NEW YORK CITY, NY — The argument could be made that most of the time, you don’t beat Jon Anderson (Army/WCAP) but rather, survive him. He isn’t in there to put on a flowery clinic of sophisticated techniques or shortchange anyone, including himself, of an exhaustive effort. To see Anderson work is like watching a thunderstorm make landfall on the coast. The mood changes, the thunder claps and before you know it, the rain comes pouring down.
Patrick Martinez (NYAC) brought his umbrella.
Martinez, attempting to become a World Team member at 80 kilograms for the second time in 18 months, blew past Ryan Lyons (EWC) 9-0 (technical fall) in his first bout of the afternoon before enduring a spirited charge from Kendrick Sanders (NYAC-OTS) in the semifinals on the heels of a contentious 3-1 victory. Sanders tried bringing the heat as he always does and almost had a moment during an exchange, but Martinez was the one who capitalized and turned it into points. Anderson reached the final by edging Cheney Haight (NYAC) via criteria 1-1. Haight, like Martinez, was seen as a presumptive favorite heading into the 2016 Non-Olympic World Team Trials and a best-of-three between the two was predicted by many observers. Anderson stayed relentless throughout and managed to steer back Haight’s conclusive assault as the seconds peeled away.
In the first match of the series, Martinez had no choice but to meet Anderson’s aggression head-on. Almost quite literally. A nearly continuous tug-of-war set the tone and with the new par terre-free rules along with neither athlete able to find an opening, it came down to passivity. Martinez picked up two passivity points plus a step-out to take the first bout 3-1. However, Anderson returned fire in the second match.
Moving towards the edge, Martinez pummeled in to secure deep double underhooks, appearing ready to take a lock that promised points. But as soon as there could be any meaningful momentum, Anderson instantly clamped down on double overhooks and arched it back at the edge for four. The tide had turned. Martinez clawed back in it during the second frame, upping his output and demonstratively snapping into ties. He closed it to 4-2, but that was as narrow as it got, giving Anderson the win and knotting the series at one a piece.
There was a special brand of tension in the third bout. Martinez, on the cusp of continuing his impressive rise in the sport of Greco Roman wrestling; Anderson, who had been a runner-up at three previous World Team Trials, ever-so-close once again to finally becoming number one at his weight. The two took the mat in an atmosphere which seemed more like a gathering for an afterschool brawl. It was both quiet and raucous, the intimacy of the New York Athletic Club’s gymnasium setting the scene for a slugfest that could potentially produce a World medalist next month.
Anderson took the center and immediately attempted to get back into the groove he found in the match prior. Martinez was prepared for the heavy contact. As could have perhaps been expected, both athletes were knocked for passive penalties, only adding to the drama. The second period is where this match was decided. Neither wrestler looked to be suffering the effects of their battles beforehand, though Martinez seemed to take the initiative. His legs acting as a nearly-immovable base to support his offense, he prodded for ties and chugged forward. The approach paid off with a controversial step-out point. That would wind up becoming academic, as Martinez hustled Anderson to the floor with under 20 seconds left to seal the match 4-1 and by extension, earn a spot on his third World Team in two years.
“The second match, he kind of took the wind out of my sails a little bit by scoring off of my move,” Martinez admitted later. “After the second match I had to go to the corner, reevaluate, talk to my coaches, get my head right, and come out with a good game plan for match three. He brought it, he was battling. That’s his style. I just had to weather the storm and pick and choose when I could score and hold positions.”
Martinez, along with 71 kg Greco Roman Non-Olympic Trials winner Chris Gonzalez (Army/WCAP), will now compete in the World Championships on December 10th in Budapest, Hungary. But before that, he will be battling it out at the prestigious Golden Grand Prix in Baku, Azerbaijan later this month. Now as a two-time World Team member at 80 kilos in consecutive years, Martinez stakes claim to being the title-bearer at the weight in the US, a fact he can’t help but acknowledge.
“This is my weight class,” agreed Martinez. “After this I thought I’d be done at 80 but shoot, we don’t know. I like to keep my options open.”
Options. Right now for Patrick Martinez, he seems to have plenty of them.
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