Much was expected from Dustin Schlatter when he joined his older brother, All-American C.P. Schlatter, at the University of Minnesota in 2005. A top-tier recruit out of Ohio, Schlatter expected to wrestle for the Gophers as a true freshman, something that not only reflected his abilities, but the confidence of the Minnesota staff in those abilities. It’s not ordinary to see a true freshman wearing the Gopher singlet.
“My career was anything but ordinary,” Schlatter observed.
His freshman year was certainly extraordinary, unlike any other in Gopher history. The Big Ten Freshman of the Year marched to a Big Ten title before laying siege to the 149-pound bracket at the NCAA tournament, finishing his rookie season as a 42-1 national champion. To this day, Schlatter is the program’s only freshman to win a national title.
“I loved the underdog role. I didn’t get a lot of respect initially and I thrived in that environment,” said Schlatter. “I expected that I would be a national champ. It was an exciting year where everything came together.”
He repeated as Big Ten champ in 2007 as part of his second straight one-loss season. Only against his own impossibly high standards could his 37-1, third-place, All-American season be viewed as a sophomore slump. His performance at NCAAs played a major part in the Gophers winning the program’s third national title that season.
“The individual title is something that you work for your whole life. It’s directly related to the work you put in and the time you spent wrestling,” said Schlatter. “With the team, it’s different because it can be shared with nine other guys and the staff. They’re both pretty special.”
Injuries chopped down Schlatter in his later years with the Gophers. Knee issues, concussions and more limited Schlatter’s chances to compete for Minnesota, though he did fight through those issues to earn a third All-American finish at the 2008 NCAA Championships. Though he wasn’t at his best, Schlatter knew his teammates were counting on him.
“It’s never easy to compete at a high level when you’re banged up. It’s very mentally draining to try to heal your body and recover but, at the same time, try to peak and still train and get better as a wrestler,” Schlatter detailed. With that said, “the thing that drew me to Minnesota was the brotherhood, the connection everyone shares here. For me, it was more important to be able to step out there and wrestle for the guys on the team than anything else.”
Minnesota’s record books reflect Schlatter’s dominance at the college level. His 16-month-long, 65-match winning streak spanning his freshman and sophomore seasons is the second-longest in program history. His .919 winning percentage, built on a 114-10 career record, is the fourth-highest for any Gopher all-time. He’s part of a select group of Gophers to have won individual conference and national titles, as well as team conference and national titles.
Schlatter also has a host of accolades from wrestling senior-level freestyle internationally, starting with his appearance for Team USA at the 2009 World Championships, a team he competed with during his redshirt season at Minnesota. His resume on the international stage includes multiple international medals and top-three finishes at national tournaments spanning from 2009 to 2015. In one of his most-recent competition, the 2015 Pan American Championships, Schlatter won the 70kg gold medal by outscoring his opponents, 41-0.
Schlatter had served as a graduate assistant and administrative assistant with the program until last season, when he was the team’s volunteer assistant coach. Schlatter was promoted to assistant coach for the 2016-17 season.
“It’s not often that guys win a national title their true freshman year. It was a different career path, as far as wrestling, than most people go through,” said Schlatter. “I learned a lot about myself, but also about training, wrestling, competing, the mental aspect of it, to wrestle through all these injuries and setbacks. It really changed my perspective and taught me a lot. There are a lot of valuable lessons I learned in my career that I can share with the team.”