BOZEMAN — A four-time state wrestling champion at Bozeman High, Leif Schroeder recently completed his first season as a part of the University of Iowa wrestling team.
“The wrestler I am right now would absolutely smoke the wrestler I was a year ago and even earlier this year,“ Schroeder said.
The Hawkeyes won the 2021 NCAA Wrestling Championship on March 20.
“Being part of this team is awesome," Schroeder said. "Everybody gets along. We’re a super-close, tight-knit group of guys. Sometimes, for me, I didn’t wrestle a whole bunch so it was hard to feel like you did something to help the team. But the coaches, and even a bunch of the guys, everybody does their part and it just helps the whole team.”
This past season Schroeder wrestled at 149 pounds, about 10 pounds more than his high school days. Going from wrestling in Montana to the best team at the college level is quite the jump, even for someone who completely dominated the Class AA level in Montana.
“I probably didn’t score in the practice room for the first month," said the Hawkeyes freshman. "I finally would start to pick up a score here and there, but picking up a score felt good, but obviously there’s more work to be done.”
It’s just not eye-opening facing a higher level of competition, but also the tenacity that Hawkeyes head coach Tom Brands, a 1996 Olympic gold medalist and wrestling Hall of Famer, brings to the mat. He’s blunt with his wrestlers.
“It was a little bit of an awakening, not that I haven’t been talked to that way before, but just to hear it, 'you got to get going,' so that was good, definitely think it resonates with who I am and what my goals and aspirations are," said Schroeder.
For Schroeder, it’s been a tough year with COVID-19, not wrestling much and he has yet to even have an in-person class on the Iowa campus, but there’s no other place he’d rather be and wants to persevere through these hardships to be a role model for Montana wrestlers.
“Sports aren’t everything, but if I come here and I end up leaving, it’s kind of discouraging for all these (Montana) kids coming after me, like, ‘Oh, he was super good in high school and he couldn’t do anything at the next level,'" said Schroeder. "(Giving up) can kind of snowball out of control and create maybe some doubts for these younger kids. The day that I don’t enjoy it anymore is when I’ll be done, but right now I couldn’t think of a better place that I could be.”