Martinez Wins 165-Pound Midlands Title

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Isaiah Martinez
Isaiah Martinez

By University of Illinois Athletics

EVANSTON, Ill. – Fighting Illini 165-pounder Isaiah Martinez won his second career Midlands title, defeating No. 2 seed Chad Walsh 10-6 in Friday night’s title bout. Martinez becomes the third Illini to win multiple Midlands titles, joining Mike Poeta (2006-07) and Alex Tirapelle (2003 & 2005). Zane Richards finished runner-up at 133 pounds, while Zac Brunson took third place. The Illini finished fifth as a team, scoring 83 points. The Iowa Hawkeyes won the 54th Ken Kraft Midlands title with a score of 150.5, followed by Nebraska (135.5), Arizona State (106.5) and Rutgers (93).

“I wasn’t really excited about what I saw over the past two days,” said Head Coach Jim Heffernan. “Isaiah was good, but I don’t think it was his best effort. Zane held back a little too much and it cost him in overtime. I thought Zac did a really good job coming back and getting third. But, we lacked a lot of fight; we lacked a lot of energy; and we lacked enthusiasm. As a team we need to have way more fight in us. We have a very strong Rutgers team next Friday and we need to be able to perform a lot better than we did the past two days.”

Martinez (12-0) had to scramble his way to victory over the ninth-ranked wrestler from Rider. Known for his unique wrestling style, Walsh took the two-time NCAA champion out of his comfort zone and hung tight with Martinez for most of the match. Martinez opened the bout with a takedown a minute in, but Walsh responded with a takedown of his own. After Martinez tied the match with an escape before the end of the period, Walsh got an escape of his own to open period two. Again trailing the Rider grappler, Martinez wrapped Walsh up with 54 seconds left in the second period to take a 5-4 advantage before Walsh escaped to tie it, 5-5, entering the third period.

“He’s a dangerous guy,” said Martinez. “He’s a returning All-American. I’m a lot better than I wrestled in that match. But, I just needed to stay in good position. And then, when getting to the legs, just exploding up and putting him down hard because guys with weird hips will hit the mat and start rolling all over the place. The key was just staying fundamental in my finishes.”

Walsh made one more push, taking Martinez to the mat early in the third period and searching for back points. Martinez scrambled, never allowing more than a one-count by the referee, and then used his athleticism to escape Walsh’s grasp. From there, Martinez padded his lead with a takedown, and then iced the victory with another takedown in the match’s final seconds.

“He caught my momentum as I was coming up at a 45 degree angle,” explained Martinez. “He jumped up and rolled right as my momentum was going forward and caught me. It was a little bit of panic, but I knew I just had to keep fighting, not giving up in that position. In those 50-50 positions, it’s more a battle of will at that point.”

The Lemoore, California native reached the finals with five wins over the course of the first three sessions, totaling 27.5 points for the team. To reach the final, Martinez impressed against No. 4 seed Anthony Valencia, dominating the Sun Devil in the final four minutes to earn a 10-1 major decision.

In the 133-pound title bout, Richards (12-1) got out to an early lead with a takedown with less than 30 seconds left in the opening period. After back-to-back escapes by Montoya to end the first period and start the second, the Carbondale, Illinois native again took Montoya to the mat for a 4-2 advantage. Montoya bounced back with an escape prior to the end of the period to draw within a point, and then rode Richards in the third to get the riding time point, forcing sudden victory. In the extra period, Montoya secured a takedown 13 seconds into overtime to win by a 6-4 decision.

Richards reached the final by totaling 21 team points, including bonus points in three matches The loss in the title bout snapped Richards’ regular season win streak at 35 matches.

After losing his semifinal match to No. 1 seed Zahid Valencia, Brunson battled back with a victory over No. 2 seed Alex Meyer (Iowa) to place third at 174 pounds. Against Meyer, Brunson scored a takedown to start the match, but allowed a reversal by Meyer to tie it, 2-2. Following an escape to end the period, Brunson got Meyer’s shoulder on the mat for a two-count in period two, and then added on a takedown later in the period to lead 8-3. Meyer got a takedown of his own in the final period, but Brunson tacked on another point for riding time for a 9-5 decision.

Brunson reached the third place match with a 3-1 record through the first three sessions, including pins in each of his first two matches.

The Fighting Illini begin the Big Ten dual season on Friday, January 6 when they travel to New Brunswick, New Jersey to wrestle the 13th ranked Rutgers Scarlett Knights at 6 p.m. central time. The Illini conclude the weekend in College Park, Maryland with a 10 a.m. dual at Maryland.

Illini Notes

Isaiah Martinez becomes the third Illini to win multiple Midlands titles, joining Mike Poeta (2006-07) and Alex Tirapelle (2003 & 2005)
Zac Brunson’s third-place victory was his 17th on the season, overtaking Parker (16-3) for the team lead.
Zane Richards finishes runner-up at Midlands for the second time in his career after doing so in 2014.
The loss to Montoya snapped Zane Richards’ regular season 35-match win streak that dated back to his perfect 23-0 regular season record last season.
Isaiah Martinez officially qualified for Illinois’ all-time win percentage record on Thursday, overtaking Matt Lackey (0.896) with his record of 78-1 (.987). Lackey tallied 120 wins in 134 matches for a 0.896 win-percentage from 2000-03. Zane Richards (94-21) sits in 10th place on the all-time win-percentage list with a .817 mark.
Zane Richards entered the school’s top-25 wins list in his first match of the 54th Midlands. His 26-8 tech fall over Ben Lamantia was the 91st of his career, tying Tony Dallago, Kirk Azinger and Seth Brady. Richards currently sits with 94 victories, two wins behind Nate Patrick (96).

Match-By-Match Results (number in parentheses indicates seed)

(1) #1 Isaiah Martinez (R-Junior, 165 pounds) | 6-0 | First Place

Round 1: Won by technical fall over Joe Tavoso (Princeton), 24-9
Round 2: Won by fall over Andrew Scott (Northern Illinois), 2:38
Round 3: Won by major decision over (16) Luke Zilverberg (South Dakota State), 18-7
Quarterfinals: Won by major decision over (9) Alex Marinelli (Iowa), 14-5
Semifinals: vs. Won by major decision over (4) #12 Anthony Valencia (Arizona State), 10-1
1st Place Match: Won by decision over (2) #9 Chad Walsh (Rider), 10-6
Isaiah Martinez placed first

(1) #2 Zane Richards (R-Senior, 133 pounds) | 4-1 | Second Place

Round 1: Bye
Round 2: Won by technical fall over Ben Lamantia (Michigan), 26-8
Round 3: Won by technical fall over (16) Jacob Colon (Grand View), 21-5
Quarterfinals: Won by decision over (9) Bryan Lantry (Buffalo), 6-3
Semifinals: Won by major decision over (12) Jamal Morris (NC State), 18-5
1st Place Match: Lost in sudden victory against (2) #4 Eric Montoya, 6-4
Zane Richards placed second

(4) #12 Zac Brunson (R-Senior, 174 pounds) | 5-1 | Third Place

Round 1: Won by fall over Braxton Cody (Northwestern), 2:37
Round 2: Won by fall over Arsen Arshughyan (Ohio), 2:38
Quarterfinals: Won by decision over (5) #18 David Kocer (South Dakota State), 4-3
Semifinals: vs. Lost by decision against (1) #4 Zahid Valencia (Arizona State), 8-3
Cons. Semifinal: Won by decision over (7) Ryan Christiensen (Wisconsin), 4-1
3rd Place Match: Won by decision over (2) #7 Alex Meyer (Iowa), 9-5
Zac Brunson placed third

Travis Piotrowski (Freshman, 125 pounds) | 2-2

Round 1: Won by major decision over Joshua Krammer (Arizona State) | 8-0
Round 2: Won by decision over (6) #18 LJ Bentley (Pittsburgh), 7-2
Round 3: Lost by decision against Sebastian Rivera (Northwestern), 3-1
Cons. Round 4: Lost by decision against Justin Patrick (Buffalo), 3-2
Travis Piotrowski is eliminated

Jake Silzer (Freshman, 125 pounds) *unattached | 1-2

Round 1: Bye
Round 2: Lost by major decision against No. 8 Lucas Malmberg (Messiah), 10-1
Cons. Round 2: Won by decision over Michael Cullen (Wisconsin), 1-0
Cons. Round 3: Lost by decision against (9) Anthony Rubinetti (Northwestern), 6-3
Jake Silzer is eliminated

Dylan Duncan (R-Freshman, 133 pounds) *unattached | 2-2

Round 1: Won by major decision over Brandon James (Indiana), 16-4
Round 2: Lost by decision against (11) Scott Delvecchio (Rutgers), 9-7
Cons. Round 2: Won by decision over Trae Blackwell (Oklahoma), 5-0
Cons. Round 3: Lost by decision against (6) Tyson Dippery (Rutgers), 12-8
Dylan Duncan is eliminated

Mousa Jodeh (Sophomore, 141 pounds) | 1-2

Round 1: Lost by major decision against No. 8 Luke Pletcher (Ohio State), 12-3
Cons. Round 1: Bye
Cons. Round 2: Won by major decision over Trevor Feagans (SIU Edwardsville), 13-3
Cons. Round 3: Lost in tiebreaker-one against Kevin Budock (Old Dominion), 3-2
Mousa Jodeh is eliminated

Eric Barone (R-Freshman, 149 pounds) | 1-2

Round 1: Bye
Round 2: Won by decision over (11) Chris Perez (Indiana), 3-0
Round 3: Lost by decision against (6) #18 Joey Delgado (Oregon State), 4-1
Cons. Round 4: Lost by decision against Alex Kocer (South Dakota St.), 9-3
Eric Barone is eliminated

(12) Kyle Langenderfer (R-Junior, 157 pounds) | 2-2

Round 1: Won by decision over Zach Wilson (Ohio), 11-7
Round 2: Won by decision over Karsten Van Velsor (SIU Edwardsville), 9-3
Round 3: Lost by decision against (5) #12 Colin Heffernan (Central Michigan), 12-7
Cons. Round 4: Lost by decision against (16) Evan Wick (Wisconsin), 10-5
Kyle Langenderfer is eliminated

Nick Gasbarro (R-Freshman, 157 pounds) | 0-2

Round 1: Lost by decision against Jared Scharenbrock (Wisconsin), 8-1
Cons. Round 1: Lost by decision against Tyler Ponte (Columbia), 4-0
Nick Gasbarro is eliminated

Carver James (R-Freshman, 157 pounds) | 0-2

Round 1: Bye;
Round 2: Lost by major decision against (2) #4 Michael Kemerer (Iowa), 18-6
Cons. Round 1: Bye
Cons. Round 2: Lost by major decision against (16) Evan Wick (Wisconsin), 13-4
Carver James is eliminated

9) #14 Emery Parker (R-Sophomore, 184 pounds) | 2-2

Round 1: Bye
Round 2: Won by major decision over (16) Kevin Parker (Princeton), 12-4
Round 3: Won by fall over (8) #13 Jordan Ellingwood (Central Michigan), 5:37
Quarterfinals: Lost by major decision against (1) #3 TJ Dudley (Nebraska), 14-1
Cons. Round 6: Lost by decision against (10) #16 Michael Macchiavel (NC State), 8-7
Emery Parker is eliminated

Andre Lee (R-Sophomore, 197 pounds) | 0-2

Round 1: Bye
Round 2: Lost by major decision against Nate Rose (Buffalo), 16-2
Cons. Round 2: Bye
Cons. Round 3: Lost by sudden victory against Johnathen Dennis (Grand View), 4-3
Andre Lee is eliminated

(4) #10 Brooks Black (R-Junior, HWT) | 1-2

Round 1: Bye
Round 2: Won by decision over Steven Holloway (Iowa), 2-0
Round 3: Lost by decision against (13) Jordan Wood (Lehigh), 2-1
Cons. Round 4: Lost in sudden victory against Gage Hutchison (Eastern Michigan), 3-1
Brooks Black is eliminated

Deuce Rachal (R-Sophomore, HWT) | 0-2

Round 1: Lost by decision against Zak Parker (Ohio), 7-3
Cons. Round 1: Bye
Cons. Round 2: Lost by fall against David Henry (Oregon State), 4:41
Deuce Rachal is eliminated