Pair of brothers fills a pair of holes in the Gophers’ lineup

Dustin and C.P. Schlatter have performed well in the middle of the lineup.

David McCoy

Minnesota’s wrestling team has had a different look this season.

And all it took was a couple of guys with the same last name.

Last year’s disappointing season (9-9, 3-5 Big Ten) behind them, the top-ranked Gophers (20-1, 7-1 Big Ten) have cruised to their first 20-win season since 1993-1994 and are poised to make a run at a Big Ten title this weekend in Bloomington, Ind.

The biggest reason for Minnesota’s mediocrity last season now has become the heart of its lineup, thanks to redshirt sophomore C.P. Schlatter’s and true freshman Dustin Schlatter’s remarkable performance at 157 and 149 pounds, respectively.

After going 8-27 at those weights in dual meets last year, the brothers have racked up a 37-3 record this season to lead Minnesota to more team wins.

“I just know from following the team last year that they were losing dual meets to teams they shouldn’t have lost to,” Dustin said. “Teams that just weren’t on our level. And this year, we got in here, and the team’s just where it’s supposed to be. Last year, with the hole there, it just wasn’t working out.”

The mess that was 157 and 149 last year featured C.P. struggling to make weight at 149 the first half of the season, then struggling versus heavier 157 pounders the second half. Meanwhile, the Gophers coaches struggled to fill the holes he left in each class, using a total of seven wrestlers in those duals.

“Last year, when I wasn’t doing so well, I’d be like, ‘Ah, screw it. I suck.’ you know? Things like that,” C.P. said. “But then thinking, (my) dad, he’s come to every match, I can’t be quitting. So I’m not doing it for myself solely. I’m doing it for myself (and) for the team now; so you’ve got to think of other people besides you sometimes.”

C.P. and Dustin said they feel an obligation to wrestle as well as they have this season, because their parents, Pat and Joyce, sacrificed so much for their sons’ wrestling careers.

The family moved around their home state of Ohio in order to give C.P. and Dustin the best training and coaching possible, moving first to St. Paris, Ohio, to enroll at Graham High School, where C.P. was a four-time state champion while setting an Ohio record with a 165-1 career record.

But after Dustin’s sophomore year, squabbles with Graham’s coach sent the family moving again, this time to Massillon, Ohio, where Dustin finished his high school career a four-time state champion himself with a 154-4 record.

“My dad had to retire and work out of his home,” C.P. said. “And my mom had to travel an hour a day to work one way. So they definitely committed their lives around us.”

All the moving made the family closer.

“We never stuck with one club or one team; it was just us and my dad; my mom was there, too,” C.P. said. “And we traveled around, and when we changed high schools, we were changing friends, so we didn’t really have other people ‘ it was our family.”

They still feed off each other today.

C.P. said Dustin’s wins ‘ especially his string of upsets that vaulted the younger brother to the top of the 149 rankings ‘ fire him up and give him momentum to wrestle his own tough matches.

Dustin said he knows his performance affects his brother’s, and likewise, his brother’s affects his own.

“I get almost more nervous for his matches than for my matches, just because not only is he a teammate, but he’s my brother, so it’s just that much more,” Dustin said. “And that’s a lot of incentive to get the win and get him fired up, too.”

And now that the team is winning at 157 and 149 on a consistent basis, instead of losing, that has a chain reaction on the rest of the team as well.

“We have to get a good boost going so the upper weight is confident,” C.P. said. “Once we go out there, (Dustin’s) been upsetting everyone, I’ve been upsetting my fair share of people this year, and it just turns the dual around.”

Not to mention ‘ the season, too.