Colorado Mesa's Retana finally wrestling guys his own size

Paco Retana walked on to the Colorado Mesa wrestling team four years ago. He’s won a conference title in the heavyweight division despite wrestling men who were nearly 80 pounds heavier. He’s now wrestling at 197, his natural weight.

Paco Retana is hoping to have another big season for Colorado Mesa’s wrestling team, especially since he’s wrestling guys his own size.


PACO popular with teammates

Paco Retana is an easy-going guy.

Although he is competitive and takes wrestling seriously, he’s usually smiling and keeps a fresh perspective. No one knows that better than his practice partner, Jordan Passehl.

“He’s one of my best friends,” Passehl said. “I’ve been hanging out with him on my fourth year now.

“He’s a funny kid to be around. He’s real easy-going. I feel like a lot of us are, for the most part.”

Passehl not only wrestles with Retana in the practice room on a daily basis, they usually room together on road trips.

“I don’t know if you’ve seen the Jean Claude Van Damme commercial for Volvo and he’s standing on the two semis; they spread out and he does the splits in between them,” Passehl said. “That came on one night, so he tried to stand up between the two beds and do the splits. He’s different, but he’s funny, though.”

Paco Retana was a three-time state qualifier at Niwot High School.

He placed fourth at state as a junior and returned to state his senior year at 189 pounds — the same weight class as CMU teammate and practice partner Jordan Passehl, who wrestled at Montrose.

“We were both ranked in the top three all year long,” Retana said.

The two were in the same classification (4A) and in the same half of the bracket at state, but Retana came down with the flu and had a partially dislocated rib.

“We should’ve wrestled in the semis,” Passehl said.

Retana ended up 2-2 and didn’t place. Passehl capped an undefeated season with the state title.

Paco Retana walked on to the Colorado Mesa University wrestling team in 2010.

Coach Chuck Pipher didn’t expect him to last.

Retana not only made the team, he’s a three-year starter for the Mavericks.

The junior is finally wrestling at his ideal weight this season.

“He’s a great kid,” Pipher said. “A walk-on kid to where he’s at now — a conference champion —you couldn’t imagine he’d be a three-year starter and successful.”

After a redshirt year, Retana wrestled the past two seasons at heavyweight, where wrestlers can weigh as much as 285 pounds. Retana, though, barely got above 200 pounds. He surprised everyone and won the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference heavyweight title as a redshirt freshman.

Last season, opposing coaches and wrestlers were more aware of him. He went 29-42 during his two years at heavyweight with 12 wins by pin.

Jordan Passehl, who wrestled at 197 pounds the past two years, was getting bigger and stronger, and Retana wasn’t growing at all, so Pipher switched the two this year.

“Jordan was having a tough time keeping 97s,” Pipher said. “Now he’s close to 248. Paco was never going to be a big heavyweight. The good thing is we have them both for another year.”

Both wrestlers are having more success.

Passehl is 16-5 with six pins. Retana is 10-4 and leads the team with eight pins.

“His style is kind of funky,” Pipher said of Retana. “He has great hips, probably the best of anyone on the team. When he gets guys on their back, they can’t get off (their back). Most of the time, he’ll pin them right there.

“He’s still figuring out the 97s. Those guys are more quicker than the heavyweights. He’ll get caught here and there. He did in the dual against Bethany. In the end, I think he’ll be there for us.”

Retana didn’t have to worry about cutting weight the past two years, and he doesn’t have to change his diet much to wrestle at 197.

“I came in the summer at 232,” Retana said. “The summer consisted of a lot of TV and potato chips. I still got my lifts in, but there wasn’t much cardio.”

When he returned to school, he started to amp up his cardio workout to get his weight down, but he didn’t have to alter his diet much, he said.

“Honestly, I feel like I eat more when I’m cutting weight. I’ll portion it out,” he said. “I’ll eat five to six times a day to keep my metabolism going. For the most part it is similar-size meals.

“Once we got into the hang of things, my weight hasn’t been far off. I haven’t cut all that much. I’m in the single digits to cut weight to make weight.”

It’s been a slight adjustment for Retana to wrestle at his ideal weight after two years of wrestling guys sometimes more than 50 pounds heavier.

“It was more of a style change than anything,” Retana said. “At heavyweight, I had to wear guys down and do more hand fighting and keep moving.

“The biggest change I’ve seen at our open (tournament) when it hit me was the commitment of shots. Guys will commit to a shot and go 100 percent at it, instead of fake it.”

Retana had to adjust his approach to wrestling at 197 pounds, relying more on his strength than his quickness like he did at heavyweight.

“I definitely feel stronger than I have (at heavyweight),” Retana said.

He won five consecutive matches and six of seven, including five by pin, after the Christmas break.

“The break definitely helped me,” Retana said. “Those couple weeks we had off from training definitely helped the body recover. It was nice to get away from the grind a little bit and look forward to the next three months. A lot of it is mental, especially after the loss before Christmas.”

Retana’s goals haven’t changed much since moving down a weight class.

“The goal has never been different. You always want to make the top of the podium,” Retana said. “I think it changes for me with smaller things. I’d like to have the most pins on the team or in the nation, but wins are all that matters.”

Retana said he’s more comfortable taking shots at takedown points at 197 pounds as opposed to heavyweight.

“I can do things I wasn’t able to before,” Retana said. “Taking certain shots against bigger guys would hurt my shoulder. Now, we’re the same size, I feel more comfortable taking shots.”

Retana had sore shoulders by the end of the season the past two years wrestling heavyweight, but he never missed any time with an injury.

“That’s part of his flexibility and staying out of trouble,” Pipher said. “His shoulders are worn a little bit. If he wrestled heavyweight again, he could’ve torn them up.”


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