ST. LOUIS – Former Lemoore High standout Isaiah Martinez concluded the 2017 season as national runner-up after being denied a third straight NCAA national championship in wrestling.
Martinez, who is a red-shirt junior at Illinois, was pinned with 1:35 remaining in the third period of the 165 pound final against No. 3 seed Vincenzo Joseph of Penn State at Saturday's NCAA championships.
Just the second loss of his career, Martinez finishes as the national runner-up with a 31-1 record on the season.
"Tough match for Isaiah," said Illinois head coach Jim Heffernan. "He got caught on his back in a good hold and got pinned. He is still a two-time NCAA champion, and will use this experience to get better."
As a team, the Illinois finished 11th with 43.5 points. Penn State won the team title with 146.5 points. Martinez was one of three Illinois wrestlers to earn All-American honors.
A back-and-forth match throughout, Martinez took an early 2-0 lead against Joseph with a takedown in the opening minute. After a Joseph escape, the Penn State redshirt freshman earned his first takedown of the match to take the lead. Martinez again tied the match, escaping before the end of the first period.
Starting the second period down, Martinez earned an escape to retake the lead, 4-3, but Joseph took Martinez to the mat again for a second takedown. By the time Martinez escaped to the tie the match yet again, 5-5, Joseph had racked up 1:05 in riding time to hold the advantage.
Beginning the third period on top, Martinez allowed Joseph an escape, and a takedown would be necessary to offset the 6-5 lead and riding time that Joseph held. With under 1:30 left in the period, Martinez went for the takedown but Joseph reversed momentum to take Martinez to the mat. Joseph got Martinez in a hold that he couldn't escape, pinning Martinez with 1:25 left on the clock.
Now a three-time All-American, Martinez is 98-2 in his career at Illinois and is the active leader in career win-percentage (.980). Martinez's 98 wins is tied with Carl Perry for 25th in Illini history.
With just 30 wins separating Martinez and Illinois all-time wins leader Alex Tirapelle (128), Martinez will enter his senior season with a chance to graduate as the most decorated wrestler in Illinois history.
In his time at Lemoore High, Martinez was a three-time California state champion and a three-time Sentinel Wrestler of the Year.