Experience, depth have Mesa hoping for good year
At one time last season, the Colorado Mesa University wrestling team was ranked ninth in the nation and sitting in first place in the historically tough Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference.
It was the Mavericks’ highest national ranking and first time in first place in the RMAC since the program was reinstated in 2006.
Mesa finished second in the RMAC and 22nd in the nation, but five wrestlers return this season, and two more are back after missing most of last season.
“We lost some good seniors that had some success for us,” CMU coach Chuck Pipher said. “The good thing is Chester Granard is back with a chance of being a two-time All-American, and James Martinez is back with a chance to be a two- or three-time All-American. We are building with guys that are three- or four-year starters. ... Also the kids we’re recruiting in are working with that-much-better kids. The depth of our room has grown rapidly. We have some good, tough kids in the room.”
The Mavericks, who received some votes in the national coaches poll, are picked third in the RMAC preseason poll.
“We had a good preseason,” Martinez said. “We tried to focus on more intense conditioning in preseason, so when we get into the season we don’t have to focus as much on conditioning and more on wrestling.
“Top 10 is a realistic goal for our team. I think we can accomplish that. We’re solid all the way through. We have some good, older kids in the room now. We’re not based off a bunch of freshmen. We expect to be in the top 10 in the nation. That’s a high expectation for us.”
Martinez, a two-time national qualifier, earned All-America honors last season with a sixth-place finish at the NCAA Division II national championships. The junior is ranked third in the coaches preseason poll at 149 pounds and is on the preseason All-RMAC team.
“James doesn’t do a lot in the offseason,” Pipher said. “I’d like to see him wrestle more, but he is solid. He is solid top to bottom. He is one of our best in all three starting positions (feet, on top, on bottom).
“He knows what it’s all about.”
Granard is back this season after he was pulled in January for ulcerative colitis that led to him being anemic. Ulcerative colitis is a chronic disease of the colon or large intestine.
“It was frustrating,” Granard said. “I felt like I was going to faint every time I walked off the mat. The coaches kept telling me I wasn’t working hard enough. The anemia came on from the symptoms of the ulcerative colitis. Unfortunately, I didn’t get it taken care right away.”
The senior was so anemic he was taking four iron pills each day. He couldn’t get his blood count back to normal levels to return to the mat.
Granard will wrestle up a weight class at 174 pounds this year. He is a two-time national qualifier and was an All-American in 2012.
“This year, everything’s under control,” Granard said. “I take medication. It’s pretty much like it’s not even there. I’m healthy.”
He is ranked eighth at 174 pounds.
“I was surprised I am ranked, not finishing last year,” Granard said. “I’m excited to be in a new weight class. I’m a lot quicker than most of the 74-pounders.”
The 184-pound weight class is open after the Mavs lost two-time All-American Nick Petersen. He is a graduate assistant coach this season.
Pipher brought in junior college transfers Scott Verner and Edwin Guttierez to compete with returning wrestler Caleb Wyatt.
Verner was a two-time junior college All-American at Western Wyoming Community College. Guttierez is a two-time junior college national qualifier at Neosho County (Kan.) Community College.
“They could figure in the mix at 184,” Pipher said. “One-eighty-four is our weight right now that is the biggest question mark for us.”
Juniors Paco Retana and Jordan Passehl are switching weight classes. Retana is moving down to 197 pounds. Passehl is moving up to heavyweight.
Jonathon Stelling had a solid freshman year and moves up to 133 pounds this year.
The 157- and 165-pound weight classes will be competitive and could see more than one guy wrestling in those weight classes throughout the season.
Senior Justin Schumacher returns at 157, but senior Trevor Donarski is back after a redshirt year.
Grand Junction graduate and redshirt freshman Jessie Hoffschneider is competing with returning wrestler Tyler Miles for the 165-pound spot vacated by Granard.
Daniel Salazar is healthy and will likely wrestle at 141 pounds. Drew Schumann, who wrestled at 141 last year, will likely redshirt.
Freshmen Collin Welcher and Erick Vargas will compete for the 125-pound spot.
The Mavericks have three open tournaments in the first month of the season, giving Pipher plenty of time to determine starters for RMAC duals.
“Adams (State) is the team to beat,” Pipher said. “They have kids that can score points at nationals, no doubt, but when looking at duals, they could be beat.”
The Grizzlies have three nationally ranked wrestlers, including No. 1-ranked Jerry Huff at 125 pounds and No. 1 Ryan Fillingame at 141. They have four wrestlers on the preseason All-RMAC team. Huff is the preseason RMAC wrestler of the year. He was a national runner-up last year.