Longtime Cheyenne Mountain friends head to college together to wrestle for Colorado Mesa

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Photo - Seniors Matt Betterson, left, Zach Garrard and Zac Baker pose for a picture Wednesday, April 12, 2017 at Cheyenne Mountain High School during National Letters of Intent Day. Betterson will play football at Kansas Wesleyan University while Garrard and Baker will wrestle at Colorado Mesa.  (The Gazette, Christian Murdock)
Seniors Matt Betterson, left, Zach Garrard and Zac Baker pose for a picture Wednesday, April 12, 2017 at Cheyenne Mountain High School during National Letters of Intent Day. Betterson will play football at Kansas Wesleyan University while Garrard and Baker will wrestle at Colorado Mesa. (The Gazette, Christian Murdock)

Two friends will have another four years together because Cheyenne Mountain High School senior Zach Garrard tagged along.

Indians senior wrestler Zac Baker convinced Garrard, whom he has been teammates with since fifth grade, to make the five-hour drive with him for Baker's recruiting trip to Colorado Mesa in March.

Garrard was committed to play football elsewhere, but tagged along to be a good friend. That favor soon decided the college destination for both all-conference wrestlers.

"I told him I was thinking of going to Mesa and he wasn't going to wrestle in college at all," Baker said. "I didn't want to go out (to Grand Junction) alone so he came with me and we both just fell in love with school. It's exciting to be able to continue wrestling and go to college together."

They signed their NCAA National Letters of Intent during a Wednesday afternoon ceremony recognizing 12 CM students going on to compete in college.

"Seven years is quite a while when you're 18," Garrard said about their longtime friendship. "Every team I have been on, Zac has been on too. We have drawn closer and closer over the years and now we'll be in college together."

The two liked the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference School program and campus, their future teammates and committed almost three weeks later.

"I was always worried about not knowing anyone and having to start over," Garrard said. "But now I am really excited because I know some of the other wrestlers too from competing. Already knowing someone there takes away a lot of the stress."

They told the coaches of their decision about a day apart while keeping each other in the loop on their plans.

Now they get to make the transition from high school to college, both as students and as athletes, while helping each other along the way.

"Going into college is a huge step in our lives and it is awesome to know I will have a friend with me," Baker said.

Not everyone got an instant college buddy.

Garrard was offered a football scholarship to NAIA Kansas Wesleyan and was planning to play with another longtime friend, Matt Betterson, who signed with the Coyotes on Wednesday.

Betterson may have been a little disappointed, but he kept it all in perspective.

"I am just happy for him," he said.

"He would have been a lot of help at Kansas Wesleyan but he will do great in Mesa. I am just proud of him. I loved the vibe of the football program and got a pretty decent scholarship, which helps."