CHAMPAIGN (WCIA) — Former Illinois wrestler Isaiah Martinez could have gone anywhere in the world to train but the two-time NCAA champion is staying home.
“For me in my mind I don’t think there was anywhere else I wanted to be except for here in Champaign, Illinois at the Illinois Regional Training Center,” Martinez said.
After Martinez graduated, he turned pro and was and was recruited by some of the top regional training centers in the country. But the California native decided to stay loyal to the orange and blue, even though it meant helping start the IRTC from the ground up.
“I have a great support system and I know these guys are willing to do whatever they have to do to support my dream of being the best in the world and winning Olympic gold medals,” he continued.
The Illinois Regional Training Center is a non-profit organization and basically just an extension of the Illini wrestling program. It operates out of the same wrestling room on the top floor at Huff Hall. Head coach Bryan Medlin works directly with the rest of the Illini staff, including varsity head coach Jim Heffernan. Martinez is one of three wrestlers repping the IRTC right now, joining former Illini Jesse Delgado and Zane Richards.
“It’s a professional athlete, they get paid to come in and train every single day. But, along with those resources comes responsibility they are the face of this program,” Medlin described. “They’re going to go out and do their best to make sure Illinois gets put out in the right light.”
Martinez finished college with a 116-3 record but his biggest challenge is in front of him in four-time World champion and Olympic gold medalist Jordan Burroughs. They wrestled in the Final X last month with Burroughs winning the best of three series, meaning he will represent the USA at 74 kilograms in the World Championships.
“More than anything, I think that I came away with a sense that I truly am capable of winning those matches and being the best in the world,” Martinez said. “Even though I didn’t win, it rooted my belief even deeper that if I commit even at a higher level.”
Martinez has all eyes on making the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.