Oh, so close

Tight matches hurt Mesa in loss to Northern Colorado

Colorado Mesa’s Nick Swanson, back, tries to turn Northern Colorado’s Kyle Rodriguez in a 149-pound match Thursday night. Swanson won the match 15-0, but the Mavs ended up losing the dual.

Colorado Mesa’s Daniel Salazar smiles Thursday night after pinning Northern Colorado’s Ben Polkowske at 141 pounds in the Mavs’ 22-21 loss at Brownson Arena. The defeat was the Mavs’ first in a dual.

Paco Retana spent most of the second period fighting off a tilt attempt, knowing Colorado Mesa needed a win from him to put the wrestling dual in the hands of the heavyweights.

Successful in denying his opponent any back points, the Mavericks’ senior 197-pounder then resorted to the unconventional ways he’s known for in the final period to win by pin, and Mesa led 21-19 going into the final match.

But the last match was another close one, and too many close matches got away from Division II’s sixth-ranked team to knock off Division I Northern Colorado, which eked out a 22-21 win in a nonconference dual Thursday night at Brownson Arena.

It was the first dual loss of the season for the Mavericks after a 12-0 start, and Retana said it was disappointing to miss out on an undefeated season, but ultimately, “It doesn’t matter. Now we’re going for the RMAC title. That and nationals, that’s the real prize.”

The more important duals of Mesa’s three straight nights of wrestling are tonight and Saturday.

The Mavericks can clinch at least a share of the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference regular-season championship with a win at 7 tonight when they host New Mexico Highlands. Then, they host Colorado School of Mines at 7 p.m. on Saturday.

Hopes of remaining undefeated looked like a real possibility four matches into the dual.

After the Bears won the opening match at 125 pounds by pin, Mesa’s Colby Christensen moved up a weight and won a major decision at 133. Daniel Salazar came back from a 5-2 deficit, reversing his opponent to his back for a second-period pin at 141, and Nick Swanson was subbed into the lineup and earned a technical fall at 149.

That gave the Mavericks a 15-6 lead with senior James Martinez, ranked No. 3 in Division II at 157 pounds, taking the mat. Martinez took a 5-2 lead 32 seconds into the third period, but the Bears’ Beau Roberts rallied and eventually turned him with five seconds left for a three-point nearfall and an 8-5 win.

That was the first of four straight wins for Northern Colorado, which got a major decision at 165, a 6-2 decision at 174 and a 7-6 win at 184, giving the Bears a 19-15 team lead.

That put the onus on Retana to win his match. The score was 2-2 to start the second when Northern Colorado’s Trent Noon quickly put Retana in a precarious position, close to turning him for most of the period, but he never got him over.

“He had me tied up in a knot pretty good,” Retana said. “I knew I couldn’t give up points, and no matter what, he wasn’t going to get my chest off the mat. He wasn’t going to roll me over.”

In the third period, after Noon escaped, Retana countered a shot, took Noon down and turned him for two back points with a minute left. Three seconds later, he turned him again and got the pin in 6:11.

Retana said he likes to call his wrestling style “controlled chaos,” and in this instance, “I went for something, caused a little motion and ended up in the better position.”

Mavs senior Jordan Passehl, ranked No. 8 in Division II, got taken down with 55 seconds left in the heavyweight match and trailed 2-0. He escaped with 51 seconds left and finally got a takedown with 10 seconds left for a 3-2 lead, but there was just enough time for Northern Colorado’s Brian Macchione to snatch the win away as he escaped with two seconds left for a 4-3 win.

“He was a little off to the side of me and had the edge and the momentum,” Passehl said of the escape.

Mesa coach Chuck Pipher said the dual loss stung, and a few of his wrestlers learned they can’t lose concentration at the end of their matches.

“We’ll be all right,” he added. “We’re going to learn from it. It’ll make us better.”


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