Rider’s Jonathan Tropea (left) escapes from Justin Stickley (right) for a point in their 125-pound bout at an NCAA Division I wrestling meet between Rider University and the Iowa Hawkeyes at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City on Friday, Nov. 24, 2017. Stickley won by decision, 15-7. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)
IOWA CITY — Justin Stickley has learned a few life lessons during his time on a wrestling mat.
The University of Iowa freshman has been able to carry over some of the real-world knowledge he accumulated to his college wrestling and academic career.
Unlike most 2016 graduates, the two-time St. Paris Graham (Ohio) state finalist spent a year in the work force and training independently, establishing in-state residency before joining the Hawkeye program.
“It was kind of interesting,” Stickley said of his grayshirt year. “Did a lot of construction. Learned a lot of things about life in the real world, if you don’t have a college degree. It was kind of tough, but it was a good learning experience.
“It made me appreciate school a lot more. I actually enjoy my classes quite a bit.”
Stickley has transitioned from service work to the starting lineup, becoming the first true freshman to start for Iowa since Nathan Burak in 2012. He is expected to man the 125-pound spot again when the seventh-ranked Hawkeyes host No. 15 Illinois Friday at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.