August 17, 2017

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ACMC’s Orthopedic Surgeon Dr. John Wechter: For the Love of Wrestling

Dr. John Wechter, Orthopedic Surgery, ACMC-WillmarIt’s funny how a seemingly small decision can change the course of your life. If ACMC-Willmar physician Dr. John Wechter had stuck with swimming in high school, his life would be quite different right now. He’d probably still be an orthopedic surgeon—after all, medicine runs in his family—but he may not be training to try out for the Olympics.

The Beginning of a Successful Wrestling Career

Fortunately for Dr. Wechter, he tagged along with a friend to wrestling practice during his freshman year of high school.  After four years wrestling, he never made it to a state tournament. So when he went for his undergraduate degree in kinesiology at Michigan State, Dr. Wechter hadn’t planned on continuing to wrestle. But he decided to try out and, after the five-week tryouts, made the team.

“I wasn’t really satisfied with how my wrestling career ended in high school,” Dr. Wechter said. “I figured it didn’t hurt to tryout in college. What I didn’t know at the time was how much I’d grow to love wrestling or how big of a role it would play in my life.”

In college Dr. Wechter did pretty well, starting his last three seasons. And by the time he wrestled at his last college meet, he was just one point away from being an All-American.

“You know the old adage if at first you don’t succeed, try again?,” Dr. Wechter said, “I wanted to keep going, to keep reaching for more.”

And he’s certainly done that.

If you want to keep training after college, you have to choose between Greco-Roman or freestyle wresting. Dr. Wechter chose Greco-Roman.  In Greco-Roman wrestling you can attack anything above the waist with the goal of getting your opponent down or to expose his back to the mat.

Throughout medical school Dr. Wechter kept training with his team at Michigan State, working with other wrestlers and coaches who could practice with him around his busy medical student schedule to stay competitive. He started entering wrestling competitions.

Inevitably, Dr. Wechter moved on to residency after medical school. So when it came time to decide where he’d complete his orthopedic surgical residency, he chose the University of Minnesota not only for their reputation, but also for their close proximity to the Minnesota Training Center. The Minnesota Training Center is a USA wrestling regional training site for elite athletes. He became a member of the Minnesota Storm wrestling club, which is affiliated with the training center.

Wrestling for the Ultimate Prize

His love for wrestling has taken him across the world—from Cuba to France and even Estonia. He’s even ranked third on team USA in his weight division. Though he has an impressive list of accomplishments as a wrestler—he’s a U.S. Open National Champion and has earned a silver medal at the prestigious Dave Schultz Memorial International—Dr. Wechter is now training for one of the biggest moments in any athlete’s career: the 2016 Olympics.

And he’s doing all this while still working as an orthopedic surgeon at ACMC. Dr. Wechter lives in the Twin Cities with his wife and three kids, but he works at commutes to ACMC in Willmar several times a month to care for his patients. Though his schedule is a little different the weeks he’s working in Willmar, he’s been fortunate to train with Tony Newman, a former All-American wrestler.

Photo from http://www.teamusa.org/USA-Wrestling

Photo from http://www.teamusa.org/USA-Wrestling

“Training for the Olympics is a big commitment, but now that my residency is over, it’s a lot easier. My schedule at ACMC allows me to do both. I wrestle three to four days a week, lift twice a week and do some conditioning, too,” he said.

And Dr. Wechter has the same single-minded focus, drive and determination in his medical practice as he does in wrestling.

For now he’s competing to qualify for tryouts at the Olympics. If he makes it, he’ll tryout in April and could potentially compete in Rio De Janiero, Brazil, this August.

“If you told me when I first started wrestling that one day I’d have a shot at competing in the Olympics, I’m not sure I’d have believed you. Now I’m really excited for the possibility of representing team USA,” Dr. Wechter said.

Though he’ll face some strong competition, no matter what happens in his Olympic bid, we couldn’t be prouder to have Dr. Wechter on Team ACMC.