The Origins of a Wolf: Patrick Martinez and the Hunt for Gold

Patrick Martinez greco roman wrestling
Original photo: John Sachs

Don’t misunderstand Patrick Martinez’s story. There have been lumps to take. It just doesn’t seem like it. Sure, the native Californian has enjoyed a rock star’s rise towards the top of the US Greco Roman ladder, having won a National title along with making the World Team in 2015 with just one complete year of competition under his belt. And of course, he also took home bronze medals from two tough international tournaments this summer and right before that, dominated through the University Trials. But that doesn’t mean Martinez has it all figured out. If anything, not having it all figured it out and understanding that fact is probably what has made him so successful early on in his still-young career. 

They call him the “Lone Wolf” for a reason — Martinez is willing to go anywhere and do anything, even if it’s on his own, if the objective is to acquire more knowledge. That’s the secret for being a Greco Roman wrestler in the United States. The appetite for this unique brand of physical education is only satisfied when an appropriate amount of blood and tears have been spilled. Danger lurks in reassurance, therefore, the comfort only lies in the unknown. The trail has to be windy simply because a shimmering paved path leads back to the same place. And there isn’t gold there. 

Which is exactly what Martinez is hunting for — knowledge and gold. Perfect would be the situation if both were to be located in the same place. This athlete is banking on the fact that is the case as he attempts to make his third World Team next month in New York. But right with the goals and dreams and lessons well-learned is the cost he’s willing to pay and the people who have helped get him where he is. Martinez is constantly reminded of the ones who prop him up. It’s a tale fitting for a relative neophyte and the crazy thing is, the story has just begun. 

5PM Interview with Patrick Martinez

5PM: What were some of the preconceptions that you had prior to switching over to full-time Greco?

Patrick Martinez: I didn’t know I would travel this much and see the world. And make friends from other places where they may not speak the same language, but we all speak the universal language of wrestling.

5PM: Okay, so following your collegiate career, let’s say you were around 23 at the time, what was it that attracted you to Greco in the first place?

PM: When I finished college I knew I wasn’t done competing. I still had the drive in me to keep competing. At that time, I was around 74 kilos, which for freestyle, is a pretty stacked weight class. And I felt, Oh well, maybe I’ll give Greco a try. I actually never wrestled 75 kilos in Greco and I got a little bigger after college. I think that is one of the reasons why I wanted to continue wrestling. I didn’t know if freestyle was the route to go and growing up in high school I had enjoyed Greco. I was a two-time All-American at Fargo, so it was always something that I found interesting. As soon as I was done with college, I decided to just go with it and here I am now.

5PM: Do you notice a cultural difference between Greco and freestyle? Not just with the OTC guys, there are Senior Greco Roman athletes at other training facilities. But is there a cultural difference with the way Greco kind of exists and does things from the other style?

PM: I think we have more fun, to tell you the truth (laughs). Honestly. We take things very seriously but we also like to smile and have fun while we’re training. It just seems when the freestylers are here, they are all pretty serious and not that easy-going. We have a pretty easy-going feeling among the Greco wrestlers. Maybe the freestylers are a little more intense in their attitudes when they are at the Olympic Training Center and I feel that us Greco wrestlers like to have a little more fun.

5PM: What’s interesting about that is Greco is a more violent sport in comparison. It’s a brutal sport, and that’s not to take away from any other style, but it’s true. You wrestle long enough, you’re going to get beat up. There are prices to pay.

PM: There are, there are. You know in this country, freestyle gets all the attention, it gets all the glory, and they get all the perks. Meanwhile, we’re just out here training and having fun with it. It’s that kind of thing. We will earn what is ours when the time is right, but we have to work for our praise a little harder than freestylers do.

5PM: That’s a fair point because what I’m actually asking, is do you think that because Greco is a more brutal sport that demands so much physically, you guys need to unwind and have fun a little more than other wrestlers?

PM: I would say so. I would say that is a correct assumption.

5PM: Do you think that Greco attracts a different kind of athlete by and large than freestyle does?

PM: That’s a good question. Maybe not a different type of athlete, but a different skill-set. You have to be a lot more technical in Greco. To the untrained eye for someone who is just watching from afar, freestyle is going to be more exciting because there is more movement, there’s more scoring, stuff like that. But as a Greco athlete, you are engaged the whole time. You are constantly using your core, your hips, and you have to feel your opponent’s position and use that against him. So it might appear to not be as entertaining to watch sometimes but when we do score, it’s more exciting. For the most part, I would just say Greco is more technical than freestyle because of body position, body awareness, and using your opponents’ positions against them.

5PM: Greco athletes in this country seem like a small-knit community and it’s not just the OTC athletes, although the OTC wrestlers in particular are seen that way. People throw around the word “family” a lot pertaining to you guys, as if you are all part of a family unit.

PM: Yeah, we are our own entity. We do everything together. We’ve got six guys who are on campus and we train together everyday. Freestyle doesn’t have that. They have a couple of guys here and there, and sure, they will come in for camps. But they don’t have the same training environment us Greco wrestlers have day in and day out.

5PM: You are in a situation where you and someone else in your room are looked upon as the top two contenders in the same weight class at next month’s non-Olympic World Team Trials. Obviously, we’re talking about Cheney Haight. Many wrestlers have experienced this before and approach it similarly, like, We’re cool in the room but when it’s time to lock horns, here we go. Is that kind of your relationship, is that where you stand?

Patrick Martinez: Yes. I like Cheney a lot as a person. He’s one of my favorite people in the room to drill with and work out with. Him and Andy (Bisek) both are my favorites because they have a better feel than most due to their experience. But I don’t fucking like him when it comes to competing against him, you know? That’s my competition. And I’ve always been that way, I’ve always had that mentality. If I’m wrestling you, I don’t like you and I couldn’t care less about you — while we’re wrestling. But off the mat is a completely different thing and training is a different thing.

But yeah, I would say even when we go live in the room, I have a little bit more invested in it. Which I shouldn’t, it should just be practice. But I do pay attention a little more to how I score, how he scores, how the match goes, stuff like that.

Patrick Martinez at 2015 US Open finals

Martinez attempts to turn Courtney Myers (Army/WCAP) at the 2015 US Open (Photo: John Sachs)

5PM: So, you’re kind of a guy looked at as being in two weight classes despite having made a World Team already at the weight you’re trying for again. But you have wrestled at 85 kilos a fair amount, you entered the Olympic Trials at 85, the University Trials at 85. So how is your mindset now a little less than a month out of these Trials? Do you see yourself strictly as an 80 kilo guy at this point?

PM: Honestly, I always see myself as an 80 kilo guy. I feel like I am one of the biggest, strongest, fastest 80 kilo wrestlers out there. When I went up to 85 I believed in myself, but I knew I wasn’t the right size to contend with the best in the world. So, with that being said, I believe this will be my last hurrah here at 80 because I do want to compete at the Olympic level and the World stage, and I’m going to have to adjust my body to that. It’s pretty certain that these next couple of tournaments will be the last times I’m going 80. I’ll finish out 2016 at 80 and then more than likely it be 85 for the rest of the time.

5PM: It’s funny you should say that because although you felt like you might not have had the adequate size for 85, you sure have competed very well at 85. It’s not like you were whitewashed. 

PM: No, I have, I have. But for me mentally right now, during my whole career I’ve felt that 80 is the ideal weight for me, and after this set of tournaments here I am going to need to change my mindset and convince myself that 85 is the ideal weight. And to do that, I’m going to need to put on some size and put on some strength. But I fully believe that is the right weight class for me because I don’t need to be jumping back and forth after this one.

5PM: You wrestled at 80 twice in a row overseas during the summer, both were bronze medal performances and they got you ranked. Both tournaments featured tough, tough competition. What kind of role did these performances play not only in your development but also, in your confidence as a world-level competitor? 

PM: In Poland, I really kind of came into my own and noticed that I’m right there with the top in the world at 80 kilos. I had a great training camp there and wrestled with Mark Madsen from Denmark quite a bit. I wrestled with a couple of Polish guys, a couple of Algerians, and I was competing well with them. Maybe not winning every situation, but definitely being competitive and learning from it. So I would say Poland was kind of my coming-out party. In my mind, that is where I gained a lot of knowledge and confidence that this is where I belong.

It was the same thing in Spain, I carried on that same mentality, so I am itching to get back to some international competition soon and put my skills to the test more.

5PM: If we go back to last year’s Worlds, do you feel the difference in yourself now compared to then as a competitor?

PM: Oh definitely, I was a baby back then (laughs). I was in shape and I knew how to hand-fight, and that kind of was what got me through the first year, year and a half of Greco wrestling. But I am still constantly learning everyday and now I’m starting to get a feel for the technique and the positioning that I am going to need to be the best in the world. It’s a process. It’s not going to happen overnight, it’s not going to happen in two or three years. It’s going to take a little time.

5PM: You just said “hand-fighting”, and hand-fighting for Greco Roman wrestling is a very distinctive skill-set that while applicable to other styles, isn’t native to them. It is its own monster. 

Patrick Martinez: It’s a constant battle. You’re using your legs, your arms, your core, it’s a full-body workout. I can’t name another workout that would be more beneficial than hand-fighting for Greco Roman.

5PM: How long did it take you into your Greco career for you to feel confident and comfortable in your hand-fighting?

PM: It took me a while. When I first started training, I was living in Florida and working out with the Florida Jets and Geordan Speiller. I remember working with him quite a bit and I was always getting off-balance, this and that, kind of getting pushed around. But I kept on coming and I kept on coming and I kept on coming back for more. It took me a little bit of time just to kind of get my legs underneath me. I always had the heart and the drive to fight, but it took me a while to get my balance and positioning down enough so I wasn’t getting put off-balance and my face pushed in all the time. It probably took me a good four to six months just to figure out how to hand-fight for Greco.

5PM: Your legs. What is it about your legs? Is that a genetic thing?

PM: (Laughs) It must be, it must be a genetic thing. My dad had me out there doing squats, I was probably lifting weights too young (laughs). He had me in the weight room at an early age always working on legs. He had me competing in Olympics-style lifting in middle school. And that was a real good base for me as a wrestler just because it is such a common lift in any sport really. In college, they spent a couple of weeks going over clean-and-jerks and snatches and all that, so I had a head start.

That is something I would recommend to younger kids who have the drive or have the foresight to wrestle at a higher-level, and that is to learn the Olympic lifts at a younger age. You don’t have to go super-heavy, but it’s going to work on your explosion and you’re going to have a head start training in college or at the OTC because that’s all we do is Olympic-style lifts. There is a lot of technique involved but once you get it down, you can start working on your explosion. It’s great for wrestling, especially for Greco Roman wrestling. Any time you throw, you’re popping your hips and arching your back. It’s kind of the same motion, you have the bar up , you get it above your knees, and then you’re popping your hips. That’s all Greco Roman wrestling right there.

5PM: It’s worth noting because we’ve learned more about fitness over the last decade than we did the previous two decades before that probably. And after all these new-fangled fitness trends were exhausted, the value of Olympic-lifts still remains as high as ever. It seems coaches by and large see these lifts are more useful than ordering their wrestlers in the weight room to do lat pull-downs and biceps curls. 

PM: Oh yeah. It’s fun to do some of those beach-body workouts every once in a while, but they’re not that functional for what we’re doing.  I mean, I think as a wrestler you have to be well-rounded, you have to have your lifts for endurance and your power lifts and stuff like that.

5PM: Before you started Greco, were there any athletes you paid attention to or may have noticed?

PM: I went to Temecula Valley High School and when I was in the kids club growing up, after practice Dan Henderson and his guys would come into the room and train MMA. It was before he opened his gym up in Temecula. So kind of the trade-off for him using the room after our practice was once a week they would come in a run a Greco practice for us. So that was a great thing to have growing up. I got a little bit of a background at 7, 8, 9 years old of what Greco Roman wrestling was. I kind of looked up to him when I was younger, probably more as a fighter, but it did help that he showed us Greco Roman wrestling. That was Dan Henderson, Heath Sims, and I think that was it, actually. It was cool having them around when we were kids training in the room.

5PM: What about current guys? Are there guys you look to whether it’s watching their style and incorporating parts of it into your game, or just key in on for leadership?

PM: Recently in the past couple of weeks Andy Bisek has been in the room, he’s been in there usually in the mornings. He’s not doing anything crazy. But I’ve gotten the chance to really pick his brain and wrestle with him. We kind of go off to the side during practice and we’re still wrestling hard, but we are working on specifics and he’s giving me feedback about what he feels and stuff like that. I definitely look up to Andy for the way he’s been helping me out. He also helps out RaVaughn (Perkins) the same way, so I’d say Andy is who I look up to in that sense.

And then there’s Robby (Smith). He’s still our leader even though he’s been out with his surgery. He is still the voice and “the beard” of OTC Greco Roman wrestling. Andy is the quieter guy and Robby takes that leadership spot pretty well. So without those two in the room consistently, Cheney and I are the two oldest right now and Cheney is pretty soft-spoken. I’m not the most outspoken either, but I’ve definitely noticed taking on a little bit of a leadership role. I’m more of a lead-by-example kind of guy than voicing my opinion and this and that. I try to lead-by-example the best I can.

5PM: Andy brought up something following the Cadet World Championships that I don’t think gets talked about enough, which is the concept of “feel” pertaining to international wrestlers. We see this at the age-group levels the most and it sure stands out a lot every year at the Worlds for the younger guys because the US sends out really talented teams that struggle. I think American fans don’t understand that there is a different feel involved with international opponents. 

PM: Yeah, I don’t think they get it. Most of them think, Oh, Greco Roman wrestling, just don’t touch the legs. They don’t understand that it’s a whole different sport. There is not much in common between freestyle wrestling and Greco Roman wrestling. There is that “feel” I was talking about earlier where you have to use your positioning and your opponent’s weight, putting him off-balance and stuff like that to create motion. There is a different feel that is hard to get here in the US, and that is why I like wrestling with Andy and Cheney, experienced guys.

Patrick Martinez wins US National title

Martinez posing with his National title. (Photo: John Sachs)

5PM: When did you start wrestling?

PM: Five, maybe six years old. Six years old.

5PM: Oh you were really young. 

Patrick Martinez: I’ve been at it a while. My dad was a high school wrestling coach so I was predestined to be a wrestler.

5PM: As an adult, do you think that there is a right or wrong age to start wrestling? Do you think there is a minimum age that is ideal or just, the younger the better? I ask this question a lot. 

PM: I wouldn’t say the younger the better. I would say introducing them to the sport at seven or eight years old, but don’t make it their livelihood at that age, let them play other sports. Let them experience different things, let them play team sports, let them play individual sports. If the day comes when they want to wrestle, they are going to have all of those skills and all of those different athletic attributes that come from other sports. As a kid, play it all. Don’t pick a sport to focus on until maybe middle school or high school.

5PM: Did you play other sports?

PM: I didn’t in high school. Growing up, I played a couple of sports here and there. I played soccer for a year, basketball for a year, flag football for a couple of years.

5PM: Wait, you played basketball?

PM: Yeah, for a year. I was in maybe second or third grade. I think I fouled out most of the games. They would always blow the whistle and say my number and I’d be like, What the hell did I do, you know? (Laughs) I didn’t know what I was doing wrong, I guess I kept fouling. In first grade I played soccer and I was still getting yellow-carded and red-carded. I remember one game, the ref stopped the game and gave me a yellow-card. I wound up kicking her and getting ejected from the game (laughs). That’s how short-lived my soccer dream was.

5PM: My daughter plays soccer. If she kicked a referee I would take her to Chuck E. Cheese immediately. 

PM: (Laughs) I think that was my dad’s fault, he had me doing taekwondo, too, so I thought I could kick the ref and get away with it. But yeah, I regret not playing football in high school. I was kind of on the fence about it. I know my dad definitely wanted me to. I remember making that decision my freshman year, Ah, I just want to focus on wrestling, I don’t want to get injured playing football. But now that I look back on it, I probably would have played football.

5PM: In your opinion, are there traits from traditional team sports like baseball, football, or soccer that carry over to wrestling?

PM: I’d think that maybe playing soccer would increase your agility, for one. Just different things like that. I wouldn’t say there are major things that translate over except for it being a fun pastime or working on your athleticism. So let’s say with baseball, you can work on your hand-eye coordination. They are all valuable things for wrestling, but they are not essential. You’re going to gain them wrestling, but you can improve them by doing other sports, as well.

5PM: What about a chemistry type of situation, building camaraderie, teamwork, that sort of thing? Can a kid gain something from that arena and apply it towards wrestling?

PM: Yeah, I think doing a team sport and having that camaraderie translates over great to wrestling. I didn’t have a very close high school team, there were a couple of clicks here and there, we weren’t that tight. At the University of Wyoming, again, there were still some clicks and we weren’t that tight as a team. But the one time I did have that team-bonding was at the University of Nebraska-Kearney, we did have that closeness there. We had a great bond and probably one of the most fun moments of my wrestling career was when we won the national title as a team. That’s something I’ll never forget. I didn’t win the nationals that year, but winning it as a team was just so special to me. But yeah, I would say that team sports do have traits that can help you bond as a wrestling team.

5PM: What is something about you that people might find interesting that they didn’t know?

PM: I don’t know if this is interesting but it’s something that is unique to me and that is growing up, it was just me and my dad. He played the roles of coach, father, mother, and role model, and sometimes it was a little overwhelming for me as a young wrestler. You know, having your coach live with you and no mother-figure to run to. I think I had to grow up tougher than some other wrestlers because my dad was a little bit of a hard-ass when I was younger. He eased up as I got older, but we had a mat in the living room, holes all in the wall from wrestling. We would drill together all the time.

I remember in sixth grade we were in the living room drilling and I think we were working on an outside single or something. I was doing it over and over and over again, and it wasn’t right no matter how many times I did it. He kept on telling me it was wrong and I was growing really frustrated. You know those angry tears you have? I started crying and he’s yelling at me that I was still doing it wrong. Finally, he told me I did it wrong for the last time and I pushed him and he went through the window (laughs). I was getting ready to take off down the road because my grandma lived close by. I was halfway out the door about to head to her house and my father just starts laughing. He said, “No, that was good, you finally fought back.” That was in sixth grade. I was scared shitless though.

5PM: Before you compete, regardless of what the stakes are, what is your competitive approach before you walk out on the mat?  Acute situations. Do you have, not to sound, but a “place” you need to be mentally in to get up for competition?

PM: Yes, I do have a place I like to be in. I’m sure it varies on the tournament. I know that last week it was four weeks out from the Trials and maybe subconsciously I noticed something click in my mind, I’m a lot more focused, a lot more alert, a lot more driven than I was in the prior weeks. It’s maybe something that I gained subconsciously from years of competing where when I would see that tournament date approaching, something inside of me clicks. I tend to take things more seriously, I cut out distractions more and more as it gets closer to the date. I still like to have fun and not be super-serious like a freaking Nazi, but I do notice that I am more serious the closer and closer it gets.

5PM: How about the actual day of an event, you weighed in the day before. Obviously, weighing in has its own concerns.

PM: Okay, so the day of an event, I have a routine that I like and I try to keep that routine as much as I can in my training as well. So for instance, tournaments usually start at 9:00am, the same time as our first practice in the morning. For a tournament, I’ll get up at 6:00, get ready, go downstairs, find some breakfast, eat at 6:30-6:45. I’m doing the same exact thing in training. I get up at 6:00am, I get my stuff together, eat by 6:30-6:45, let me food digest, and then get ready for the workout. It’s the same thing with competition. I get my food digested, I go up, grab my bag, and I head to the arena an hour early to start my warm-up.

I try to mimic my routine in my day-to-day life so when it comes time for competition, my body isn’t thrown off by getting up at 6:00am and trying to get little bit of food in me. It’s used to the routine. I’m big on routines. It’s something I like to do, it gets me mentally-focused. I know when I’ve had a good routine and I am doing what I need to do, that is when I am at my sharpest mentally. 

5PM: So it sounds like you’re into simulating the circumstances you’ll need for competition so far as in you’ll pack a bag and start your day.

PM: Yes, it’s the same thing as my routine. I’ll wake up, I’ll get my workout clothes ready, or it’s my competition gear I’m getting ready. Then I’ll go eat, go back to my room, use the bathroom and all that kind of stuff, and then head out to the wrestling room or the competition. So it’s all a routine that I like and am familiar with. But I also have to keep an open mind because everything might go right in training, but when you are in a foreign country, you might not have your routine, your bus is going to be late, things like that. So I don’t dwell on it if it doesn’t go right, but it’s something that I do try to maintain.

5PM: What are your favorite countries to visit and why?

PM: I would say so far my favorite is Budapest, Hungary. I have a few girlfriends there (laughs). I’ve been there probably four or five times, so I’m familiar with it. I know the layout of the city, I know where to eat, and it’s a beautiful, beautiful city. I think they call it the “Paris of the east.” There is a lot of architecture and a lot of things going on to go see. The people are nice, the majority of them speak English or enough to get by, certainly better than some other countries. So I would definitely say Budapest is my favorite. Except for that one time Jesse (Thielke) and I got swindled by gypsies, but that’s another story (laughs).

5PM: So Budapest, yeah, that’s popular for the US guys. Poland wasn’t the easiest trip for you over the summer, isn’t that right?

Patrick Martinez: My flight got changed, I was a day late coming in, and no one communicated with their federation to come pick me up. I was stranded and didn’t know where to go. The taxi was going to cost $150 one way so I just wound up getting a rental car.

5PM: Yeah, but that is when more problems started. 

PM: Oh okay, so I can go into the full story, huh?

5PM: Absolutely, I think it’s necessary. 

PM: I get off the plane and there is no one there to pick me up. I get on the phone with people in the US, our coordinators or whoever, and it’s maybe three or four in the morning there, so no one is picking up. I’m trying to talk to people in the airport, trying to pull something up on my phone and point out on the map where I think I need to go. Finally, I’m talking to the taxi driver and I show him the directions. That’s when he told me it was going to be 150 American dollars. So I said, “No, no, that’s not going to happen.” I go to a couple of other drivers and they’re all telling me the same price and there’s no way I’m paying that because that’s just one way and I’m coming back after the tournament. That’s $300.

So as I was walking around the airport, I see the Avis Rental Car place. I go up to them and ask how much it would be to rent a car for ten days or whatever and she tells me $175. Of course, I’m going to jump on that, it’s the only way I am going to get to Spala, which is the city I had to go. I fill out all the forms and hand them in. I’m a little skeptical using my credit card in a foreign country, not sure if they are going to overcharge me. But I do it because it’s my only option. So I go down and I find my car. It’s a stick, a manual. Now I know how to drive manual but I’m pretty rusty and obviously I’ve never done it in a foreign country. I’m downstairs in the parking garage and to get out of my spot it was a very tight turn. So I’d have to go forward and then put it in reverse, and then go forward again. So I go forward and then put it in reverse, and I put it in first gear. The car goes forward a couple of feet. I put it back in neutral, shake the stick around, try to put it back in reverse again and it goes back into first gear. It’s doing it again, I can’t get the damn thing to go into reverse.

I don’t know what I’m doing wrong and I’m getting nervous and starting to sweat. I’m getting closer and closer to this car in front of me that happens to be a BMW. Finally, I’m like, Damn, I’m not going to make this turn, I have to do something. So I put the car in neutral and hop out real quick so I can push it out of this turn and as I hop out, it starts to roll forward and bumps the BMW (laughs).  The alarm starts going off on the BMW and it’s an underground parking lot, so it’s really loud. I hop back in, throw it in first gear, and drive off as fast as I can.

As I’m exiting the parking garage, one of the rental car workers is in the middle of the road. So I stop and roll down my window. He comes up to me, he speaks really good English, and he starts yelling at me, “You hit my car! You damaged my car and you’re going to have to pay for it!” I knew there was no damage because I looked at it and there wasn’t a scratch. So I put it back into first, rolled up the windows, and took off. And that was that (laughs). There were no extra charges on my credit card or anything like that. As far as I know, I’m not a wanted man in Poland.

I didn’t even have a GPS. All I had was an old-school map that the lady from the Avis desk had given me. She wrote down what streets I should take but I can’t read their language. Plus, I had to focus on the road and it wasn’t easy getting out of the city. Once I got out on the highway I was alright, but it took quite a while to find my bearings.

5PM: How far away was Spala?

PM: About a two and half to three-hour drive.

5PM: So it was a hike.

PM: It was a hike, but getting out of Warsaw was the tough part, I think I made five or six U-turns and went the wrong way a couple of times. You know, in Europe they drive differently. You cannot text and drive in Europe because you are going to get into an accident. They are very precise drivers there.

Patrick Martinez at 2015 World Championships

Patrick Martinez made his first Senior World Team in 2015. (Photo: Tony Rotundo)

5PM: Greco seems to be growing. It’s hitting a growth spurt at least. What do you attribute that to and what do you think needs to be seen by the masses to increase participation even more?

PM: They need to see action. They need to throws and scoring from the feet. Recently, Momir (Petković) brought in film of his Olympic gold performance and we saw the whole final from those Olympics and man, were those guys fearless. There was throw after throw after throw after throw. On the feet. There was no referee telling them to go to par terre or controlling the match. Those guys were taking the matches and putting them in their own hands. It was very exciting to watch and it is very motivating for us in the US to get back to, especially with the rule change, scoring on our feet and being fearless. We need to get to know these positions. It’s not just about hand-fighting anymore. It’s about throwing, learning to score from the feet, and once the younger generation sees this out of us, they are going to want to do the same. We’re going to have to lead by example.

5PM: Since your dad has been a coach, do you see yourself sort of following in those footsteps when your career is wrapped up?

Patrick Martinez: Maybe. Maybe. At one point in my life, that is what I wanted to do but now I’m not too sure. I’ll never say never, but it’s a possibility.

5PM: The reason why I ask isn’t because of your bloodline but more because you are a case-study in development. You’re an athlete who might have placed in Fargo, but you also didn’t “Greco your life up” after high school, you didn’t go to Northern, you didn’t pursue it right away…

PM: My senior year of high school I came out here to Colorado Springs and the OTC during spring break for two weeks to train freestyle and Greco. I was working with Ike Anderson and then some of the freestyle coaches. And as I was leaving, on one of my last days, Momir, I didn’t know who the hell he was at this point, handed me a brochure about Northern Michigan. I actually really thought about it. It was definitely an option coming out of high school. I was probably 60/40, with 60% of me wanting to wrestle folkstyle and the 40% wanting to go to Northern. I talked to my dad about it and I had that folkstyle dream that so many kids have, they want to be NCAA champions because to us, at least it was to me and is for most high school kids, that is kind of the ultimate, being an NCAA champion. But now in retrospect, that is not the ultimate. The ultimate is being the best in the world, dominating in the world. So my perspective has definitely changed.

5PM: That is a topic we hit on a lot here. It’s not that people are diminishing the desires of wrestlers who would like to pursue an NCAA career or a national championship, as if that is not the way to go. It’s just that in the US, the perspective is so skewed that people see state titles and national titles as more important than World titles. 

PM: Right, like college is the end-all be-all. We’re not opening our eyes, we’re not looking at the rest of the world. We’re just focused on us in America, which is probably because we do have folkstyle, so it’s what we focus on and want to be the best at.

5PM: It comes off as if what we do here matters more than what everyone else does. Like it’s a collective self-importance. 

PM: Exactly. And I don’t see us as a country switching from folkstyle to freestyle and Greco. Much like the way we’ll never switch from standard to the metric system (laughs). We’re so stuck in our ways that it’s impossible to change.

5PM: How important is a support structure for an athlete like you, who is a world-caliber competitor, lives away from home, and has to travel across the globe? Whether we’re talking about phone calls, visits, family members showing up at competitions., etc. 

PM: Family to me has always been really important. They have been supportive of me and my wrestling career as far back as I can remember. It’s hard to put my finger on a domestic wrestling tournament that at least one family member hasn’t shown up to. For my grandparents, it’s kind of their excuse to travel to different cities and states. They don’t really travel for vacation, they just travel to watch me wrestle. They kind of make an event out of it. My grandfather is always thanking me for “taking him all across the US”, as he likes to say. I’m very fortunate to have a supportive family structure. It’s nice to have that comfort and have someone there for you, someone to talk to if you need it. It has definitely helped me grow.

5PM: You went to Rio to watch the Olympics. What it was it like for you seeing it in person and what kind of impression did it make on you?

PM: The biggest thing that I realized, from watching every style, is that nothing is going to be handed to you. You could do everything right. You could live a perfect life. You could go to bed on time every night, train hard, keep a great diet, not drink, not smoke, all this, and still not get the outcome that you want. And that was evident with Jordan Burroughs and another one I saw that in was Adeline Gray. I know these are two athletes who have lived the lives of champions, were ranked number one, and yet, they didn’t even medal.

So what I took out of my experience watching the Olympics is that nothing is guaranteed. You can do everything correctly, but it’s not guaranteed. However, all that being said, I’d rather live the life of a giving it my all and having no regrets even if I don’t reach my goals, rather than just half-assing it. I’d have a hard time living with myself later on down the road knowing that I didn’t do everything humanly possible to accomplish my goals.

5PM: Do officials have too much power in Greco Roman wrestling?

PM: In every style of wrestling. I was talking to a UWW analyst here in the Springs and he was saying that 25% of points given away during Greco Roman at the Olympics were due to the officials. Which is kind of an astronomical number, that’s one out of every four points.

5PM: Did you like the concept of forced par terre or is the removal liberating?

PM: Well, I was losing a majority of my matches while in par terre, so I hated it (laughs). I would say towards the end I was starting to get a feel on how to defend from bottom a little better. I was just starting to figure it out and then they changed the rules. It’s not a big deal, but I feel I was starting to make some progress there, at least on the defensive side of par terre. But it’s a good skill to have and I welcome the rule change.

5PM: You had a tournament essentially ripped out from underneath you, which was the University Worlds, correct? 

PM: Yeah, thanks for opening up the wound, I had just gotten it out of my mind.

5PM: Well, you’re an athlete who likes to be busy as possible. But is there a cap for you at this stage in your career? When do you hit the point personally where you don’t try to jump in every competition that pops up?

PM: Nowhere in the near future. Not until I can say I’m the best in the world. All of these competitions to me are learning experiences and I’ve got to keep working until I am the best. At this point, with my health and where I’m at, there is no cap. There is no limit I would put on myself when it comes to the competitions I enter.

5PM: What would you say to a young athlete who is looking to go into Greco as a piece of advice based on your own experiences?

PM: One thing I would say? I would say what Momir always preaches to us, which is to use your legs. That’s the one tip I would give and that means a lot of things. We as Americans see Greco Roman wrestling as all upper-body but that is far from the truth. Leg positioning, leg pressure, and hip pressure are big. Momir is always saying, “Use your legs, use your legs”, and that is the advice I’d give out to the younger generation.

5PM: Now that you have been indoctrinated into the Greco Roman way of life for a little bit now, do you see how unique your career has been? You’ve experienced a lot of success in a startling short period of time. 

PM: I don’t think about it enough. I like that you brought it up that yeah, I am kind of an anomaly and hopefully there are great things to come and I keep progressing at a fast pace.

5PM: Right now, you are headed into your third Trials, fourth counting the Olympic Trials. You are going to try to make another World Team in couple of weeks. Are you now at a stage where you have realized that all of your goals are achievable?

Patrick Martinez: Yes, I have realized that they are achievable. I have short-term goals and I have long-term goals. And I have to achieve my short-term goals to achieve my long-term dreams.

Follow Patrick Martinez on Twitter and Instagram to keep up to date with his quest for a World title. 

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