Never giving up helped Mesa’s Nelson qualify for wrestling nationals

Mesa State’s Tyler Nelson, right, tries to turn Western State’s Jesse Cruz onto his back during a recent 133-pound match. Nelson is one of three Mavs to qualify for the national tournament, which begins Friday in Kearney, Neb. Nelson’s determination is a big reason for his success.




Fresh off its sweep of Metro State in a battle of teams picked to finish 1-2 in the RMAC this season, Mesa State (6-4, 4-0) has a four-game set this week against rival CSU-Pueblo (6-4, 4-0).

Because of the Bill Fanning Classic, Mesa’s usual schedule is a bit altered. The Mavs play at 4:30 on Friday and Saturday afternoon at Suplizio Field, then a doubleheader starting at noon on Sunday.

The Mavericks are sixth in team batting in the RMAC at .287, but has the best staff ERA (4.12) and fielding percentage (.982) in the conference.

Jeff Popick is second in the RMAC in hitting (.485) and Greg Anderson fifth (.447). Nolan Snell is 2-1 with a 0.54 ERA, second-best in the conference behind CSU-Pueblo’s Tim Pomierski, who has yet to give up an earned run in 10 innings.


Despite splitting their home opening series, the Mavericks (7-6, 5-3 RMAC) lead the RMAC West Division.

Mesa is back on the road this week, playing at Chadron State (5-8, 4-4) on Saturday and Sunday. High on the to-do list this week in practice is to shore up the infield defense, which made some crucial errors in the two games the Mavericks lost to CU-Colorado Springs last week.

Mesa’s pitching was inconsistent after ace Sara Jordan, especially in Saturday’s second game.

Mesa State leads the RMAC in team batting average (.357) but is in the middle of the pack in team ERA (5.56) and eighth in fielding percentage (.943). Jordan (.500) and Gabi Parra (.489) are second and fourth, respectively, in hitting.

Swimming & Diving

Kelly Hogan placed 26th in the 1,000-yard freestyle in the Division II nationals Wednesday, and swims the 200 freestyle today. Freshman Brock Martin failed to make the finals of 3-meter diving, scoring 451.70 points in the preliminary round and finishing 12th overall. Liam Acosta did not make the diving finals.

Hogan, a sophomore, finished in 10 minutes, 42.61 seconds in the timed finals after a preliminary time of 10:21.10. The national meet continues through Saturday in San Antonio. Jaclyn McMillen swims the 100 backstroke prelims Friday morning, with the finals Friday night. The men’s 1-meter diving prelims and finals are Friday, and McMillen swims the 200 backstroke Saturday.

The four are the first Mesa State swimmers and divers to qualify for the national championships. Hogan entered the meet ranked 16th in the 1,000 free, McMillen was seeded 15th in the 100 back and 11th in the 200 back.

Indoor Track

Alexis Skarda likes to be pushed, and she’ll get her wish Friday in the NCAA Division II Indoor Track & Field Championships in Albuquerque, N.M.

The Mesa State distance specialist, who is a sophomore track eligibility but a junior in cross country, will be in the middle of the field during the prelims of the mile Friday afternoon at the Convention Center in Albuquerque. If she makes the finals, she’ll run that Saturday afternoon. Entering the national indoor meet, Skarda, the only Maverick to qualify, is seeded eighth with a best time of 4 minutes, 54.18 seconds. Monica Kinney of Grand Valley State has the best time in the nation, 4:43.64.


Mesa State’s first home game in program history is at 3 p.m. on Friday at Walker Field. The Mavericks (0-3) play Lindenwood (Mo.) University, which claimed an 18-3 win in Mesa’s first game. Mesa State has joined the Western Intercollegiate Lacrosse Association since the sport is not sanctioned by the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference.

The men’s team (0-3) is off until March 16, when the Mavericks play three games over spring break in California. The men’s first home game is March 26 against Adams State, another first-year program.

Mesa State College wrestler Tyler Nelson didn’t upset anyone nationally ranked or win a tournament title this season.

However, Nelson showed up every match and made his opponent earn a win.

His consistent effort paid off with a spot in the NCAA Division II Championships this weekend in Kearney, Neb. The tournament begins Friday morning and concludes with the finals Saturday evening.

“For Tyler to make it, he’s really worked hard,” Mesa State coach Chuck Pipher said. “He got with a nutritionist last year and this fall. He’s paid his dues.”

The 133-pound sophomore is one of three wrestlers who qualified for nationals, a first since the program was reinstated five years ago. Dylan Granard and Shane Miller also qualified.

Two-time defending champion Nebraska-Omaha qualified all 10 of its wrestlers, the only team to do so.

Central Oklahoma, Grand Canyon (Ariz.), Newberry (S.C.) and St. Cloud State (Minn.) each qualified eight wrestlers to the tournament at the University of Nebraska-Kearney.

Nelson (15-17) drew No. 2-ranked Austin Williams (24-5) of Kutztown (Pa.) University in the first round, but Nelson is up for the challenge. Williams defeated Nelson 5-3 in the Grand Canyon Duals on New Year’s Day in Phoenix.

“Going into the RMAC was the same situation, no one expected me to qualify,” Nelson said. “I had to make the best of it. That’s what I’m going to do, have fun. Nobody’s looking at me to do anything. I’m going in really relaxed just like I did in the RMAC. There’s no pressure on me.”

Of Nelson’s 17 losses, only one was by pin and one by a major decision. Both of those came to Western State’s Jesse Cruz, who took second in the region and is on the other half of the bracket. Nelson has wrestled No. 1-ranked Todd Wilcox of Grand Canyon twice, losing 4-1 and 6-1. Wilcox (32-3) is in the same half of the bracket as Nelson.

“All year, everything was close,” Nelson said. “The only kid that beat me bad was the Western State 33-pounder. Other than that, every match has been decided by a couple points. The coaches told me to not get my head down.

“When regionals came, everything was coming together. I started wrestling better in practice. It was believing all year is what it came down to. I never stopped believing I could qualify. I didn’t quit.”

Nelson said he was a little discouraged shortly after going 0-3 in the Grand Canyon Duals, but worked through it.

“(Assistant coach Chris) Freije said, make it fun again,” Nelson said. “I was being too harsh on myself. I lost my last four duals of the season, but they were all really close matches. I wasn’t too concerned about it. I kept my head up and knew I could do it.”

Granard (28-13) drew fifth-ranked Matt Gillie (31-10) of Wisconsin-Parkside in the first round at 165 pounds. Four of the top five ranked wrestlers are in the same half of the bracket, making Granard’s road especially difficult. Granard, though, has upset more than one ranked wrestler this season.

“Chester’s had a great year,” Pipher said. “He’s had a good year as a freshman.”

Granard has placed in every tournament he’s wrestled this season. He was seeded sixth in the region and placed second.

Miller (20-14) faces second-ranked Tyler Copsey (20-0) of Augustana (S.D.) College in the first round at 197 pounds. Top-ranked Donovan McMahill (28-0), a defending national champion from Western State College, is in the same half of the bracket. Also wrestling at 197 are fifth-ranked Eli Arismendez of Grand Canyon and Adams State’s Luke McPeek, ranked sixth.

“Shane is finally healthy and has worked hard,” Pipher said. “He came out of one of the tougher weight classes in the region.

“That’s where we need to be at. He needs to believe he can beat those guys. He’s wrestled some of the top guys in the nation every weekend.”


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