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Martinez begins preparing for his final postseason 

Illinois%27+Isaiah+Martinez+wrestles+with+Maryland%27s+Brendan+Burnham+in+the+165+pound+weight+class+during+the+meet+at+Huff+Hall+on+Sunday%2C+Jan.+28%2C+2018.+The+Illini+won+25-18.
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Martinez begins preparing for his final postseason 

Illinois' Isaiah Martinez wrestles with Maryland's Brendan Burnham in the 165 pound weight class during the meet at Huff Hall on Sunday, Jan. 28, 2018. The Illini won 25-18.

Illinois' Isaiah Martinez wrestles with Maryland's Brendan Burnham in the 165 pound weight class during the meet at Huff Hall on Sunday, Jan. 28, 2018. The Illini won 25-18.

Austin Yattoni

Illinois' Isaiah Martinez wrestles with Maryland's Brendan Burnham in the 165 pound weight class during the meet at Huff Hall on Sunday, Jan. 28, 2018. The Illini won 25-18.

Austin Yattoni

Austin Yattoni

Illinois' Isaiah Martinez wrestles with Maryland's Brendan Burnham in the 165 pound weight class during the meet at Huff Hall on Sunday, Jan. 28, 2018. The Illini won 25-18.

By Jared Farmer, Staff Writer

Throughout the entire season, senior Isaiah Martinez has zeroed in on one objective: getting back to the NCAA Championships and winning the national title.

With the regular season officially coming to a close and the postseason under way, the NCAA Championships continue to inch closer. While the immediate focus has switched to winning the Big Ten Championships for the next two weeks, Martinez remains completely dialed in on that same objective, even though the next two matches will be his last.

“Every single year, the goal has been to win the national championship, go undefeated and win in a dominant fashion,” Martinez said. “For me, it’s no different than it ever has been. The ultimate grandiose (plan) is to be the champion at the end of the year.”

After losing last year’s NCAA Championship match, Martinez has been especially attentive to detail and is focused on doing what’s necessary to reclaim the championship.

“The postseason is different,” said head coach Jim Heffernan. “There’s a lot of different things about it. But with someone like Isaiah, who’s been through this three times and won it all twice, he understands the necessity to pay attention to details and make sure he’s doing everything right.”

Martinez has already defeated two of the top-ranked wrestlers in the country, No. 15 Nick Wanzek (Minnesota) and No. 9 Evan Wick (Wisconsin), who’ll likely also compete for the conference championship. Despite this, Martinez hasn’t concerned himself with the possibility of facing them again.

“The focus is definitely to win Big Ten’s, but there are really good guys at 165 pounds in this conference, and this year it’s an especially tough weight class,” Martinez said. “There is an awareness of the other wrestlers and what they do, what positions they’re good at, and things that I want to work on in advance, but there’s no preset plan to predict who I’m going to compete against, I just want to be ready for any and all outcomes.”

Martinez remains confident that he’ll continue to accumulate victories going down this final stretch. The margin of error is small and each match will increase in intensity, but this is what he’s preparing for, and he believes he is more than up for the challenge.

“I’ve always figured that I’m probably a few points better than the next best guy,” said Martinez. “Having that confidence and understanding where I am now, I’ll have the next five weeks to widen that gap by any means necessary. Whether it’s just another small half step or something else, I’m trying to keep widening that gap.”

@jaredefarmer

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