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Niwot graduate Paco Retana is putting together an impressive collegiate wrestling career at Colorado Mesa University.
Photo courtesy CMU Athletics/Jordan Hoyle
Niwot graduate Paco Retana is putting together an impressive collegiate wrestling career at Colorado Mesa University.

 

The best part of the 2013-14 wrestling season for Paco Retana might be that he just doesn’t have to eat so darn much anymore.

For the past two years, the Colorado Mesa wrestler had to pack on the pounds just to be able to make weight for wrestling some of the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference’s big boys.

Although somewhat successful when it mattered — he captured a conference/regional championship at heavyweight in 2012 — the junior and former Niwot athlete this season was finally put in a position that maximizes his build.

And he’s thriving at 197 pounds for the Mavericks as they enter the Super Region 4/RMAC Championships this coming weekend.

“Going up weight classes and wrestling guys upward of 60 pounds heavier than me, much stronger than me, I’ve definitely been able to use that,” Retana said. “I’ve definitely found that ability once I got down to 97’s to be able to hold guys down, and the style that I wrestle is very unorthodox. Getting people off balance and using my strength to my advantage, that’s helped me out this year.”

Retana has his first winning record guaranteed this year, already 15-8 on the season with one heavyweight win and 12 pins. He’s looking at another NCAA Division II Championship berth, which would go to the top three wrestlers to come out of the region.

He’s twice been named the RMAC wrestler of the week this season, most recently for the week of February 11.

The winning record is nice, as are the accolades, and for Retana a lot of it has to do with his past and the way he voluntarily filled a void for the Mavericks when they needed a heavyweight.

As a walk-on, that’s the kind of thing you just do, without asking questions, and Retana was ready and willing to go up to 220 to 225 pounds even though he’d be giving up 50 to his opponent.

“Our heavyweight two years ago just kind of got burned out, and my coach (Chuck Pipher) just asked if I could give it a try,” he said. “Next thing you know, I won the RMAC championship and qualified for nationals.

“Naturally, they were going to keep me at that weight class the next year. There were some injuries that kept me there.”

This year, it was apparent that teammate Jordan Passehl would be better suited for that upper weight, and the task for Retana quickly became slimming down while maintaining strength and agility.

Though almost as tough a task as being asked to overeat, it is safe to say he has made a successful conversion.

“Luckily I knew it was going to happen well in advance,” Retana said. “It was just a matter of finding the time to (work out). I came back from the summer a little big, but I’m down there now. I’m controlling it well.”

“He qualified for nationals as a heavyweight and pulled a few upsets there,” said Niwot coach Scott Sanchez, who added he still texts back and forth with Retana to stay in touch. “I haven’t seen him a lot since (2012), but he looks a lot better at 197.

“Actually, we’re going down next weekend to watch him at the regional in Grand Junction. We try to keep an eye on how he’s doing.”

That regional this year is going to be a little more difficult to win. Whereas four wrestlers from each weight qualified last year for nationals, it has been pared to three thanks to the ever-changing landscape of collegiate athletics.

“Records don’t really matter, just for the purposes of your (regional) seeding,” Retana said. “We lost a team or two to a different conference and one to Division I. Our region just got tougher because they are only taking three.

“It’s fun. Having that change and having a lot more success as far as wins and pins … it’s good to wrestle guys my own size.”

 

 

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