Pair of redshirt freshman grapplers settling in for Mavs

Pair of redshirt freshman grapplers settling in for Mavs

James Martinez, top, has become a solid wrestler for Colorado Mesa after using his redshirt year to learn.

Jordan Passehl, top, could have played football, but chose to wrestle for Colorado Mesa instead.


Colorado Mesa Wrestling

CMU vs. CSU-Pueblo, 7 p.m. Thursday, Brownson Arena

CMU vs. No. 9 Adams State, 7 p.m., Friday, Brownson Arena

Notes: Colorado Mesa 133-pound junior Tyler Nelson will likely face two nationally ranked wrestlers this week in No. 5 Ryan Fillingame of Adam State and No. 6 Jesse Hillhouse of CSU-Pueblo. Adams State has five nationally ranked wrestlers, including No. 2 Luke McPeek at 197 pounds. Mesa is 2-0 against the ThunderWolves since CSU-Pueblo reinstated its program in 2009-10. Mesa is 0-5 against Adams State since Mesa’s program was reinstated in 2006-07.

Redshirt freshmen tend to have a bumpy year learning the ropes of college athletics.

That’s been the case for Colorado Mesa University wrestlers James Martinez and Jordan Passehl, but both have shown potential.

“Both of them could be national qualifiers,” Colorado Mesa coach Chuck Pipher said. “They may have to beat some guys with better records than them, but they could be national qualifiers. I could not be happier where they are at right now.”

The two Western Slope high school graduates have filled in the lineup and competed each time out on the mat.

Both of them will wrestle at 7 tonight against Colorado State-Pueblo and at 7 Friday night against No. 9 Adams State at Brownson Arena if they are healthy. Both were ill earlier this week.

Martinez (16-7), who is from Rifle, is second in the RMAC with seven pins. Before settling in at 141 pounds, Martinez went 7-3 at 149.

“He wasn’t highly recruited out of high school, but as he has started wrestling for us, we can see he’ll develop into a college wrestler and be more successful in college,” Pipher said.

“He stays in great position. He’s tough on his feet, on top and bottom. He’s probably one of our best guys on the team in all three positions and that’s rare for a young wrestler like him.

“The sky’s the limit for James.”

Passehl (12-13), who is from Montrose, has five pins this season at 197 pounds.

“He had some options (out of high school),” Pipher said. “We had to work a little harder to get him. Last year, he was behind Shane Miller. He’s still in the learning process. His body hasn’t totally matured. He’s got a lot of growing room.”

Passehl had more football options than wrestling.

He was being recruited for football by Wyoming, Colorado State, Mesa, Western State and Colorado State-Pueblo.

“The thing is as my senior year with football ended, I had the offers,” Passehl said. “They wanted me to go on recruiting trips during wrestling.

“It was kind of hard because we were traveling. They needed to know before wrestling season was over, but I wanted to see how wrestling went. By that time, I was leaning toward wrestling and leaning toward here.”

Martinez didn’t bother looking at other institutions. He wanted to be close to home and wrestle for Pipher.

Both redshirted last year and took advantage of the opportunity to learn college wrestling to prepare for this season.

“I’m glad I (redshirted), just for a building base, I guess,” Passehl said. “It was a good experience. It got me ready for this year and it’s still a lot different than what it was (in high school).”

“I was happy I redshirted,” Martinez said. “It gave me a break and got me hungry for this year.”

Martinez, who cut weight so he could make the varsity lineup at 141 pounds, missed two weeks earlier this season with an abdominal injury.

“It was a big cut to 41s, but it was nice to get the mat time I needed early,” Martinez said. “If I’ve got to do it, I’ll do it.

“I’m happy (with his season so far). It will be the tell-tale at regionals. I wish I didn’t have the injuries and illness I have.”

Passehl has wrestled at 197 all season.

“I definitely have my other teammates and coaches working with me and pushing me,” Passehl said. “Having (assistant coach) Charlie Alexander helps because he can wrestle me.”

Both of them started out slow, but have shown improvement.

“Neither of them started out very good,” Pipher said. “Both placed in the Wyoming Open in the younger division as true freshmen. This year, neither one of them placed, but now they are wrestling tough.

“Both of them are good, solid kids. They both work hard, both do well in the classroom. They do anything you ask. We couldn’t ask for two better Western Slope kids.”


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