CHAMPAIGN — After going 67-1 in two years and winning back-to-back national titles, Isaiah Martinez was looking for a new challenge. For him, it meant moving up weight classes.
“He came in last spring after Nationals and kind of told me what he thinks, why he thought it,” Illinois coach Jim Heffernan said. “Obviously with a kid with that much success, I understood where he was coming from.”
“Going up has benefited me a lot because it’s keeping me sharp mentally and making me think about all the decisions,” Martinez said. “So I’m not getting complacent with where I’m at and the two titles I’ve had previously because now it’s a different weight, different competitors.”
After wrestling at 157 pounds his freshman and sophomore seasons, Martinez is now competing at 165.
On Friday, he’ll face his toughest competition since the switch in Michigan freshman Logan Massa, the second ranked wrestler in the country, right behind Martinez.
“The wrestling community is very small,” Martinez said. “So I competed against him about three years ago in freestyle in the junior field, which is like the 18 and 19-year-old age category. I beat him in the finals of the World Team trials. It was a competitive match but he’s gotten better, I’m excited for this match.”
A win against Massa would be another resume builder for the California-native as he tries to win his third national title. Martinez has already beat the third ranked wrestler at 165 this season.
“I know this, if I wasn’t coaching, I would buy a ticket to go watch him,” Heffernan said.
“The fire hasn’t died yet,” said Martinez added. “That’s where I feel pressure, the internal drive to be better every single day.”