Going all in
Mesa's Slotten fully committed to wrestling now
Zak Slotten hasn’t been this excited to get on the mat and wrestle someone in a while. That’s what happens when you are hungry to prove yourself and you haven’t wrestled much this season.
The Colorado Mesa University junior will wrestle tonight and Saturday for the first time in more than a month when the No. 10-ranked Mavericks (10-1, 0-0 RMAC) wrestle a Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference dual at Chadron State (Neb.) College (5-3, 1-1 RMAC) at 7 tonight and in the Midwest Duals on Saturday hosted by the University of Nebraska-Kearney.
“I’m feeling good,” Slotten said. “I’m excited to be back on the mat and a healthy 74.”
Slotten started the season at 184 pounds and nearly redshirted, but after he wrestled a varsity match, he moved up to 197.
He wrestled there in his last dual, then decided to go back to 174 with Jordan Passehl returning from an injury at 197 and All-American Nick Petersen at 184.
“That’s why it’s taken me so long,” Slotten said. “This will be the first week that I’ll be down to that weight. We wanted to do this slow and do it right.”
Slotten wrestled at 174 pounds from the start of the season the past two years, but he was unsatisfied, particularly with a second fifth-place finish at regionals. The top four qualify for the NCAA Division II national championships.
“He struggled last year, big time,” CMU coach Chuck Pipher said. “He wasn’t disciplined enough. He wasn’t doing it right.
“This year, he’s a much different kid. Attitude, everything. He’s been down to 178 and a good 178 already.”
“The biggest difference between this year and last year is eating better and eating the right things, being more disciplined,” he said. “It makes a big difference.”
Slotten approached this season with a new focus.
“He asked me: What does he need to do? I told him you’ve got to be more disciplined,” Pipher said.
Slotten admitted he hasn’t been fully committed since coming to Mesa two years ago.
“When I was in high school I never saw myself doing this,” Slotten said. “Wrestling was always my third sport.”
Football and baseball were his favorite sports, he said.
Now that Slotten has his weight down, he’s committed to give it his best shot.
“I’ve decided to see what happens and give it everything I’ve got,” Slotten said. “We’ll see if it works out. Hopefully it does.”
To him, that means winning the national title.
“His leadership on the team has been good,” Pipher said. “He’s excited. Mitch Wyatt has done a great job, but we needed to solidify that weight class up.”
Slotten (9-1) had been ranked eighth in the nation until the most recent rankings came out, but most wrestlers in his weight class probably don’t know him.
“That’s fine with me,” he said. “I like it better that way.”
All over the mat
Chadron State defeated the Mavericks the past two years, including a 22-13 victory at Brownson Arena last season, but Pipher anticipates a reversal this year.
“I feel pretty good about that dual,” Pipher said. “We should go in there and win that dual. Anything can happen, but I feel good about that dual.”
■ The Mavericks’ No. 10 ranking is their highest since the program was reinstated six years ago, which also makes it the highest NCAA Division II ranking the program has achieved.
■ The Mavericks will wrestle four duals in the Midwest Duals on Saturday in Kearney, Neb.
Mesa will wrestle No. 15 Fort Hays State (Kan.) University, Newman (Kan.) University, Colby (Kan.) Community College and San Francisco State (Calif.) University.
■ Pipher was hoping to wrestle No. 13-ranked Nebraska-Kearney, but he said the Mavs will get tested by Fort Hays, Newman and San Francisco State. Fort Hays State defeated the Mavericks last season 21-16. San Francisco State has two nationally ranked wrestlers, and Newman, which started its wrestling program the same year Mesa reinstated its program, has steadily improved.
■ James Martinez and Justin Schumacher had a wrestle off for the 149-pound spot this week, but it will be at least one more week before a final decision is made at that weight.
■ Freshman Daniel Salazar remains out with a knee injury, but could return in the next week or two.