for mat training in their wrestling hall.

During the first week of the season, SRJC had a “fight” between team members who were training to join the mixed martial arts reality TV show “Ultimate Fighter”. Weaklund beat mixed martial arts fighter Dominic “Show Knof” Waters, he said, making him realize he was “not a high school wrestler anymore.”

The next five years were a struggle and a blur.

A friend was “hacking” the money from fishing for crab, so Weklund distributed his number to the docks until he found a spot with one of the deadliest jobs in America.

“I was like, ‘Oh man, I’m so broke. I’m going out into the middle of the ocean,’ even though I didn’t know what I was doing,” said Weklund.

When he wasn’t at sea, he was at Dave’s Gym, owned by NorCal Fighting Alliance founder, Dave Terrell. He trained “religiously” five and six times a week, doing various kinds of odd jobs to pay for the gym.

“I couldn’t afford the monthly fee for the gym, but I could make $20 a day doing side work,” Weklund said. “Whatever it is, crab hunting or gardening…I’ve worked with a former wrestling coach for a long time and he put a lot of skill into my hands to grow food.”

Former wrestling coach was Marty Klein of Wine Country Wrestling. Weklund said he “would have starved otherwise.”

Wicklund has begun handing out Community Supported Farming Trusts. When deliveries exceeded Lakelund’s capabilities alone, Sonoma Valley businessman Bill Manzoni offered his estate as a place for Lakelund to sell his food.

An enterprise formed between Dave’s Gym and Wicklund’s farm business, which became a watershed in Wicklund’s transformation into a prominent fighter.

“I reached out to the Elite Team with Dave,” Weklund said. “It started really stamping in my mind that I could do that and win championships. I started by winning all the local championships, I collected every belt and in the Bay Area, basically.”

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