Baltazar signs to wrestle in Colorado
Culver star going to Mesa StateMiguel Baltazar will be going off to wrestle at a school which feels like home.
The four-time 2A/1A state wrestling champ at Culver High signed with Mesa State in Grand Junction, Colo., earlier this month.
"Grand Junction is in the high desert and about the size of Bend," Baltazar said. "It feels just like here (Central Oregon). It's also a smaller city (slightly more than 31,000) so you can drive 20 miles away and be in the wilderness."
Mesa State is an NCAA Division II school with a student population of 6,199 when this school year started.
Baltazar had a 141-9 career record at Culver while becoming just the 14th wrestler to win four Oregon state titles. He was named the 2A/1A wrestler of the year the past three seasons.
He also competed at the junior nationals in Virginia Beach, Va., where Mesa State coach Gary Pipher first spotted Baltazar. It was his third year at nationals. He was eighth at both freshman and junior nationals along with being fifth at sophomore nationals, earning All-American honors each time.
"When I watched Miguel (at Virginia Beach), I was impressed," Pipher said. "Once I started doing research on him, I was even more impressed. Plus, I thought his being from a small town could help us recruit him."
Pipher said he started contacting Baltazar last October.
"We're both from small towns, so we formed a good relationship," said Pipher who grew up in Hotchkiss, Colo., now with a population of 1,000 nearly 70 miles south east of Grand Junction.
In choosing Mesa, Baltazar cited the school's location and Pipher as the primary reasons.
Pipher said Grand Junction was a selling point. He stressed the option of going fishing in the mountains, "in good lakes, not just a hole in the ground."
Mesa State's wrestling program will be in its third season when Baltazar joins the program in the fall. The school suspended the program after the 1990-91 season with Pipher helped revive the program.
"That's kind of neat, to be among the first recruiting classes for the program," Baltazar said.
Pipher was a three-time NAIA national champion while competing at University of Southern Colorado (now Colorado State University at Pueblo).
"My goal is to be a national champion. I think the coach (Pipher) can take me to that level," Baltazar said.
Mesa State is one of several schools Baltazar was considering. He visited Oregon State and King College in Bristol, Tenn. He was contacted by several other schools.
"That Oregon State was looking at Miguel as well, we consider that a feather in our cap to sign him," Pipher said.
Baltazar said the difference between Division I of Oregon State and Division II at Mesa State was a factor.
"If I went to Oregon State, I'd be wrestling for 11 months each year," Baltazar said. "At Mesa State, I can have more of a life."
Baltazar will enter into a pre-optometry program with a goal of being an optometrist. As a youngster, he suffered from vision problems which spurred his interest in that profession.
At Mesa State, Baltazar could wrestle at 125 or 133 pounds. The Mavericks will have "five or six guys" at each weight class when next season starts, Pipher said. Baltazar won his last two Oregon state titles at 125 although he wrestled up to the 135 class earlier those seasons.
Mesa State competes in the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference, which Pipher calls "the toughest Division II wrestling conference in the nation." Univeristy of Nebraska-Kearney is the defending national champion with several other of the 10 competing schools ranked nationally.
In its second season back, Mesa State sent a wrestlers to nationals last season. The Mavericks competed in six tournaments plus several duals. Pipher said a Division II wrestler is allowed to compete up to 18 dates which translates into up to 40 matches.