National Wrestling Hall of Fame

Latino American Wrestling Experience

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LATINO WRESTLING EXPERIENCE NATIONAL WRESTLING HALL OF FAME & MUSEUM | 31 Jim Martinez is a Minnesota native who dreamed of playing basketball when he was in junior high. His stature, and a suggestion by his mother, eventually led this Latino to turn his attention to the mat. (The other possibility was gymnastics and as Jim notes, "I didn't know anything about gymnastics, so I chose wrestling.") It proved a wise decision, for he came to love the competition and eventually capped off his high school career with a state title as a senior at Osseo High School. His success on the mat earned him a scholarship with his home state University of Minnesota Golden Gophers. Upon arriving at the Minneapolis campus, Jim quickly distinguished himself at the collegiate level of competition. As a sophomore, he won a Big Ten title and earned All-America honors placing third at the 1979 NCAA Championships at 134 pounds. The following season, however, proved difficult for Martinez both personally and athletically. He struggled moving up a weight class, and his family was rocked by a gymnastics accident that crippled his younger sibling, Jason. (Jim is the oldest of eight children, and has five brothers) Although shocked by the tragic event, Jim, as he was taught by his parents, drew courage and strength from the adversity. His brother, through determination and diligence, eventually walked again and "it was seeing his inspiration at setting and achieving goals…that motivated me to work harder than I ever thought I could." His senior year at Minnesota, Jim finished 40-2 with 13 pins and once again placed third at the NCAAs. After the 1982 campaign, he figured his career on the mat was over. He earned a degree in sports communication. Fate intervened, however, and Jim began training with a Greco- Roman club and competed at the U.S. Open Greco-Roman Championships and placed second. He even defeated Tom Minkel, a 1980 Olympian, en route. In 1983, he won his first of five straight U.S. Open titles, a silver medal in the Pan American Games, and made the US World Team which competed in Kiev. Martinez then qualified for the 1984 Olympics and represented his country at Los Angeles, winning a bronze medal. Finally, he followed up his Olympic success by earning 10th place in the 1987 Greco Roman World Championships at 68kg. Like many snow birds, Martinez eventually moved to a warmer climate, settling in Arizona. Likewise, he found his way into coaching high school wrestling in the Grand Canyon State, taking the head coaching post with the Corona del Sol High School in 2009, replacing Dave Vibber. By 2012, Martinez guided the Aztecs to a sixth-place finish at the state tournament. More recently, Jim continues to work with wrestlers in his adopted home state, but now provides wrestling clinics in addition to his primary employment in real estate. Martinez summarizes his ties to the sport by drawing upon his own experiences on the mat. "Every great achievement begins with a dream. Understand that there is no great success without a great deal of hard work…And, never let anyone tell you that you can't do something!" Wrestled 1978-1982 University of Minnesota 134lbs // 142lbs JIM MARTINEZ

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