Mesa State expands wrestling options

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Korey Kostur wants to wrestle in college, and until this year, he had one school on his list of choice at which to do that: the University of Northern Colorado.

Now that Mesa State College in Grand Junction announced its plans to start up its wrestling program again, the Moffat County senior and returning state champion had another option.

"I'll definitely consider it," he said. "I think Mesa could play a big factor for wrestlers on the Western Slope."

Mesa joins Colorado Mines, UNC, Western State and Adams State as the only colleges in Colorado to offer wrestling. The Mavericks are going against a national trend by adding the program. According to MSC Ath--letics Director Nick Adams, 440 wrestling programs have been cut in the United States since 1970.

"We looked at increasing our enrollment, and according to a student-survey, our students wanted wrestling back," he said. "I've never seen so much support for anything than I've seen once we announced wrestling was going to be a part of the school."

The decrease in programs has made it tough for wrestlers who don't win multiple state titles to get scholarship money.

Mark Zimmerman wrestled for Moffat County in the '80s. He was never a state champion but he earned a scholarship on one of the last wrestling teams at Mesa. He left the program shortly before it was cut in 1989.

"I think it's a great thing for Mesa and wrestlers around here," he said. "Since it's a state school, it can be cheaper for guys, and for the Moffat wrestlers, it's closer to home than any other options."

Zimmerman's nephew is a familiar name in Moffat County wrestling: Ty Weber is one of two, two-time state champions in Bulldog history. He lost a controversial overtime match his junior year, or he would have been a three-time champion.

Weber had initially signed to wrestle for a community college in Wyoming, but ended up staying in Craig.

"I think since it's closer I would have considered it," Weber said. "Moffat guys tend to not go on because of few options."

Weber, who graduated in 2003, has entertained the idea of enrolling at Mesa.

"I've thought about it," he said. "But I'm getting too old."

Mike Smith, a four-time state champion from Nucla, is in his freshman year at Mesa.

He told the Grand Junction Sentinel that he would strongly consider wrestling for the program next year.

"I never thought about wrestling beyond four state titles," Smith told the Sentinel. "If it does come back and they get a strong coach, I'll probably wrestle."

According to Zimmerman, having a strong coach is important.

"My coach there was an assistant football coach," he said. "We would go to meets, and he wasn't there. He cared more about the football program."

Having a coach fully committed to the program has helped make Moffat County a powerhouse in Colorado wrestling. Roman Gutierrez has coached the Bulldogs to five state titles. He's glad to see that his wrestlers will have another option to be a student-athlete in college.

"Anytime something is created to increase options for wrestlers, it's good," he said. "You'd think they could have a good program with the talent pool they have. It also sounds like they have some good guys interested."

Kostur could be one of those guys.

"Some of my friends will be down there," he said. "My brother (Kyle) is down there to."

Kostur and wrestlers on the Western Slope aren't the only ones to benefit from Mesa expanding its athletics department. The Mavericks now have a girls swimming and diving team as well as a girls track and field program.

Former Moffat County girls swim coach Ed Stehlin moved to Grand Junction after his resignation in Craig and is considering helping the team. Brittani Weber, a 2005 graduate of Moffat County, has been in conversation with the Mesa track program to throw shot put for the school.

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