All-American dreams

Colorado Mesa wrestlers chasing titles, All-America status at national tournament

John Gappmaier is one of three Colorado Mesa wrestlers who hope their second national tournament is more successful than their first.

He was a fixture in the lineup each time the Colorado Mesa University wrestling team took the mat.

Jon Gappmaier could have given up on wrestling to get a less-expensive education at the University of Utah, but he missed wrestling and has been a regular starter for the Mavericks ever since his freshman year.

“It’s been a good experience,” Gappmaier said. “I’ve loved every minute of it. Hopefully, I can end it on a good note.”

He holds the Colorado Mesa Division II school record for wins in a career with 74 and is tied for third on the Mavs’ all-time pins list with 20. He is a two-time national qualifier, three-time regional placer and likely will make the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference all-academic team for the third time this season with a 3.46 GPA.

This weekend, the 157-pound senior will wrestle for the final time in the NCAA Division II national championships Friday and Saturday in Birmingham, Ala.

“At least I have a second chance,” Gappmaier said. “I’ve got to take advantage of it as much as I can. It’s going to be my last tournament competing, so I’m going to give it everything I’ve got and leave nothing behind. No regrets.”

Gappmaier is joined by teammates James Martinez and Nick Petersen at the national meet. All three are making their second consecutive appearance in the tournament.

“That’s what’s good about it. They’ve all been there,” CMU coach Chuck Pipher said. “They know what’s going on. I feel good about the quality of kids we’re taking.

“I think they’ll show up and wrestle well. All three have great records this year.”

All three were disappointed in their results last year at nationals.

Only Petersen placed to earn All-America honors. He took seventh.

“Jonny’s winning 6-3 going into the third period to put him in the semifinals, which would make him an All-American, and he ends up losing in overtime,” Pipher said. “Petersen is winning 5-0 and winds up on his back to put him at 5-5. That would’ve put him in the top six, and he winds up seventh.”

Gappmaier didn’t recover from the quarterfinal loss and was eliminated in his first match in the consolation bracket.

“I went in there with too much expectations (last year),” said Gappmaier, who was ranked in the top eight most of the season. “There was a lot of anxiety. I was pretty stiff. The first time was an eye-opener. I’ve got to go in there and think of it as any other tournament, but leave nothing behind.”

Gappmaier (13-5) was ranked as high as second in the nation in mid-January. He is currently ranked sixth at 157 pounds.

“I’m more excited than worried about it,” Gappmaier said. “Of course, I want to be a national champ, but I’m going to wrestle the best I can more than anything else.”

Petersen wants a national title. He is 24-6 and ranked eighth at 184 pounds.

“My mind-set now is to be a national champ,” Petersen said. “If I go out there and give it everything I’ve got and I still fall short, at least I know I gave it my all. At the least I’ll be an All-American if I try for that national champ.”

If the senior makes All-America status, it will be the third time in his collegiate career. He was a two-time All-American in junior college, including a national champion as a sophomore.

“Nick’s brought some leadership into the room,” Pipher said. “He brought a championship-type attitude.”

Martinez overcame a pair of knee injuries this season that kept him out seven weeks.

His left knee isn’t completely healed, but the 149-pound sophomore from Rifle wanted to wrestle.

Martinez (15-3) is determined to do better this time around at nationals.

“I wouldn’t settle for anything less than being an All-American,” Martinez said. “The coaches deserve that from me.

“I think the same for Jonny and Nick, too. They have a chance to do something great this weekend, too.”


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