War can change a man. It may affect him violently and physically, or it can come at him slowly, setting him on a path that will alter the way he lives out the rest of his days. In Justin Schlecht’s case, it was a little of both.
After Schlecht returned home from the war in Iraq, the Dickinson State wrestler had an epiphany. Schlecht knew then that he needed to start living for the big picture and relax the rigid stance he once had for his wrestling career.
“It (wrestling) wasn’t going to change the world,” Schlecht said. “It wasn’t going to have an effect on the world if I lost the match. … I was still going to have to pay the bills. It opened me up so I saw the bigger picture.”
Although the 23-year-old is quick to admit he doesn’t owe the 197-pound NAIA national championship he won last March to the time he spent in Iraq, he believes the war did its part to shape his persona.
“It’s hard to say who people are and where they come from,” Schlecht said.
Schlecht time at war did its part to shape his body and mind. He believes it’s the mindset he brought back from Iraq that has turned him into DSU’s most reliable wrestler.
“I went over there 19 years old physically and mentally. I came back … I was physically 21 and I feel like I’ve matured like an average 30-year-old,” Schlecht said.