Jack Deitchler, a White Earth Ojibwe descendant, made history in June by becoming only the third high school wrestle to ever compete at the Olympics. He’s also the first high school student to make the Olympic team in 32 years.
Minnesota’s American Indian community is abuzz with news of Jake Deitchler’s (White Earth Ojibwe) surprise qualifying win that gained him entrance into the U.S. Olympics. A recent graduate of Anoka High School, Deitchler will compete as a member of the 2008 USA Greco-Roman Olympic Team in Beijing. His first match is scheduled for August 13.
In June, Deitchler pulled off two major upsets to win the 66kg division
at the Greco-Roman Olympic Trials in Las Vegas, NV. It was an
impressive achievement because experience and expertise count heavily
in the sport. Many top wrestles are in their 30s.
“I believe I can do anything,” Deitchler told ESPN. “People tell me I’m
young enough and ignorant enough that I’m not realistic about things.
But it doesn’t really matter if I can do things like this.”
It all started when Deitchler beat several top U.S. Greco athletes at
the Senior Nationals in Las Vegas, where he was runner-up and qualified
for the Olympic Trials. After that Deitchler decided to increase his
workout time. At the Olympic Trials, Deitchler beat World Bronze
medalist Harold Lester in the semifinals by scores of 5-2 and 5-3.
Lester was favored to win the Gold for the United States at Beijing. In
the finals, Deitchler defeated fourth-seeded Faruk Sahin of the U.S.
Army team in two comeback wins. Deitchler’s win against Sahin was
amazing because Deitchler lost the first period of both matches. He was
forced to come back and win the final two periods each time – a
challenging mental and physical accomplishment.
“Deitchler trailed 5-0 in the second period of his second match,” ESPN
said, “yet used his quickness and throwing ability to score seven
consecutive points and win.”
Deitchler was named USA TODAY’s Olympic Athlete of the Week after
winning in the finals, and USA Wrestling invited him on a promotional
tour in Manhattan.
Deitchler also received a letter from the White Earth Reservation
Tribal Council Chairwoman Erma Vizenor who commended him on his
passion, strength, and commitment. She also recognized his family and
the tradition of Native athletes who have competed in the Olympics and
Deitchler’s road to the Olympics began in Mayville, ND. His parents,
Jason and Racheal Deitchler, were students at Mayville State
University. His father was on an athletic scholarship for wrestling.
The day after Deitchler was born, his father had to leave for a
Deitchler’s early years were spent around the wrestling room and his
father’s wrestling family. When there wasn’t money for a babysitter,
Deitchler went with his father to practice, and other athletes helped
care for hin and started his training at a young age.
The family moved to Minnesota when Deitchler was six-years-old. His
father wanted Deitchler to have more exposure to wrestling. However, he
was only allowed to wrestle the folkstyle season. His father didn’t
want to push him too hard and cause him to dislike wrestling.
In seventh and eighth grade, Deitchler wrestled for the Anoka High
School Varsity team and made it to the State Tournament. In ninth
grade, Deitchler met his current coach, Brandon Paulson. Paulson is an
Olympic silver medalist and three-time Minnesota State Champion from
When Deitchler was just fifteen, Paulson told his father that if Jake
was ready to listen and work, Paulson would coach him. Paulson promised
Deitchler would not lose another match at a high school tournament.
Paulson had just retired after a grueling triple-overtime loss at the
2004 Olympic Trials. He believes everything happened for a reason,
because he met Deitchler after that painful loss. Paulson returned to
Minnesota to find the Anoka High wrestling coach, Todd Springer,
waiting to discuss Jake. Deitchler’s family also believes the timing
Paulson pushed Deitchler with advanced tactics and innovative
maneuvers, eventually adding Greco-Roman training. Deitchler responded
with phenomenal leaps, especially given that high school teams are
limited to folkstyle wrestling. (Deitchler only has two years of
In a July 11 New York Times article, Paulson said, “There’s nobody to
compare him to in wrestling. He progressed faster than anybody I’ve
Deitchler stayed after practice everyday and arrived at school before
sunrise. He spent time at a Greco facility in Michigan and the Olympic
Training Center in Colorado. To gain international experience, he
competed in Beijing, China, for the Junior Worlds and Sofia, Bulgaria,
for the Junior European Championship.
Deitchler’s regimen also included wrestling for the Minnesota Storm, a
club in Minneapolis. Coached by Dan Chandler, a three-time Olympian and
Anoka High graduate, the program has sent at least one Greco-Roman
wrestler to every Olympics since 1968.
Deitchler’s father also built a wrestling room in the basement of their
home. It included a mat, dummy, and a sauna they installed for
Deitchler’s sixteenth birthday. They talked wrestling at every meal.
At the end of his high school career, Deitchler had won three state
championships and more matches than anyone in the school’s history
(201, including the last 111 straight).
When Deitchler decided he wanted to prepare for the Olympic Trials, he
and his family made arrangements for him to complete his school credits
early. Then he and Paulson worked everyday on technique sessions and
game planning to create Deitchler’s personalized style.
In an interview with ESPN, Paulson said he’d thought it was a long
shot. “I thought it was 1 in 100 or 1 in 1,000 – but he did it.”
Paulson told MSNBC that Deitchler will have to compensate at the
Olympics for his young age. He said Deitchler doesn’t have his “man
strength” yet, but will be more active on the mat to exhaust his
opponents. Folkstyle wrestling prepared him for this approach. In
folkstyle, holds below the waist are allowed so scrambling is more
When Deitchler returns from Beijing, he will attend the University of Minnesota and compete for the Gophers.
Deitchler’s family is currently raising funds to cover the cost of his
training and travel. They also want to fly family members to Beijing to
see his Olympic matches. His grandfather, Virgil “Cob” Fairbanks (White
Earth Ojibwe), hopes to also make the trip. The family organized
fundraisers at Moe’s in Coon Rapids and at Culver’s in Anoka. They also
sold Deitchler Olympic t-shirts at Buffalo Wild Wings in Fargo, ND.
If you are interested in supporting Deitchler and his family’s Olympic
journey, please go to their website at: www.Jake2008Olympian.com.