Martinez drives Illini toward upcoming season


By JJ Kim, Assistant Sports Editor

Having just competed for a spot in the United States’ World Championships team this past summer, former Illinois wrestler and current volunteer assistant coach Isaiah Martinez will assist the 2019 Illinois wrestling team in getting a competitive edge with less than a month to go before the season commences. 

Martinez is a decorated athlete. He is a two-time 157-pound NCAA national champion, going back-to-back in 2015 and 2016, defeating Brian Realbuto of Cornell and Jason Nolf of Penn State respectively and becoming the third Illini to ever do so. He also won the Dike Eddleman Male Athlete of the Year for the 2016 season, given to the top athlete at Illinois. Martinez also holds the Illinois career win percentage record (.975), going 116-3 during his time as an Illini wrestler.

Following a victory in the U.S. Open Championship at 74 kilograms, Martinez competed in the World Team Trials Challenge Tournament in Raleigh, North Carolina where he defeated  Jason Nolf in a best-of-three series, 2-1. This qualified him to compete in the Final X, which is the final obstacle between a wrestler and a spot on the U.S. Senior World Team. 

Martinez’s opponent in the Final X was 2018 World bronze medalist, and his foe from last year, Jordan Burroughs, in a best-of-three matchup, with the winner securing a place on the 2019 Freestyle Senior World Team at 74 kg.

Unfortunately for Martinez, he came up short again to Burroughs. The first two rounds were close, as both Burroughs and Martinez split a round, but in the third and final round, Burroughs emerged victorious by a score of 7-1. 

Even so, Martinez is one of the most impactful wrestlers Illinois has ever seen. He’s been a part of the Illini coaching staff on a volunteer basis since the 2018 season and will look to help the team bounce back from a 2-9 record last year. 


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