A very good change of plans: Slotten doing well wrestling instead of playing football

Zak Slotten has been impressive on the wrestling mat for the Mavs this season, especially when he expected to play football, not wrestle at Mesa State. Slotten and the Mavs take on Western State tonight.


Wrestling doubleheader

Mesa State College is hosting a high school dual at 5 this evening between Grand Junction and Paonia prior to its dual against 11th-ranked Western State at 7 tonight at Brownson Arena.

Admission is $5 for adults, $4 for seniors and $3 for students. High school students with a valid high school ID receive free admission. Doors open at 4:15 p.m.

Spectators are encouraged to wear gold for the Mavericks’ throwback week festivities.

Sometimes a person’s expectations change.

Mesa State College freshman Zak Slotten hoped to play football in college. Instead, he is wrestling and doing well.

Slotten, who planned to walk on, showed up late this fall to play football, but was encouraged to return for spring practice. After visiting with high school teammate Joey Hamilton, who came to Mesa to wrestle, Slotten decided to try out for wrestling.

“It’s been going good,” Slotten said. “I originally thought I would redshirt and got my chance because our varsity guy (Jake Goddard) got hurt. I kept working.

“It was a good thing for me not knowing I was going to wrestle. It kept me from getting burned out. It’s been challenging, but fun.”

Slotten (15-11) filled in when Goddard was injured and has held the 174-pound varsity spot. Slotten will wrestle for the Mavericks (6-6, 3-3 RMAC) against ninth-ranked Western State (8-5, 4-1 RMAC) at 7 tonight at Brownson Arena.

“Zak Slotten wrestled a great match last week against a tough kid from Chadron,” Mesa State coach Chuck Pipher said. “We pulled him out of redshirt in December and he’s really come on. He’s beat some good kids. We’re pleased with Zak right now.”

Slotten credited his teammates and assistant coach Chris Freije for his success.

“I put in a lot of time and hard work,” Slotten said. “I’ve been lucky with the guys in here to work out with, having those good partners every day. They’re not going to let up. They’re doing it to make me better.”

The Mountaineers, who hosted Colorado School of Mines on Wednesday night, are coming off their first home dual loss of the season to 13th-ranked Grand Canyon (Ariz.) University last week.

Tonight’s dual is the first of four consecutive home duals for the Mavericks. Grand Canyon and No. 19 Fort Hays State visit next Wednesday and No. 11 Nebraska-Kearney wrestles the Mavericks one week from today.

“We know we can wrestle with them,” Pipher said. “We’re glad we’re home. We’ve been traveling for a while. We hope all that travel pays off when we head to San Francisco (for regionals).”

“Our next four duals will be tough. We need to turn it up a notch right now.”

Pipher might have Rhett Breed (141 pounds) and Trevor Donarski (149) back tonight after both have been resting the past month with knee injuries. Both veteran wrestlers will be match-time decisions, Pipher said.

Pipher’s son, Charlie Pipher, who is ranked second in the nation, is expected to wrestle for the Mountaineers at 184 pounds tonight.

Mesa junior Kyle Brightman (12-9), who has won his past nine matches, will likely draw the assignment to wrestle Pipher.

“Hopefully he’ll finish up strong,” Pipher said about his son. “I’m tired of facing him. I’ve been throwing freshmen, sophomores and seniors up against him for the five years he’s been wrestling.

“He’ll be wrestling Kyle and Kyle is a great kid. I know he’ll go out and give it everything he’s got to beat Charlie, and he should. I’ve got to coach Kyle to try to beat Charlie. It’s tough, but that’s my job. On the other hand, if Charlie can’t beat (Brightman), Charlie better get better. He knows that’s how I believe.

“The story line isn’t over after Thursday night. They could meet again at regionals or nationals. If Kyle’s going to compete and be an All-American, he’s going to have to wrestle guys like Charlie, whether he’s my kid or not.”


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