Despite losing No. 1 Neb.-Kearney, RMAC wrestling still looks tough
The Mavericks are not alone in expecting they will be better this season.
The Colorado Mesa University wrestling team is picked third in the RMAC preseason poll released two weeks ago.
“They made a statement last year,” Western State Colorado University coach Miles Van Hee said. “They’ve got some recognized guys at certain weight classes. The parity in the RMAC is getting stronger. Mesa is a solid program top to bottom.”
The Mavericks have more preseason All-RMAC selections than anyone with four.
Grand Canyon (Ariz.) University, an associate member, is picked to win the RMAC with eight first-place votes. The Antelopes took third at nationals last season.
“Grand Canyon no doubt gets a good junior college recruiting class,” CMU coach Chuck Pipher said. “I feel like we should be in the top two there. Adams always puts together a good team. On paper, they are ahead of us, but I feel we have a pretty good team.”
Adams State University received one first-place vote and is picked second, and Western State Colorado University is fourth.
“Two years ago, we were fifth in the country and graduated eight of 10,” Van Hee said. “It was no secret last year was a rebuilding year. We started six freshmen last year. Our youth showed last year at regionals.
“We’re a year older this year, and it shows. We’re a more seasoned team. We’re trying to get back to where we want to be.”
The Mountaineers are led by preseason All-RMAC wrestler Elliot Copeland (soph., 184 pounds), but he likely will wrestle at 174.
Van Hee expects Olathe High School graduate Kyle Piatt to challenge in a tough 184-pound weight class.
“Piatt made the biggest strides over the summer,” Van Hee said. “He’s in such a tough weight class. Some kids bumped up from 174 and one down from 197. There are 11 All-Americans at that (184-pound) weight class, but I like our chances with Kyle Piatt.”
Nebraska-Kearney and Fort Hays State left the RMAC after last season, but they remain in the NCAA West Regional. Simon Fraser (Canada) University joins the region this year.
“I’m bummed about losing Kearney,” Van Hee said. “Year in and year out it is a national-contending team. It’s unfortunate, but I understand. It makes sense. We’ll see them in our region. We’ll accept that.”
Kearney won the national title last year and is the preseason No. 1-ranked team in the National Wrestling Coaches Association Division II poll.