It’s never too late to do anything you want to do. As exhibited by the example of a 34 year old green beret Roman Rozell. Roman Rozell had the dream of wrestling however his life and career deterred that until now.
From teenage drug addiction, enduring multiple detonations in war and being electrocuted, Roman Rozell rose above it, to achieve something he never thought possible – be an ASU wrestler.
”I started having panic attacks for no reason. I didn’t know what it was. I knew I had TBI’s (Traumatic Brain Injury), but during my time in Special Forces I was always trying to figure out why I felt like I was going to die. I was getting treated for my TBI, but not PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder),” he added. “None of the stuff I had done bothered me. I knew what I was getting into, before I got into it. Your brain doesn’t recognize that though. It turns out those explosions really did affect me and I never dealt with it. So every time I smell gasoline, my brain’s going to react to it. It makes me think of a time I was fighting for my life.”
It was during this period, Rozell made the difficult decision to walk away from his career in Special Forces and the Army.
“It was rough, especially being at an elite level as a Green Beret. I started worrying about having an episode while out doing a mission or training,’ he continued. “I decided it was time to walk away. I had already been through a lot with the job. Between the job and my family life, I was just unhappy. My health wasn’t helping the issue. So I left the Army in 2018.”
Finding himself at a crossroads, Rozell decided to go back to school and obtain the degree he had never completed in Iowa, while continuing treatment for his PTSD, which continued to help him mentally and spiritually.
“I started thinking about where I wanted to go to school. I’m originally from Arizona, so I decided to come back there and go to ASU. I wanted to earn my undergraduate degree and potentially my graduate in mental health counseling,” Rozell said. “I’d been through so much in my life already, that I had some background in that field. So I applied and got accepted. I needed to make money right away, so I used my G.I. Bill upon retiring.”
Rozell started getting back into shape. Prior to leaving active duty, he had been coaching high-school wrestling and rediscovering his love for the sport, something he wanted to continue at ASU.
“As soon as I got out here I started training and getting in better shape. I got to a good point in my life where I was mentally and spiritually healthy. I had also met a former Sun Devil and Arizona Diamondback named Willie Bloomquist at an ASU alumni night,” he explained. “I told him my story, that I’m a 33 year old going back to school and I really wish I was coaching, or I could have been an athlete. He told me he might know somebody and he’d see what he could do.”
After a chance meeting with Don Bocchi, the senior associate athletic director for ASU, Rozell said he had unwittingly begun the process for a shot at the ASU wrestling team.
“He put me in contact with the coaches. Initially they told me I’d be in a mentor coach role. They already had enough coaches,” Rozell said. “The assistant coach told me ‘if you have eligibility, why don’t you just walk on?’ I was given a tryout, which seemed absurd, because at this point I was 34 years old and didn’t know what I had to offer. Well I could be the first 34 year old, Green Beret walk on right?”
Rozell said not everybody can be a student athlete under these circumstances, with the exception of military and Latter-day Saints.
“Not just anybody can go back to school and compete at this level. The max age is 25 in the NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association). Our eligibility starts from the time you graduate. But because I was in the military, all those years were frozen,” he explained.
With the support of the coaching staff and ASU, Roman began the process of becoming a team member.
Being selected to wrestle for ASU and making the roster has been a dream come true:
“I’m not a national champion or the best wrestler, but they’re giving me a chance. Just making the team is a huge accomplishment,” he said. “Every kid in high school’s dream is to go to a Division One level school. Not giving up on a dream and achieving it 15 years later is something I’m proud of.”