Heading into home stretch of the season, the University of Minnesota wrestling team is primed to make a run at its fourth national title in ten years. Ranked fourth in the country, the Gophers are 14-3-0 overall with a perfect 5-0 record in the Big Ten and close out the year against three nationally ranked teams in Michigan (13), Penn State (3) and Iowa (2). But while the Gophers battle it out on the mat, redshirt freshman Jake Deitchler, a former Olympian and once highly touted recruit, fights a different kind of battle.
Deitchler has not seen the mat in nearly two years. After making the 2008 United States Olympic wrestling team, he made a decision to follow his Olympic dreams by training at the Olympic Training Center instead of wrestling for the Gophers. It only lasted a year. By the fall of 2009, Deitchler was back to Minnesota and ready to join the University of Minnesota team. "Coming back was the next best thing for me. The thing I love about the University of Minnesota wrestling is obviously the coaching staff and the guys," Deitchler said. "I grew up wrestling here in Minnesota, and I am proud of (what Minnesota has done)."
But coming back wasn't the biggest obstacle for Deitchler. During his training for the Olympics, Deitchler had accepted income from the Olympic committee, committing an NCAA violation in the process. After paying all of it back, there was still some discrepancy with the NCAA and their amateurism rules. Finally, after more than a year of waiting, Deitchler finally became eligible to compete in 2011.
"I don't regret the decision," Deitchler said. "I think it worked out for the better reason. In my experience, it helped me. I was able to travel to seven countries and wrestle the best guys in the world. It was truly a great experience. Looking back, I am totally fine with (my decision)."
However, the redshirt freshman out of Anoka continues to wait patiently for his return. Suffering from multiple concussions Deitchler has not been cleared to wrestle live. Through it all he has learned a new perspective on patience. "A lot of times people just want 'patience,' but actually you have to learn it through something. For the better part of a year, I've learned it through this whole ordeal. [It is] not the best way I wanted to learn it, but it has taught me a lot."
As the Gophers are on the verge of becoming the best team in the nation he understands that his recovery could be deemed important to the team. Going into the home stretch of the season, he has been making great strides in making it back to the mat. "I am doing really well. I'm feeling better, I have not had symptoms in over a month. I will start drilling here soon and getting back to the mat," Deitchler said. "It has been a long slow process, but where I'm at now compared to six months ago is huge."
While the process has been long, it definitely has not been easy. "It definitely hasn't been easy. Sitting on the sidelines is definitely not fun. Watching your teammates go out there and compete is hard. Even going and watching practice every day is tough sometimes," the redshirt freshman said. "There have been times where I thought I was done. This last summer was hard. I wasn't sure I was going to be able to make it back - with the headaches and all."
As he sits out waiting in the wings at 157 pounds for the Gophers, he has been able to watch practices, learn, and support his teammates. "It's funny. I get to watch all the guys and I think it has somewhat helped my wrestling," Deitchler said. "It's helped but it definitely has been a long, patient ordeal."
-- Article written by Athletic Communications Student Assistant Matt Everson.