Time off doesn’t hurt Mavs’ Martinez
James Martinez wrestled his first matches in four weeks during the past two days, but he made it look like he’s on top of his game.
The Colorado Mesa 149-pound junior partially tore a ligament in his left knee four weeks ago. He rehabbed it until last week.
Martinez rolled through the RMAC/NCAA Division II West Region tournament with barely a scratch.
“You take every day for what it is,” said Martinez, who missed two weeks last year with the same injury in the opposite knee. “I know I’m injured, but I love wrestling. I’m trying to capture the moment. I’m happy to be there.”
He defeated Adams State senior Max Ortega 4-0 in the championship final Saturday night at Brownson Arena.
“James wrestled really well,” CMU coach Chuck Pipher said. “Especially for not wrestling for a month.”
He is one of three Colorado Mesa wrestlers to qualify for the NCAA Division II national championships March 14-15 in Cleveland, Ohio.
Paco Retana took second place at 197 pounds and Chester Granard placed third at 174.
Three more Mesa wrestlers — Trevor Donarski, Jessie Hoffschneider and Jordan Passehl — placed fourth, just missing qualifying for nationals in the first year three qualified from the region instead of four.
The 18th-ranked Mavericks placed fourth in the tournament with 51 points. It is their best finish since the program was reinstated in 2006-07.
“It’s not what we were looking for, but it’s the nature of the beast,” Pipher said. “It’s tough this happened to be the year they dropped to three qualifiers (for nationals). That’s the way it is. We knew that going in.
“We feel like if we had a better day (Friday), we’re in the thick of things. Maybe we have four in the finals and are in the thick of things.”
Western State won the RMAC and West Region team title with 86.5 points. The 12th-ranked Mountaineers had three region champions and seven national qualifiers.
California Baptist, in its first year of eligibility in Division II, took second place with 79.5. RMAC preseason favorite Adams State was third with 62.5.
“I wasn’t sure what to expect. I think there was three of four teams that could win this,” Western State coach Miles Van Hee said. “We won it in 2010, runner-up in ‘11 and graduated everybody. We’ve been building since then. This is more of a seasoned veteran team, but is mostly juniors and freshmen. We’re only taking one senior to nationals.”
Two of Western State’s qualifiers are Olathe High School products, Kyle Piatt and Zach Shank.
Piatt (32-3) won the 184-pound region title with a 3-1 overtime victory over Chadron State senior and four-time national qualifier Jordan DeBus.
It was their first meeting this season.
“It was nerve-wracking, but that’s why you live for this sport,” Piatt said. “It felt good winning in front of our crowd.”
Shank, a 133-pound redshirt freshman, defeated Adams State’s Martin Ramirez 4-1 for third place and qualify for nationals. Shank (23-8) was selected the RMAC freshman of the year by the RMAC coaches.
“I’m so happy right now,” Shank said. “I’m still up there (with his head in the clouds). It hasn’t really settled yet.”
Granard held on to take third place and qualify for nationals for a third time, but it wasn’t the result he wanted when the tournament started.
“I’m kind of disappointed,” Granard said. “This is the first year I haven’t been in the (regional) finals. I didn’t wrestle well this whole tournament.”
The 174-pound senior defeated Easton Hargrave of New Mexico Highlands 5-4 in the third-place match.
Granard was able to score one point for riding time for being in the top position for more than one minute.
“He got a really good slide by on me that I wasn’t expecting,” Granard said. “I got that high crotch and had to keep working and stay in good position. He’s known for throws and trips. I had to wrestle smart and not do anything dumb.
“I knew I had (riding time). I just needed to keep working.”