Nationals the goal for Mesa grapplers
Colorado Mesa University wrestler Tyler Nelson got a taste of the NCAA national championships last year.
“That lit a fire under my butt,” the 133-pound junior said. “The taste of success made me want more.”
Sophomore Dylan Granard saw what nationals was like as well and left short of his goal of being an All-American.
“My freshman year was pretty exciting,” the 165-pounder said. “I felt like I came out of nowhere and made a name for myself. I wish I would’ve done better at nationals, but I am ready to go.”
Both of them worked hard in the offseason.
Nelson, ranked eighth in the Division II preseason poll, worked a few camps, stayed in town and trained on a regular basis with teammates.
Granard, ranked fourth, spent a lot of time lifting weights, reaching 180 pounds. He has cut down to 171 and plans to wrestle again at 165.
They not only hope to return to nationals, they expect more of their Maverick teammates to join them this season. Colorado Mesa returns seven wrestlers that competed in the West Region tournament last season.
Junior Jon Gappmaier returns after being one match away from qualifying for nationals at 157. Daniel Romero (125), Bery Tack (141), Trevor Donarski (149), Zak Slotten (174) and Korey Kennedy (197) are all one year older and wiser.
The Mavericks added a NCAA Division II All-American and three junior college All-Americans, yet they are picked to finish seventh in the RMAC again this season.
“I feel like we can close the gap (in the RMAC),” Mesa coach Chuck Pipher said. “The playing field is more even now. I feel we’re ready for a breakout year. Our goal is the top three in conference.”
Austin Boehm will be a national title contender for the Mavericks, likely at 197 pounds, once he clears NCAA eligibility. The senior from Urbandale, Iowa, was an All-American on the national champion Nebraska-Omaha program, which was dropped after last season. Until Boehm is eligible, Jordan Passehl of Montrose proved he’s capable of competing at that weight with his 11-0 decision over Paco Retanes-Quinones on Wednesday night in the Maroon & White Scrimmage at Brownson Arena. Maroon won 25-24.
Junior college national champion Nick Petersen appears to be lock at 184 pounds, replacing Kyle Brightman.
One of the toughest weight classes may be 149, where Justin Schumacher pinned Donarski in 4:26. Donarski, though, defeated Schumacher in the practice room last week.
“Justin took it to him,” Pipher said. “It’s hard to say. That one’s still up in the air.”
Although Tack lost to James Martinez in the 141-pound match, Tack’s experience may help him be the No. 1 guy at that weight.
Mesa’s biggest question mark may be heavyweight unless Trevor Stapp returns after football season. Heavyweight freshman Chris Mayñes of Pueblo won an 8-0 decision over freshman Alex Wranik in the scrimmage.
Mesa begins the season Saturday at the University of Wyoming Open, but Mesa wrestling fans won’t have to wait until the new year to see the Mavericks wrestle at home this season.
Mesa is hosting Western State in a dual at 7 p.m. on Dec. 9, then hosting an open tournament the following day at Brownson Arena.