I first saw Dustin Schlatter wrestle at 130 pounds at Fargo as a sophomore in High School. He was wrestling Ryan Lang (also of Ohio and one of the top recruits in the country) in the finals. He kicked the crap out of him. It was scary to watch how good this kid was going to be. It would have been really impressive, but there was a young buck named Brent Metcalf wrestling in the finals at 135 shortly thereafter. Being from Michigan, there is a natural distaste (to put it mildly) for all that comes from Ohio. The inevitable crash course that was Metcalf v Schlatter began in my mind at that moment. Metcalf did what he does, which is win gold medals and make his opponents look and feel like small children, and my faith in him never faltered. Much like my faith in the 2005 Detroit Pistons. I didn't just know that they were better than San Antonio, I would have bet all of my money on it (which consequently was about $164).
They had never given me a reason to doubt them. They were the defending NBA Champions, had a spectacular regular season, had just dispatched Shaq and D Wade, and were certainly going to beat the Spurs. The only thing I knew about them was that Tim Duncan always looked confused or bewildered and that they had won an NBA title two seasons ago.
Metcalf's Senior year of High School, Davison travels down to Ohio, where they run into Dustin's team (whatever that was, probably not important). Metcalf does work and beats him as he should, maintaining his undefeated High School record. The story is going as it should at this point. However, shortly after he finishes High School, he enters Senior Nationals (some would argue that there wasn't much left to be gained, but what do I know). Schlatter also enters, and proceeds to beat Metcalf. It was at that point that I HATED Dustin Schlatter. I'll be real though, I understand the talent that he had, and was impressed when he went in as a true Freshman and won a National Championship. He did lose one match that year to Central Michigan's Mark DiSalvo (Fire Up Chips). He did dominate that entire season though, beating the defending champion, Zach Esposito of Oklahoma State twice. Metcalf however was stuck in what was going to be two years of not competing. Long story short, he wanted to wrestle for Tom Brands who was at Virginia Tech, then Iowa realized that Brands should be their Head Coach and hired him, and Metcalf, and some other studs, transfered back to Iowa, losing a year of eligibility.
So Metcalf finally becomes eligible to wrestle in NCAA division 1 competition, and guess what, he's really good. He meets Schlatter in the Big Ten Finals, where he exacts his revenge on Dustin. The Pistons however weren't so fortunate. I arrived at a restaurant after I got out of work to meet my friends and watch Game 7 against the Spurs. We were up by double digits well into the third, and I believe into the fourth. However, it wasn't meant to be. The Spurs ended up coming back and winning in game 7, ending what was the last finals run of a great Pistons team (we made 4 or 5 more conference finals without making it back to the NBA Finals). From that moment on, I hated the Spurs. I hated Manu, Tony Parker, TIm Duncan, Bruce Bowen, and most of all Robert Horry (google game 5 of Spurs v Pistons, I can't talk about it). The one time I decided that the Spurs were okay to root for was when we had common enemies, and I had to pick a side. It was the 2013 and 2014 NBA finals against D Wade, LeBron, and the Heat. It just seemed right for me to root for Tim Duncan and the old guys against what seemed like cheating the system. Duncan was old, his teammates were old, they had seemed to reinvent themselves into a smarter team that could find ways to win.
Similarly, I recently decided that I like Dustin Schlatter again. He has battled injuries for what seems like the last forever. Basically since Metcalf beat him, he had never been the same (it's not his fault, it happens to most people Metcalf beats). But it has been about 10 years and he has never given up his dream. I watched him wrestle in the Pan Am Finals, and he looked like an absolute machine. I am looking forward to seeing him at 70kg this year and see if he can't finally be healthy enough to make a run. Honestly, if we believe that Metcalf can win a Gold (and I do), we shouldn't have much less faith in Schlatter. Their pedigree is similar, they have both been training for the same amount of time, they each have the same dreams, but one has been healthy when it matters.
To put it all together, hard work and commitment seems to find a way to be appreciated in the world of sports. It's hard to come up with excuses to dislike someone or a team when you can respect so much about what they do. With that being said, I hope Schlatter stays healthy and makes a run at the World Team, I hope Metcalf wins a Gold Medal, and DEEEEETTTRRRROOOOOOIIIIIIITTTTT BAAAAAAASSSSSKKEEEETTTTTBBBBBAAAALLLLL!!!!!