To date, there have been three four-time NCAA wrestling champions.
Illinois freshman and former Lemoore High standout Isaiah Martinez took an important step Friday in his quest to join that elite group of Oklahoma State’s Pat Smith (1990-92, ’94), Iowa State’s Cael Sanderson (1999-2002) and Cornell’s Kyle Dake (2010-13).
The top-seeded Martinez reached his first NCAA final after receiving a third-period riding time point to pull out a 3-2 win over Nebraska’s No. 4 James Green in the semifinals of the 157-pound weight class at the NCAA Wrestling Championships in St. Louis.
Martinez will face Cornell’s second-seeded Brian Realbuto Saturday’s championship; the finals are scheduled to start at 5 p.m. and be televised on ESPN. Martinez is one of four undefeated wrestlers left after improving to 33-0 on the season.
After a scoreless first period, Green scored a second-period reversal with Martinez escaping to make it 2-1. After starting down to start the third, Martinez escaped to tie the match at 2-2. It was the first deficit Martinez had faced this season.
Earlier Friday, Martinez beat Virginia Tech’s Nick Brascetta 10-4 in the quarterfinals.
The last former Central Section wrestler to win an NCAA wrestling title was Bakersfield’s Jake Varner in 2009 and 2010 for Iowa State. The last wrestler from the greater Fresno area to strike NCAA gold was Lemoore’s Chris Pendelton in 2004 and 2005 for Oklahoma State.
Martinez’s Illinois teammate Nikko Reyes (Clovis West), the only other Fresno-area wrestler in the tournament, was eliminated from the 184-pound bracket Friday morning with a 4-2 loss to Arizona State’s third-seeded Blake Stauffer.
Ohio State leads the team standings with 86.5 points, powered by 141-pound finalist Logan Stieber, who will be aiming for his fourth individual NCAA title against Edinboro’s Mitchell Port. Four-time defending NCAA champion Penn State is sixth with 58.