Simply the best: Rifle High grad James Martinez wins Division II wrestling title
ST. LOUIS — James Martinez, at one point after his senior year at Rifle High School, wasn’t sure he’d have a chance to wrestle at the college level.
Now, five years later, there’s no one in his weight class who’s better.
That’s right. The 2010 Rifle High graduate is a national wrestling champion.
Martinez, a senior at Colorado Mesa University in Grand Junction who was behind for nearly all of the six minutes that he wrestled against Sean Turner of Anderson (South Carolina) University, rallied from as many as three points down to net a takedown in the final second — literally. It resulted in a stunning 8-7 victory in the 157-pound national-title match at the NCAA Division II National Championships.
The victory for Martinez, who finished his college career as a three-time All-American, capped a 39-3 season where he never lost to a Division II opponent.
The win also marked the first national championship of any kind in the school’s history. Last year, Mesa’s baseball team, coached by Roaring Fork High School graduate Chris Hanks, fell in 12 innings to Southern Indiana, 3-2, in the Division II national championship game in Cary, North Carolina.
This match, just like that game, went down to the wire.
Martinez trailed Turner by scores of 4-1 in the first period and 6-3 in the second, the latter deficit coming after Turner slipped behind a shot attempt from Martinez with 16 seconds remaining before the third period. And in the third, Martinez tied it 6-6 with a takedown with 1:14 remaining.
The Anderson wrestler went ahead when Martinez chose an optional start to allow an escape, putting the Mesa senior in a 7-6 hole with less than 30 seconds remaining. From there, Martinez went on the attack, getting Turner on the ground and, barely, on his back, in the final second of the match.
The match referee awarded the takedown to Martinez, though officials conferred at the scorer’s table to review video replay and ensure the takedown came before time had expired.
That’s when Martinez celebrated. He pumped both fists in the air and, after shaking hands with the opposing coach, jumped into the arms of Mesa coach Chuck Pipher in celebration.
The win was also the first wrestling title of any kind for Martinez, who managed a fifth-place finish as a senior in Class 4A at 140 pounds and a third-place finish at Class 3A as a junior. He had to have a monumental victory just to make the final earlier on Saturday, earning a 4-3 tiebreaker victory against previously unbeaten and top-ranked Clint Poster of St. Cloud State (Minnesota).
The match was streamed live on the Internet at http://www.ncaa.com.
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