A Tough Bond to Break
College Wrestling Brothers CP and Dustin Schlatter
When C.P. and Dustin Schlatter were little and growing up in Massillon, Ohio, it was not uncommon to see the two horsing around. Whether they were rolling around and breaking things in the house, taking each other down outside on the family trampoline, or just tag-teaming to beat up on dad Pat, wrestling was always a common bond. That bond remains strong as the two brothers are playing significant roles in Minnesota's quest for another national championship.
Separated by only 20 months from birth, the Schlatter brothers have really been, well, inseparable. Throughout adolescence, the two were often taught the same techniques by the same coaches and are still training partners to this day. C.P., a senior at 157 pounds, who takes to the mat in practice with Dustin, a junior at 149 pounds, says the opportunity to grow up and train with his little brother has been a memorable one.
"It's definitely been a special experience," C.P. said. "We have always had each other. I think it's been more helpful on the wrestling side having him as a workout partner."
Younger Dustin agrees.
"We have wrestled together our whole lives," he said. "The college level has had a big impact on both of us because I think we push each other more in training."
The success the two Schlatters have had already on the Golden Gopher program would make any grappler envious.
They are the only pair of brothers in school history to claim a Big Ten Championship in the same season - a feat the two siblings have now accomplished in each of the past two years.
In his first two years, Dustin has quickly become one of the school's top success stories in recent history. A four-time Ohio State champion who amassed a prep record of 154-4, Dustin found immediate success in Minneapolis, finishing his freshman campaign 42-1. He recorded a 19-1 mark in dual competition by outscoring his opponents by a dominant margin of 65-3. In addition to claiming the conference title, he was also named Big Ten Freshman of the Year.
The highlight of his freshman season came when he upset top-ranked and defending national champion Zack Esposito of Oklahoma State in the title match. He was the first freshman in school history to win a national title. Dustin ended the season with 29 straight victories, a streak he would extend into his sophomore year and eventually increased to 65 consecutive wins, before falling in the NCAA Championship. He rebounded to finish third at nationals with a record of 37-1. Entering his junior season, his 79-2-0 career record equated to a .975 winning percentage - the highest in school history.
"I had a lot of fun last year, but ultimately I fell short of my goals," Dustin said. "The whole season is just preparation for March -- Big Tens and Nationals."
He's quick to point to his older brother as a reason he has been able to have so much success so early.
"A lot of that (came from) working out with C.P.," he said. "It's a big step up from high school and he prepared me for the mindset to wrestle in college early on. I was fortunate; it was crucial to my success."
Minnesota head coach J Robinson notes the support that each brother gives one another is not only beneficial to them, but to the program as well.
"There is a tremendous benefit because they have a built-in support system," Robinson said. "They go to each other for help. They spent their whole life looking after each other and they do that in college as well. When you have someone who you can confide in, it's very beneficial, especially in wrestling."
Robinson persuaded C.P. to Minneapolis as a member of what would become the nation's top recruiting class. The older Schlatter, who lost just once in 166 prep matches, was going to be one of the main cogs to the wheel that was going to drive the Golden Gophers to a number of national championships. This season, C.P. enters his senior season looking to help Minnesota to a successful defense of its NCAA title and its fourth since 2001.
C.P. redshirted in 2003-04, but made waves in the offseason when he won the gold medal in Greco-Roman at 74 kg at the Junior Pan-Am Championships in Maracaibo, Venezuela. But when he went to wrestle in the freestyle competition, something went wrong.
"I scored a takedown in my first match in freestyle and then my knee buckled," he said. "I tried to go again but it buckled a second time."
Sidelined for the start of his sophomore season, C.P. was still ranked 11th in the nation at 149 pounds. After he returned to the lineup in late-December, Robinson opted to move him up to 157 pounds. Since that move, C.P. has improved each year. Following a 17-11 record his freshman season, C.P. went 36-7 the next year and earned his first Big Ten title. Last season he finished 28-8 overall, won his second conference championship and earned his first All-American distinction by finishing sixth at the NCAA Championships.
With one year left, two goals remain: successfully defend the team's national title and win an individual NCAA Championship.
"I have had some fairly good years...tough years," said C.P. "But I haven't gotten a title for myself. J talked to all the seniors about that this year. He reminded us that we were the No. 1 recruiting class in the nation and we have yet to win any individual national titles."
One thing that Robinson does not have to worry about when it comes to both C.P. and Dustin is their academic success. Top students since their time in high school, both brothers have continued to have discipline both on the mat and in the classroom.
A nursing major, C.P. is a two-time Academic All-American and a three-time Academic All-Big Ten selection.
"Sometimes it goes hand in hand," said Dustin, a communications major. "There is a strong work ethic that wrestling calls for, and I think you just take it into the classroom as well." The discipline and the upbringing of the Schlatter brothers is what has impressed Robinson the most.
"It's really about academics, athletics and a personal life when you come to college. They have done a great job with all three," Robinson said. "It's just a continuation of what they have done their whole life, but now it's just at a new place and a new level."
But not all is entirely the same with the Schlatter brothers. Robinson notes that as with all brothers, you're often going to have different personalities. He thinks C.P. is probably the one that is more focused and reserved of the two, while he calls Dustin the more carefree and "wild stallion" out on the mat. When asked to compare each other, Dustin says C.P. is the stronger, while he is probably the faster.
Together, however, they seem to be a perfect match. For the Schlatter brothers, Minnesota has become the perfect home away from home. The two siblings now live together at school, which means mother Joyce no longer has to worry about matches taking place in her living room.
"When you leave home, you often leave your support system behind," said Robinson. "When you can bring it with you, your sibling can offer an intimacy that others can't. I think they share each other's victories and share each other's pains."
Which makes that bond a tough one to break.