Brothers take hold of a wrestling dream

  • Article by: RACHEL BLOUNT , Star Tribune
  • Updated: April 21, 2012 - 8:47 AM

Taking different paths to wrestling success, the Schlatter brothers are giving their all to go to London.

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C.P. Schlatter, left, competes in Greco-Roman and Dustin Schlatter in freestyle. They train together, live together and hope to compete in the Olympics together.

Photo: Brian Peterson, Star Tribune

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C.P. and Dustin Schlatter mirror each other in lots of ways, as close-knit brothers often do. Both wrestled for the Gophers with great success. Both have competed around the world, and both will take part in this weekend's U.S. Olympic trials in Iowa City.

They live together, work out together and covet the same thing: to win a spot on the team that will compete in this summer's London Olympics. But for a time, the Schlatters' lives followed different paths, bringing them to one destination via two routes.

C.P., 27, quit the sport for two years and embarked on a nursing career before returning to Greco-Roman wrestling. Dustin, 25, relishes every second on the mat and has worked with the Gophers while competing in freestyle. Since setting their sights on the Olympics, the brothers have thrived on their common ground, sparing no effort in pursuing a dream that dates to their childhood.

"We've been working our butts off," said Dustin, who wrestles at 66 kilograms (145.5 pounds), the same as his brother. "We've been training toward this our whole lives but particularly in the last year, with the trials in mind. Now that we're down to the home stretch, we're both excited, and we're both ready."

Brandon Paulson, one of C.P.'s coaches with the Minnesota Storm club, has seen the brothers sweat through countless wrestling practices and weightlifting sessions. Aside from their dedication to their sport, he said, they are "polar opposites." C.P. is ultra-organized, always on task and on time. Dustin is more relaxed and willing to go with the flow.

Paulson said they complement each other well, perhaps because the glue that holds them together is far stronger than their differences. The Schlatters grew up in St. Paris, Ohio, rambunctious boys whose father built them a wrestling room in the basement.

C.P. first tried the Greco-Roman style in middle school and found he was well-suited to a sport that requires great balance and upper-body strength. Dustin followed him, in typical little-brother fashion, but soon realized his calling was in freestyle.

With the Gophers, C.P. won Big Ten titles in 2006 and 2007. But the grind of college wrestling had worn him down, and he happily left it behind as he went to work in the intensive-care unit at Fairview Southdale Hospital.

"I didn't want to touch the mat again, ever," C.P. said. "During those two years off, I didn't practice. I didn't do anything. Then Dustin made the world team, and that opened my eyes a little bit."

That happened in 2009, while Dustin -- the 2006 NCAA champion at 149 pounds -- was taking a redshirt year before his senior season with the Gophers. Representing the U.S. at the world championships fulfilled a long-held goal, but failing to place left him feeling unsatisfied.

He had a similar experience when a knee injury spoiled his final season with the Gophers. Dustin's commitment to the sport never wavered during a seven-month rehabilitation, and when C.P. resumed training in 2010, the brothers began laying the groundwork for the Olympic trials.

C.P., who had not competed in Greco-Roman for seven years, cut back to one shift a week at the hospital so he could pour himself into training. He and Dustin traveled to places such as Cuba, Azerbaijan and Belarus to train and compete, winning international medals and rising through the USA Wrestling ranks. C.P. won the U.S. Open title at 66 kg. earlier this year, and Dustin won the prestigious NYAC International last November.

Though Dustin faces a host of tough opponents at the trials -- including longtime nemesis Brent Metcalf, who wrestled at Iowa -- he said none has dominated, and he is among several wrestlers capable of winning. In C.P.'s class, two-time world medalist Justin Lester reigns as the favorite. The brothers said they are entering the trials healthy, well-prepared and confident.

Dustin, who is pursuing a master's degree in sports management at the U, plans to stay involved with wrestling for the long term. C.P. said he considers this season his "last chance" in the sport; he is eager to get back to his medical career, and with a serious girlfriend, his days as Dustin's roommate also could be numbered.

So both of them will enjoy being on the same path again, knowing it might last only a little while longer. "Both of us have had a lot of great experiences in this sport," C.P. said. "Now everything we've worked for these past couple of years is coming down to one day. I think both of us are a little nervous. But mostly we're excited."

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