Mavs' Granard performing well on mat in senior season
Chester Granard came to Colorado Mesa University as a walk-on five years ago.
Now, the senior from Woodinville, Wash., is Mesa’s all-time wins leader, and he hopes to cap his career with a third appearance in the NCAA Division II National Championships.
The Mavericks host the NCAA Division II West Super Regional beginning at 11 a.m. Friday at Brownson Arena. The championship finals are scheduled for 6 p.m. Saturday. The meet doubles as the RMAC Tournament.
Granard is having an excellent final season. He’s been ranked nationally most of the year and is ranked seventh going into regionals.
“A lot of guys go out to wrestle him to survive,” CMU coach Chuck Pipher said. “If you’re not careful, he’ll put you on your back.”
Granard is keeping a more open mind about this season, but he still hopes to earn All-America honors one more time.
“I’m trying to stay positive and do the best I can,” Granard said. “I have a pretty good record. I need to prove myself against the tougher guys.
“I’m right in the mix. My weight class is really tough. There are a lot of returning All-Americans.”
Granard was poised and focused on winning a national title last year, but became ill at the Midwest Duals in mid-January.
Pipher realized something was wrong with Granard.
“Where I really noticed to the point where we needed to get him checked out was out in Kearney (Neb.),” Pipher said. “A kid in his fourth year and as healthy as him, it just wasn’t right.”
Pipher contacted Granard’s parents.
“For him to gas a match where he couldn’t lift his arms, just wasn’t right,” Pipher said. “His whole body was red. He’d walk off to the wrong side of the mat because he’s so turned around.”
Granard was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis — a chronic disease of the large intestine — last year.
“They flair up pretty bad with exercise and stress, especially cutting weight,” Granard said. “I would bleed internally and get anemic.”
Granard noticed it before, but the symptoms would go away. After he was checked out, he found out his mother has the same illness.
“I had to get tested every week,” Granard said. “It was frustrating because I couldn’t wrestle.
“I feel like a little bit of my college has been wasted. If I was healthy, I wonder how much better I would be now.”
At first, Pipher figured Granard would return later in the season, but his body didn’t fully recover in time. Granard eventually was cleared to wrestle, but he was out of shape and had to cut weight.
“I’ve never seen anything like that,” Pipher said. “I think it was very tough for him. It really bummed him out. He had an opportunity to be a four-time national qualifier.
“In wrestling, it’s hard to have four straight years of being healthy. That’s why we’ll wrestle freshmen right away. It’s rare to keep it and hold it all the way through.”
This year, Pipher bumped Granard up to 174 pounds.
“I think he’s enjoying it more than he thought he would,” Pipher said. “He didn’t think he could compete at 74s. You think, as a wrestler, I need to get as low as I can go. When you’re cutting weight all the time, it takes the fun out of it.”
Granard is one of three wrestlers Pipher believes has a great shot of qualifying for nationals. The others are sixth-ranked James Martinez at 149 pounds and fifth-ranked Jessie Hoffschneider at 165. Pipher said three more have a good shot in Daniel Salazar (141), Trevor Donarski (157) and Paco Retana (197). The rest will need an upset or two to qualify.
Martinez is ready to go after sitting out two weeks with a knee injury. Salazar returned to practice Saturday from a knee injury. Willy Holdren will wrestle at 184 pounds.
Every win Granard records adds to his school record for career wins, and he’d like to qualify for nationals as the super regional and conference champion, then try to improve upon his eight-place finish at nationals in 2012 and earn All-America honors again.
“Nothing would be more fitting for Chester than an RMAC (regional) title,” Pipher said.