Working on Teamwork
June 17, 2009
By Larry Watts
It wasn't an easy decision, but it was one Dustin Schlatter felt he had to make.
After talking to his father, the Massillon, Ohio native then met with the University of Minnesota coaching staff. Following an injury-plagued 21-5 junior campaign on the wrestling mats, where he earned his third All-American honor, the 149-pounder felt he needed to take a redshirt during his senior campaign.
The move would leave the Golden Gophers with just one senior in the regular lineup for the 2008-09 campaign, but in addition to getting his body back to full strength, Schlatter thought the timing was right in order to reach his future goals -- a berth on the U.S. World Team in 2009 and a run at the 2012 Olympic squad.
"It was hard because we had such a young team, but we'll be young again next year and I think I will be able to help out with my leadership," he says. "I just needed the time to get healthy and then work on things during my international training."
Schlatter, who won the NCAA championship and posted a 42-1 record at 149 as a freshman, holds a 100-7 record during his first three years of competition at Minnesota. The two-time Big Ten champion was third in the NCAA Championships as a sophomore but fell off to 21-5 during his junior season, when a severe hamstring injury limited him to only 17 regular season matches.
"It was a pretty rough year," he says of his junior season. "I missed six weeks because of the hamstring and I couldn't really focus on my training because of the injury. Then you add in a knee sprain and a couple of ankle sprains and it was all weighing on me mentally.
"I just needed the time off. So far it has worked out pretty well and I'm at 100 percent now."
And Schlatter can now check his first goal off his list. Representing the Minnesota Storm, he defeated Travis Paulson of the Sunkist Kids in two straight matches at 74 kilograms (163 pounds) in the World Team Trials late last month to claim a berth on the U.S. squad. His summer will now be spent in Minneapolis and at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs as he prepares for the World Championships, which will be conducted in Herning, Denmark in September.
"I'm really excited," he says. "This is going to be a great opportunity to get a lot better. All summer I'll be training with high-level coaches on a daily basis. I'll be able to get more insight on different styles of training and this is going to be a big help for my final year at Minnesota as well as my future."
According to Schlatter, the biggest difference between freestyle wrestling on the international level and on the collegiate level, more commonly known as folkstyle, is the scoring system. International rules only give one point for a takedown and two points when the back is exposed whereas college wrestlers receive two points for a takedown. There are no escape points internationally, only riding time.
Schlatter has already taken one international trip, when he traveled with a group of U.S. wrestlers to the Ukraine. They were housed at the training center for just over a week.
"Their training center is not nearly as nice as ours," he says. "It was kind of culture shock going over there, but that was to be expected. We struggled quite a bit with the food. We were all dying to go into the city for a nice meal and that nice meal turned out to be McDonald's. It may be the opposite of what you consider a nice meal back home, but to us, those cheeseburgers and fries were like heaven."
Through his brief international experience so far, Schlatter has already discovered the international wrestlers tend to take a more deliberate approach to their matches.
"Their tempo is a lot slower, more laid back," he says. "Americans are more aggressive. We believe our conditioning level is better than any other country, so we try to go at them real hard and get them tired."
At the age of 23, Schlatter is one of the youngest of the seven wrestlers representing the United States at the World Team Championships. However, he believes he is right on track in reaching his ultimate goal -- wrestling in the 2012 Olympics. He wanted to compete in the Olympic Trials last summer, but recovering from his injuries took a top priority.
"Absolutely, my goal is a medal at the 2012 Olympics," he says. "After the World Championships, I will go back to Minnesota for my final year of eligibility and, hopefully, win another NCAA title next year. Then it will be back to international competition."
When he does resume action at Minnesota, the 5-foot-8 Schlatter estimates he will either be wrestling at 157 or 165 pounds. He competed unattached at 157 pounds this winter, compiling a 6-1 record.
"Going up in weight shouldn't be much of a problem for me," he says. "I'm used to going up a couple of weight classes through my training at Minnesota. I'm a little thicker now through maturity and gaining more muscle, so I feel more comfortable at 157 or 165."