The 15th annual Thor Masters Invitational takes place this Saturday in Nykøbing Falster, Denmark and a large number of US Greco-Roman Seniors will be there to take part in the event. In total, 17 Americans are set to compete in effort to absorb further international experience as well as hop in some much-needed matches ahead of April’s World Team Trials in Las Vegas. Among the participants is two-time Senior World Team member Patrick Martinez (80 kg, NYAC). Martinez, 26, is no stranger to foreign competition, having medaled at numerous overseas tournaments since going full-time in 2014. But even with credible experience in his pocket, there is always fine-tuning to be done and for this particular trip, it starts between the ears.
Martinez has enjoyed a stirring rise in the sport of Greco-Roman wrestling due in large part to his competitiveness. Nicknamed the “Lone Wolf” for his willingness to find challenges whenever and wherever available, the native Californian has done what he could in the early stages of his career to fortify his Greco resume. It has not been in vain. Just a few months ago, Martinez was ranked in the top 20 in the world and even if you are someone who doesn’t put a ton of stock into what rankings say, there is no question it is a notable achievement.
But with success comes expectations, the most natural of byproducts which exist in a hyper-competitive environment. For an athlete like Martinez, the desire for constant competitions and the self-imposed pressure to see them through had previously meant adhering to a specific routine that accounted for various minutiae. Rituals such as packing his gear bag the same way he would for a tournament on training days; precisely timing when his meals would be, specifically before practices and events; and investing energy into worrying if these items on the list didn’t occur in the manner he preferred. You see, that’s the point — superstitions, rituals, they’re okay if you can live without them. But once they begin to actually affect how you approach what is essentially, your job, it’s time to re-evaluate, which is what Martinez is currently doing.
“Now I want to have an open mind,” confides Martinez. “Not everything is going to go your way in your preparation or the way you even pack your bags. So I have a different mindset now. I just want to have fun, go out there and battle, and be the best in the world. I want to use this system and go with the flow a little bit more and not really worry about the rituals and this and that, or have a whole elaborate system set up.”
When Martinez says “use this system”, he’s referring to Wrestling Mindset, a service that specializes in offering wrestling-specific mental skills. The sessions have already made an impact. A guy who once became flustered if his routine was slightly disrupted is now committed to embracing the fact that in this life, there is little to be controlled — at least off the mat. “It used to be that if every little thing didn’t go correctly, it would throw me for a loop mentally,” Martinez admits. “Now, I’m working on my attitude. Nothing is ever going to be perfect. A match likely isn’t going to be perfect. You could get thrown and be down 4-0 right off the bat. You just have to go with it.”
As much as anything else, the new standpoint has helped Martinez rediscover the joy of competition that led him to become a career wrestler in the first place. Achieving milestones is always admirable, but there are external concerns that inevitably seem to follow. There is always “the next” obstacle to conquer and while important, the carrot-chasing itself has to remain the priority, not the carrot. Enjoying the process and lovingly clenching it into a bodylock serves to do much more good in Martinez’s eyes than stressing over imaginary factors that at the end of the day, mean little once the whistle blows.
“Maybe before competitions and before the Worlds I was a little nervous, a little bit anxious maybe,” he says. “Now I’ve had to go back to my roots and just start having fun with wrestling. Dominating people, that’s fun. Imposing my will on people, that’s fun. If you don’t get the right thing to eat, are you going to let that ruin your day? No. If you believe you’re the best wrestler, then just go out there and show you’re the best wrestler.”
Putting it in play
Saturday’s Thor Masters represents the first time Martinez will be back in competition following December’s Worlds. It will also be his first event featuring this refreshed outlook. There is certainly more than a lukewarm wave of interest in the results from his perspective. He wants to win. That is never not the goal. However, the primary objective for Martinez on this March European Tour, which for him extends all the way to the end of the month in Hungary, is to find overall improvement. That has always been a constant theme of his, but this time around there is a concentrated yet casual tone in which he says it. “Mentally, I’m excited for competition. Physically and technically I am excited for the camps,” he affirms.
Ah, the camps. Traditionally, US Greco-Roman wrestlers love the opportunity to train overseas as much as they do competing. The training camps, usually put on by a tournament’s host country, allow wrestlers from all over to converge and scrap it out in the name of technical betterment. For this particular tour, Martinez is actually looking forward more to the training than he is the tournaments, despite the fact that only he and Kevin Radford (85 kg, Sunkist) are the only two Americans slated to wrestle in all three European events. “I’m looking to get better at wrestling, so for me, it’s the camps,” Martinez acknowledges. “These are where you get the most mat time.”
He feels this way strongly enough to where he actually might not compete at the Hungarian Grand Prix. When pressed, Martinez answers with a cursory “Probably not”, and the reason goes back to the task at hand — gaining a clearer sense of the areas of his game calling for more attention while also permitting the breathing room to make those adjustments, particularly as the World Team Trials begins to come closer on the calendar. “With just doing the camp in Hungary and not having to worry about a competition at the end of it, it is really going to help me solidify new techniques and try new things without worrying about anything else other than to have fun and get better at wrestling.”
Whether it is to help Martinez zero in on yet another appearance at a World Championships or just to get better now, today, in this moment, this European jaunt is a multipurpose proposition. He sees it that way, and why not? Wrestlers are always looking for a leg-up on the competition and when you are hunting for another chance at a World medal, you have to be willing to do what is necessary, especially when you know there is a sizable target on your back. It’s part of what makes the ride so thrilling, exerting all of that energy in staying one step ahead. Sure, Martinez is peering through a wider scope, but don’t think for a second the scene on the other side of the lens has changed. Definitively, it hasn’t.
“I believe it’s (the tour) an advantage. The main goal isn’t to beat domestic opponents, the main goal is to beat foreign opponents. I feel that if I am beating foreign opponents, it’s a no-brainer that I will be able to beat domestic ones.”
And most importantly, have fun doing it.
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