Former Illini Isaiah Martinez Wins Second U.S. Open Title

Illinois%27+Isaiah+Martinez+celebrates+after+defeating+Michigan%27s+Logan+Massa+in+the+165-pound+weight+class+during+the+match+at+Huff+Hall+on+Jan.+20.+Martinez+won+by+decision+and+the+Illini+defeated+the+Wolverines+34-6.
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Former Illini Isaiah Martinez Wins Second U.S. Open Title

Illinois' Isaiah Martinez celebrates after defeating Michigan's Logan Massa in the 165-pound weight class during the match at Huff Hall on Jan. 20. Martinez won by decision and the Illini defeated the Wolverines 34-6.

Illinois' Isaiah Martinez celebrates after defeating Michigan's Logan Massa in the 165-pound weight class during the match at Huff Hall on Jan. 20. Martinez won by decision and the Illini defeated the Wolverines 34-6.

Austin Yattoni

Illinois' Isaiah Martinez celebrates after defeating Michigan's Logan Massa in the 165-pound weight class during the match at Huff Hall on Jan. 20. Martinez won by decision and the Illini defeated the Wolverines 34-6.

Austin Yattoni

Austin Yattoni

Illinois' Isaiah Martinez celebrates after defeating Michigan's Logan Massa in the 165-pound weight class during the match at Huff Hall on Jan. 20. Martinez won by decision and the Illini defeated the Wolverines 34-6.

By JJ Kim, Assistant Sports Editor

Former Illini wrestler and current volunteer coach Isaiah Martinez collected back-to-back U.S. Open Freestyle titles in Las Vegas this past weekend.

After his victory at South Point Arena, the 74-kilogram wrestler qualified for the 2019 World Team Trials Challenge Tournament Wrestle-Off. If he continues to string victories together, Martinez could advance to the Final X, a best of three series against Jordan Burroughs who last year’s bronze medalist. Should he win in the Final X, Martinez would earn a spot on the U.S. Senior World Team.

Martinez outlasted his opponent Tommy Gantt 6-4 in the finals. After getting up to a strong 6-0 lead, the score proved to be insurmountable for Gantt.

The Lemoore, California native’s success shouldn’t come as a surprise because of his impressive career as a wrestler for the Illini. Similar to his success in the U.S. Open Freestyle titles, Martinez was a back-to-back NCAA champion in 2015 and 2016. With a 116-3 overall record, he also was named an All-American four times and ranks 10th all-time on Illinois’ all-time win list.

Moreover, freshman Zac Braunagel was able to earn a spot on the Junior World Team in Greco Roman at 82 kilograms. Braunagel bested his opponent Max Wohlabaugh 2-0 as he punched his ticket to Estonia where he’ll compete in the Junior World Championships from August 12-18, per fightingillini.com.

Braunagel and his twin brother, Danny, both notched second-place finishes in their individual freestyle brackets. Zac claimed his victory at 86 kilograms while Danny won at 74 kilograms. Another freshman, Justin Cardani, managed to finish in seventh place at the U.S. Junior Open.

For Martinez, the World Team Trials are right around the corner and he’ll have to head down to Reynolds Coliseum at North Carolina State University on May 17-19.

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@JJKimSports