Mesa's Retana, Martinez qualify for wrestling nationals with semifinal wins
Paco Retana is going back to the NCAA Division II national wrestling championships.
The Colorado Mesa junior upset top-seeded Caleb Gerl of California Baptist 10-6 in the 197-pound semifinals on Friday night in the NCAA West Super Regional at Brownson Arena.
Retana was a surprise national qualifier two years ago as a freshman heavyweight, but couldn’t pull it off last year.
“Last year, I had a lot of things personally going on,” he said. “Since then, I have focused more on my wrestling.
“Knowing the (regional) tournament was here, I gave it my all. I don’t want to save anything.”
Retana will be joined by Mesa teammate James Martinez in the region finals at 6 tonight.
The Mavericks have five more wrestlers in the consolation bracket with a chance at placing third and joining Martinez and Retana at nationals March 14-15 in Cleveland, Ohio. Mesa is in fourth place with 36 points.
Western State has five wrestlers in the regional finals, including Olathe High School graduate Kyle Piatt. The Mountaineers, who have three more in consolation, lead the team race with 62.5 points. California Baptist is second with 55 points and Adams State is third with 51.
“It’s tight,” Western State coach Miles Van Hee said of the team race. “We needed to push everyone through, but we won five great (semifinal) matches. Now, we need to get the other guys through the back door.”
Piatt (30-3) will be making his second consecutive trip to nationals after pinning Highlands’ Igor Gomzin in 2:42 in the 184-pound semifinals.
“It feels good,” Piatt said. “We wrestled into overtime the last time. We have great fan support. It’s hard not to wrestle well in front of a crowd like that.”
Gerl took Retana down for the first points of the match in the 197-pound semifinal, but the crowd got Retana going once again.
“You’ve got to love the crowd,” Retana said. “Seeing them shout gets me going. I don’t really think, I just kind of do what I do.”
Retana (18-8) scored a takedown and near fall in the second period for a 4-2 lead. He went up 6-2 in the third, but Gerl responded with a reversal and near fall to even the match 6-6. Retana reversed Gerl, then added a near fall for the victory.
“Paco had a heck of a match,” CMU coach Chuck Pipher said. “That guy won the tournament in California. You can tell Paco has got that look in his eye. He does stuff extra (in the practice room). He’s earned what he’s got.”
Martinez (17-2) qualified for nationals for the third consecutive year. He defeated San Francisco State’s Conrad Snell 6-2 in the 149-pound semifinals.
“James was in control the whole match,” Pipher said. “He’s been out four weeks, but looks like he hasn’t missed a beat.”
Martinez was out the past four weeks with a torn MCL in his left knee. It was the same injury Martinez had last season, but in the right knee.
“It’s a huge relief because of my knee,” Martinez said. “Chuck says every day push through it.”
Three Mesa wrestlers were one win away from advancing to the regional finals, but they can still qualify for nationals by placing third.
Senior Trevor Donarski nearly rallied from a 5-0 deficit before losing 9-5 to Adams State’s Daniel Kelly in the 157-pound semifinals.
CSU-Pueblo’s Trevor Grant upset Chester Granard in the 174-pound semifinals.
California Baptist’s Jacob Mitchell (15-0) was too much for Mesa heavyweight Jordan Passehl. Mitchell pinned Passehl in 1:57. Mitchell had pinned his quarterfinal opponent in 1:00.
Colby Christensen and Jessie Hoffschneider rebounded from quarterfinal losses to win two matches in the consolation bracket to reach the consolation semifinals.
Mesa’s Erick Vargas, Daniel Salazar and Willy Holdren were eliminated.