By Alex Karwowski
Former Minnesota Storm wrestler Jake Deitchler earned his spot on the Olympic team as an 18-year-old high school graduate.
Deitchler, now a retired wrestler, had the opportunity to reflect on the emotional buildup that came with competing for Team USA at the Beijing 2008 Olympics and share the wisdom he gained from wrestling among the best in the world.
In preparing for the Olympics, Deitchler said a lot happened behind the scenes. He would often go to the gym late at night and early in the morning before school started to
get weight training in.
“What nobody sees is the things at night,” said Deitchler. “You know everybody’s in bed
and you’re getting a workout at 10 o’clock at night by yourself.”
Not only did Deitchler’s preparation involve countless hours in the gym, but he also had
to give up the party life and make sacrifices to be a world-class athlete.
He recalled a time when he was out until 3 a.m. at a friend’s high school graduation
party. Deitchler’s mother came into his room the next morning and accused him saying
that she doesn’t think he holds the belief in himself to make the Olympic team.
At that moment, Deitchler said making the U.S. team became more about proving his
mother wrong than it did about beating two-time bronze medalist, Harry Lester.
Preparing for the Olympics came with its setbacks. Deitchler said his opponent Mark
Rial beat him pretty badly in the finals of the U.S. Open.
“I remember getting off the mat just being pissed, and angry – you know frustrated and
wanting more,” Deitchler said.
Coaches would come up to him after the match and try to remind him that he is only 18
years old and should be proud of the effort he had put in to even get to that level.
Deitchler said that only motivated him to push even harder and refused to settle.
Deitchler went on to defeat Lester at the Olympic trials and earned a spot on the U.S.
Olympic team. Deitchler credited his achievement to Brandon Paulson, his coach at the
time, for his unwavering support.
“He’s the man of highest character I’ve ever met,” Deitchler said. “He was the main
reason I made the Olympic team, no doubt about it.”
Deitchler had started training with Paulson after Paulson lost in a 28-minute
heartbreaker Olympic trials match for the Athens 2004 Olympics.
Paulson had taken time away from his family and job to coach Deitchler at a time when
wrestling wasn’t really Paulson’s top priority. According to Deitchler, Paulson was the
first person to take him to the Olympic training center.
Paulson not only was a mentor on the mat but off the mat as well. Deitchler said he
learned a lot about how to be a man, have a good marriage, and be a good parent from
Deitchler’s first international senior-level tournament was the Olympic games, and by
being the underdog there was no pressure on him other than to prove to people that he
While competing at the 2008 Olympics, Deitchler said he was confident in his ability to
beat grown men, despite being 18 years old. He often told himself that he was just as
qualified as everyone else competing at that level.
“I told myself every day when I woke up, it was hey I’m the best in the world every time I
stepped on a wrestling mat I tell myself hey I’m the best guy in the world,” Deitchler
According to Sports Reference, Deitchler wrestled in the 66 kilogram weight class at the
Olympics where first he lost to Kanatbek Begaliev of Kyrgyzstan, who would go on to
become the silver medalist, and Armen Vardanyan of Ukraine, who went on to receive
the bronze medal. Deitchler placed 12th overall in the 66 kilogram weight class.
After competing at the 2008 Olympics, Deitchler wrestled for the University of Minnesota
Golden Gophers, before ultimately deciding to medically retire due to the number of
concussions he suffered throughout his career.
“As an athlete, you got to start weighing long-term risks and what’s it really worth,”
Deitchler said. “When I’m 40 I want to have a great life and be healthy and you know –
just mentally just be sharp.”
It had come to the point where it was time to retire, he said. Deitchler had met his wife
and wanted to look ahead in life.
In coping with not being able to wrestle anymore, Deitchler said it was his coach at the
University of Minnesota at the time, J Robinson, who encouraged him to begin coaching
young wrestlers and give back to the sport.
Now 33-years-old, Deitchler lives in St. Michael, Minnesota, with his wife Shelby, and
three kids, and works in sales.
“I actually feel like I’m in the best place I’ve been at any point in my life,” Deitchler said.
For any aspiring wrestlers out there, the 2008 Olympian said the number of
opportunities for growth is countless. Deitchler recommends taking advantage of
camps, clubs, and online platforms.
“I mean really you just need a good support system,” said Deitchler “If that’s not your
family, because your family isn’t supportive, well then it’s a coach or training partners.”
The support system Deitchler had throughout his career was critical to his success.
Deitchler would like to thank his family, faith, and wrestling friends, Brandon Paulson,
Jared Lawrence, Dan Chandler, Pat Smith, Quincy Osborn, J Robinson, Brandon
Eggum, Zach Sanders, Mike Thorn, and Jake Begin for their endless amount of support
throughout his life.