On this episode, Ben Askren sits down with 2x NCAA Champion, 4x National Finalist, and 4x Big Ten Champion Isaiah Martínez for an exclusive interview. Askren begins by asking Martínez about his training day. Martínez does most of his training currently at the Illinois Regional Training Center. One of Martínez’s training partners is Fighting Illini, 184 lbs, Emery Parker. Wrestling someone who is bigger and just as strong forces Martínez to focus on technique.
Fighting Career (5:08)
Askren always thought Martínez would transition from wrestling into mixed martial arts. Martínez talks about how at the moment his current goal is to become the best in the world at wrestling. He is focused on using the prime athletic years of his life to pursue the craft he’s been perfecting his entire life.
How it All Began (6:38)
Martínez started wrestling when he was four years old growing up in California. He then wrestled at Lemoore High School in Lemoore, California where he was coached by Marcio Botelho. While in high school, Martínez was a 3x state champion with a 205-7 record.
Just Attack (8:20)
Askren remembers seeing Martínez wrestle when he was in high school. Martínez lost that match but his opponent didn’t go on to have a successful collegiate career like Martínez did. It goes back to a lesson Askren preaches that success at a young age doesn’t mean success later and failure doesn’t mean you can’t improve. Martínez was fearlessly aggressive and always trying new things. This way of wrestling could cost him in the present but was beneficial in the long run. Growing up his dad would tell him to “Just attack” and what that boils down to is effort.
Young Wrestlers (13:31)
The topic of pressure on young wrestlers is brought up. Askren says the focus needs to be on development. At Askren Wrestling Academy, they want their athletes to go out and compete their hardest because they know that’s how they become better. But even more importantly they want to grow a love for the sport. They don’t have anyone under high school age cut weight. Cutting weight is something that drives a lot of kids away from the sport. Martínez talks about this when looking at recruits. Someone who has a love and passion for wrestling and doesn’t only care about their individual wins.
Early College Career (18:03)
Martínez was being recruited by a handful of programs but he narrowed it down to Illinois and Oklahoma State. He decided to continue forward with Illinois because their goals for Martínez aligned with his own. They showed how much they believed in his abilities and how they could support him in his journey to become a multiple-time NCAA Champ. After his redshirt freshman season, Martínez came to a crossroads where he had to make the decision to truly focus on wrestling. Whatever he was doing he would ask himself if it was in line with the goals he wants to achieve.
Freshman Year (24:18)
Martínez talks about how talented his weight class was at the NCAA Championships that year. He went 35-0 that year but says the other guys had much more talent he just found unique ways to win and had the most intense focus on accomplishing his goal.
Sophomore Year (26:38)
Sophomore year Martínez was the No. 1 ranked guy but that doesn’t mean it was easier. He struggled with making 157 lbs and had ankle issues as well but ended up salvaging all that and winning at NCAAs.
Vincenzo Joseph (31:59)
Askren talks about how interesting of a matchup he thought Joseph and Martínez was because Martínez loved the underhook and Joseph was so comfortable in the overhook.
Professional Career (33:08)
Martínez is pursuing his goal of making the world team. There are so many tough guys at his weight class it’s not an easy task. One big question right now is if Kyle Dake will be dropping down to 74 kg. A lot of Martínez’s losses in the recent past have come due to his inexperience in freestyle wrestling. After rounding out his game and constantly improving he feels confident now going against the best in the world.
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Ben Askren and Matt Dernlan host the RUDIS Wrestling Podcast. Askren, World Champion, and Olympic Wrestler joins in official partnership as a content provider for all things RUDIS. Matt Dernlan joins from years of experience in D1 college coaching at Binghamton, Clarion, and Penn State University.
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