Air Force sophomore Josh Martinez pursuing lofty goals

By Craig Sesker USA Wrestling | Jan. 29, 2014, 6:29 p.m. (ET)

Air Force’s Josh Martinez is ranked No. 4 nationally at 125 pounds. Air Force Academy file photo.

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – Josh Martinez never loses sight of his goals

The talented Air Force sophomore receives a daily reminder of what he is pursuing every time he turns on his computer.

The screensaver on his laptop is of an All-American trophy. 

The same message also goes into a journal he keeps.

“2014 NCAA All-American and national champion – I write that in there every day,” he said. “It motivates me and makes me believe I can do it. I want to be one of the best guys in the country and I want to be wrestling on that stage on Saturday night. That’s what you think about when you are training.” 

Martinez certainly looks like a strong contender to be standing near the top of the All-American podium this March.

Martinez is off to a blazing 25-2 start this season and a No. 4 national ranking at 125 pounds. 

The two-time state champion and 2013 NCAA qualifier from Colorado Springs owns wins this season over No. 6 Dylan Peters of Northern Iowa, No. 8 David Terao of American, No. 10 Tim Lambert of Nebraska and No. 11 Evan Silver of Stanford.

“Josh is a very talented wrestler,” Air Force coach Joel Sharratt said. “He’s very quick and explosive on his feet – he can take anybody down in the country. He can shoot to both sides on his takedowns. He is a grinder in the top position and can wear guys down. He also has shown savvy and poise from the bottom position. He can explode, get out and take the point.” 

Martinez placed third at the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational and Southern Scuffle this season. His only losses are to past U.S. Junior World Team member Earl Hall of Iowa State (5-3) and two-time NCAA runner-up Nico Megaludis of Penn State (7-2).

“We’ve wrestled a real tough schedule and that’s helped me a lot,” Martinez said. “I am just trying to build and get better every day. I know I can wrestle with anybody. I wrestled a close match with Megaludis and I’ve seen a lot of the ranked guys in my weight class. I just have to focus on each match and not get caught up in what guys are ranked. I’ve gained a lot of confidence this year in the matches I’ve had.” 

Martinez turned in a strong freshman season at Air Force. He finished 28-11. He was the No. 10 seed at the 2013 NCAAs and finished 1-2 in the tournament.

“Josh had a real good freshman year,” Sharratt said. “I think the grind of the long college season kind of wore him down. Your freshman year is a grind at any school. This year, he’s looking a lot stronger. He’s wrestling with more excitement and energy. I’m very happy with his performance.” 

Martinez said the experience of the 2013 NCAA Championships in Des Moines, Iowa, will benefit him at the 2014 NCAAs, set for March 20-22 in Oklahoma City.

“Wrestling in front of 20,000 fans was above and beyond any national tournament I’ve ever been to,” Martinez said of the 2013 NCAAs. “Warming up next to (NCAA champions) Kyle Dake and David Taylor was pretty awesome. It was kind of overwhelming initially, but I will be ready for it this year. I know what to expect now. I’m really excited about the postseason.” 

Martinez arrived at the Air Force Academy with strong credentials. He was a three-time All-American at the USA Wrestling Cadet and Junior Nationals in Fargo, N.D.

Martinez is looking to become Air Force’s first NCAA All-American since 2003. 

“It would mean a lot to do it this year,” he said. “It would obviously be great for our program to have some guys get on the podium.”

Martinez has benefited this season from working closely with Air Force assistant coach Nate Engel, who placed second at the 2013 U.S. World Team Trials in Greco-Roman wrestling at 55 kg/121 lbs. 

“Nate’s been great to work with,” Martinez said. “He’s so strong and fast, and he has a strong background in Greco. It’s good to get a different look from him in the room. He’s helped me a lot, physically and mentally. Every day I see Coach Engel he says, ‘You ready to be a national champion?’ He is always throwing out positive mental thoughts and giving me encouragement.”

Martinez also has spent his share of time studying his matches and his opponents with Air Force assistant coach Sam Barber. 

“Coach Barber and I watch tape all the time,” Martinez said. “We talk about being more dominant. I am looking to build leads and avoid close matches. I want to win by major decisions and technical falls, and put more points on the board for our team.”

A prime example of that came in a recent dual with South Dakota State. 

“Josh was up by seven and got a takedown at the end of the match to win by major decision,” Sharratt said. “He has great mat sense and incredible mat savvy. He’s wrestling hard and is dominating the competition more this year. He’s scoring points at the end of periods and he’s looking to put more points on the board.”

Martinez moved with his family from the state of Washington to Colorado Springs at the end of his freshman year in high school. He wrestled for three years at Pine Creek High School, capturing Colorado state titles as a junior and senior. 

He is part of a large group of wrestlers from Colorado on the Air Force roster.

“I think it’s awesome to have so many Colorado kids on our team,” he said. “It’s great seeing a lot of good kids staying in the state to wrestle. It’s great to have that Colorado connection and being on the same team with those guys I wrestled in tournaments with in high school.” 

Martinez, who is studying biology, said the U.S. Air Force Academy has provided the perfect fit for him.

“My family has a military background and my dad is retired from the Navy,” Martinez said. “The Air Force Academy provides you with an excellent Division I college experience, you can get a great education here and you experience the military side of it. You can’t beat it.”