The biggest compliment you could probably give Patrick Martinez is to recognize that he is an aberration. An exception to a rule. Those who become Greco Roman wrestlers usually do so in their early teens. At least in the US. And even then, the numbers are somewhat skewed, what, with the draw of college folkstyle and everything else. By the time you’re actually good, you might be done with it all. Such is the tragedy.
But for Martinez, Greco came later. Considerably. Especially in the context of the level in which he competes. It just doesn’t happen. What also doesn’t happen is national success. At best, you can be a contender on the fringe, happy to get some matches against top guys while discovering something different and new. You can say you swam with the sharks without actually becoming one and for the adventurous types, maybe that’s enough. It hasn’t been for Martinez.
In what has been a rapid rise up the ranks, Patrick Martinez won the US Open in 2015. That sent some shockwaves through the system. But then he went ahead and won the World Team Trials and now, nothing was so surprising anymore. Mind you, this is all occurred within a year of Martinez picking up the sport on a full-time basis. It’s such a rare feat, there aren’t even enough reasonable comparisons to put it next to. However – that doesn’t mean the road is clear. There are obstacles abound. School is constantly in session. So when Martinez competed in the World Championships, there were lessons he applied and new ones he picked up.
Setting: 2015 World Wrestling Championships, Orleans Hotel & Arena, Las Vegas, Nevada
Opponent: Julius Matuzevicius (Lithuania)
Weight and round: 80 kg repechage
“I had lost my first match, I got caught on my back early on and I was on my back for probably a good minute. I remember laying there thinking, I don’t want to go out like this. I’m in front of my home crowd. I didn’t want to get pinned in my first World Championship match. I can’t get pinned, I can’t go out like that. So I fought off my back somehow probably a minute and a half into the match. I wound losing that one to the silver medalist (Viktar Sasunouski, BUL, world no. 5) .
“So I was sitting in the repechage waiting and hoping for him to make it to the semis so I could come back and wrestle. For my next match, I had the guy from Lithuania, Matuzevicius, and maybe six months before that, I wrestled him at training camp in Hungary and he was kicking my butt all over the place. You know, at the time I was maybe training Greco for four months and I was trying to fight, just trying what I knew at the time. And he was kicking my butt at this camp.
“Honestly, at the World Championships, I didn’t have a lot of technique. I had a little bit from what I picked up. But I was just out there fighting. That’s really what it was to me. If I got to a position I was familiar with, I was going to score with it. I felt as strong, if not stronger than everybody in my weight class at 80 kilos. In just as good of condition, if not better than everybody else. My physical performance was better than anybody at the tournament, I believe that. My technique, I was still learning. I’m still learning. So going into this match with him at the World Championships, I knew I had to prove quite a bit. And I was ready to put what I learned to the test.
“I knew I had to win two to make it to the medal rounds, so when I saw I made the repechage I was pretty excited. One thing I remember was coming out of the gate, they announce your name and they announce your country and the place just goes crazy chanting USA!, USA! before I even step on the mat. That USA chant, just something about it gets me going every time. When that started happening, I got real excited and ready to put on a show for the home crowd.
“Once the match began, I was wrestling him well. He got cautioned early on. I could feel him getting tired and in the second period I got to his body, scoring four off of a takedown when I got to my bodylock. And again, the crowd started chanting USA! USA! That made it one of the most memorable matches of my career right there, wrestling at the World Championships and having all those fans behind me. And that was my first World Championships, too, so that’s always going to be something special for me. Got the win in that match, came back and needed to win the next one. Didn’t do it, but I learned from it.
“Me compared to that guy, I felt superior. I felt stronger, faster, and better-conditioned. That was the key to me winning the match. It wasn’t technique. Yeah, I got to a position I was familiar with, but to be honest, I don’t know how I got there. It was just wrestling. It was just me creating openings and capitalizing on them.
“I also learned that I’m not far behind a lot of these top-ranked foreigners. And I’m constantly improving. I’m on a fast track. I got to have time to play catch-up because essentially, that’s what I’m doing. Some people in the US have an advantage in years on me and especially foreigners, they’ve been wrestling Greco their whole lives. So I’m confident where I’m at. I got a late start but I’m catching up fast and I’m going to be ready to go when the time comes.”
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