College bound … Tim Long heads to Mesa State |

College bound … Tim Long heads to Mesa State

Jeff CaspersenGlenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Post Independent/Kara K. Pearson

RIFLE With two older brothers, Tim Long no doubt did as much grappling at home as he did on the mat growing up. But it’s the organized wrestling that’ll land him a heavily discounted education.Fresh off a senior season with Rifle High School that saw him knock down a 152-pound Class 4A state title, Long is taking his wrestling prowess to Mesa State College in Grand Junction.Staying close to home and the chance to wrestle for coach Chuck Pipher shaped Long’s decision.”Mesa is just close, more realistic, and wrestling’s a pretty big family sport,” said Long, whose brothers and father also wrestled growing up. “Chuck Pipher’s a good coach. I’d heard really good things about him.”Long also entertained overtures from Morrisville College (N.Y.), Missouri Valley College (Mo.) and a couple of small schools in California. He said interest in his wrestling services surged after his February triumph at the Colorado state wrestling meet at the Pepsi Center in Denver.”I got a decent amount of calls wanting me to come check out the schools and everything,” he said.

But, in the end, proximity prevailed.”It’s a really good fit for him,” said John Wisniewski, Long’s coach at Rifle. “He’s a really family-oriented kid, so being close to family and them being able to go down and watch him will be good.”Family being big in Long’s life, it’s no shock he picked up wrestling. His dad and brothers both wrestled and played football, just as he did.”I’ve been wrestling since before I can remember, I guess,” Long said. “Wrestling and football is all that I’ve ever really done growing up.”Before moving to Rifle in the late 1990s, Long spent his early childhood in Kansas, where wrestling’s presence is much stronger.”In Kansas, it was basically year-round wrestling,” Long said. “In Colorado, you can do it year round, but you have to go find it. In Kansas, there was a tournament every weekend within 20 miles. Here, you have to go to Denver, Reno, Las Vegas.”

And finding competition is exactly what Long and his father, Wayne, did. The pair have racked up major mileage throughout the years.”From freestyle and Greco, we’d just go around hitting tournaments that aren’t even in the state,” he said. “Most of it was individual, me and my dad going places. Last year, I trained with the Colorado national wrestling team.”Long’s independent wrestling efforts have proven just as fruitful as his prep exploits.In April, he plowed through a 67-wrestler bracket to win the 152-pound weight class title at a big tournament in Reno. He said topping the huge field – with opponents from throughout the country – rivaled his state-title run.”In Reno, I wasn’t wrestling for Rifle, I was wrestling for myself,” he explained. “That’s a bigger tournament. I had a lot of people in my bracket. Reno was tougher, but state was more emotionally hard, with your family there and everything.”Now it’s time for Long to put the high school and club scene behind him, something Wisniewski doesn’t anticipate will be an issue.

“I don’t think he’s hit his peak,” the former University of Wyoming grappler said. “Some wrestlers hit their peak in high school. I was a wrestler, like Timmy, who didn’t really hit my peak at wrestling until college, and I did really good things.”Mesa State only last year reinstated its wrestling program, which had been on hiatus since 1990-91. The Mavericks took their licks last season, winning just two duals, but Pipher has hit the recruiting trail hard this offseason.Nine of the 14 wrestlers in this year’s recruiting class are from the Western Slope, with six state champs – Long included – among those nine. Pipher is a well-credentialed coach and a former state champion himself, winning titles as both a student and coach at Hotchkiss. He then put together a storied collegiate career as a four-time NAIA All-American at the University of Southern Colorado (now CSU-Pueblo).Expect Long, once his wrestling days are done, to follow in Pipher and Wisniewski’s footsteps. “It just depends on how good I get, I guess,” he said. “I could end with four or five years of wrestling, but in the big picture I’d like to be a coach somewhere, maybe at a small college or bigger high school. I think I could be a pretty good coach.”

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