Schlatter breaking tradition at 149

David McCoy

For the first time in three weeks, Minnesota wrestler Dustin Schlatter is hoping the nation’s top-ranked 149-pound wrestler doesn’t lose.

The past two weekends, Schlatter has faced the task of knocking off the NCAA’s best in duals with Oklahoma State’s Zack Esposito and Iowa’s Ty Eustice.

But when Schlatter wrestles this weekend, he’s hoping the No. 1 guy wins.

That’s because he now is the No. 1 guy.

And for the moment, Schlatter is sitting on top of one of the deepest weights in college wrestling ” in his true freshman year.

“I’m not calling him a true freshman because he doesn’t wrestle like one,” junior heavyweight Cole Konrad said.

Schlatter’s success (28-1 this season) has been one of the biggest reasons Minnesota (14-0, 2-0 Big Ten) is the top-ranked team in the country.

But that kind of success is usually delayed. Traditionally, every highly recruited wrestler to come to the Gophers under J Robinson has redshirted his first year at Minnesota.

Schlatter is the exception.

“Dustin’s way beyond where most freshmen are,” Robinson said. “Not only talent-wise, but he has the poise to handle the pressure, the training and the change from high school to college.”

Robinson said he had two other reasons for breaking tradition and wrestling Schlatter. The Gophers had a need at 149, and Schlatter, the nation’s top recruit, was the answer as soon as he committed.

Robinson also said Minnesota would benefit from giving the Massillon, Ohio, native and his older brother C.P. Schlatter an extra year competing together.

“A big part of it was getting on a team with his brother,”

Robinson said. “The more those two are together, the better they do together.”

Having just one Schlatter on the roster helped Robinson immensely; Dustin Schlatter said having his older brother already at Minnesota was the biggest factor in choosing to wrestle for the Gophers.

“I’d been up here probably five or six times so I knew a lot of the guys on the team and was friends with them already,” Dustin Schlatter said. “And I thought it would be easier on my family if we were both at the same school. And it was really good training with C.P. We’ve always done real well being together.”

Dustin Schlatter said starting as a true freshman was not part of his decision about where to go to school. He said it wasn’t an issue during the recruiting process and was told after he committed that Robinson wanted him to start.

After getting the news, Dustin Schlatter decided to spend the summer in Minnesota training with the rest of the team in preparation for a challenging freshman season.

“I think, in a way, when I came here to train this summer, that was my redshirt year,” Dustin Schlatter said. “I think I’ve learned a lot more than if I would have redshirted this year ” just from the competition.

“I mean, wrestling the fifth-ranked guy, fourth-ranked guy, second-ranked guy, fourth-ranked guy, third-ranked guy in one week, there’s no training that’s going to do that for you except being thrown into that situation.”

Dustin Schlatter said he knows getting to the top this early in the season won’t count for anything come March. It’s just a preview of things, but it’s an awfully good start.

“I’m ranked No. 1 right now,” Dustin Schlatter said. “But that doesn’t mean I’m national champ. I’ve got a long way to go. I’ve got to beat all these guys again.”