Mesa’s James Martinez eyes another high finish at Division II wrestling nationals
Things really couldn’t be going much better for Colorado Mesa University senior James Martinez right now.
“My senior year has been an absolute dream,” said Martinez, a graduate of Rifle High School. “And really, there’s only one thing that could make it better.”
For Martinez, who wrestles for the Mavericks in the 157-pound weight class, it’s pretty obvious what that is. He’ll be one of eight Mesa wrestlers who’ll compete in the NCAA Division II National Championships at Chaifetz Arena in St. Louis, which take place today through Saturday. And Martinez, who is making his third trip to the national tournament and was a fifth-place finisher last season, will have a chance to become a three-time All-American if he reaches the podium for a third time.
Martinez is also part of a Mesa squad that is sending an all-time high eight wrestlers to the national tournament. As for Martinez himself, he’s hoping for much more than just a podium finish, however.
“I feel like I’m in a good spot to be on top of the podium,” said Martinez, who spoke by phone from the Mesa campus in Grand Junction last week. “I’ve worked very hard to get to this point, and I feel more confident about this time than any other.”
The last two times Martinez went to nationals went pretty well, also. As a Mesa sophomore, the 2010 Rifle High graduate finished the season with a 19-8 overall record and, with a pair of heavily taped knees, made it to the national semifinals before finishing sixth at 149 pounds. Last year at the national tournament in Cleveland, he managed a fifth-place finish at 149.
This season, he moved up a weight class and won his second consecutive regional weight-class title. That moved him into the tournament with a 35-3 overall record and into a first-round matchup against Josh Ballard (33-15) of McKendree (Illinois), with the winner facing either Matt Martoccio (24-8) of Kutztown (Pennsylvania) or Zebulan Beam (15-10) of Ashland (Ohio) later today.
National semifinals take place Saturday morning, with finals scheduled for Saturday night.
Martinez, whose three losses this season have come to Division I competition, is pretty confident about his chances.
“There’s only one guy in the bracket that I’m familiar with,” he said. “But I know that if I go out there and keep my composure and wrestle the way I know how, I should be OK.”
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Local teams just missed out on qualifying for state as teams but will be sending individual representatives following Friday’s regional meets.