With one slap of a referee’s hand on the mat, Pine Creek’s Geo Martinez entered uncharted territory at the Colorado Springs Metro Wrestling Championships on Saturday night.
The two-time state champion pinned Palmer Ridge’s Tyler Thalhammer (30-5) with 13 seconds remaining in the second period of their 138-pound championship match to become the first four-time champion in the Metro Championships’ 13-year history. A year ago, Martinez became one of a dozen wrestlers to win the tournament three times. Now he stands alone.
“It feels pretty good, and this is what we’ve worked for,” said Martinez, who is 29-0 on the season. “Coach has been pushing us hard, and I think our team is ready for state, so we’ve just got to keep working hard and take it one tournament at a time.”
Martinez has been a force since arriving at Pine Creek four years ago. He won the 5A 103-pound state title as a freshman and the 119-pound crown as a sophomore before losing a heartbreaker, 5-4, against Pomona’s Raymond Robledo in last year’s 132-pound title match.
As he prepares for regionals and, ultimately, another run at a state championship, Martinez admits he is doing so with thoughts of his last match as a junior.
“You have to move on, but I definitely haven’t forgotten about it,” said Martinez, who is 151-2 in his high school career. “It’s been a pretty big motivational factor for me this season, and I’m just trying to be the best I can be.”
Pine Creek coach Billy Gabel, who led the Eagles to the 5A team title last year, had high praise for his star wrestler.
“When you coach somebody of his caliber, you learn some things,” Gabel said. “Usually, coaches teach a lot, but it’s easy to learn by watching him compete, wrestle and deal with adversity. His father and uncle have done an unbelievable job preparing him through the years, and I’ve been very blessed to be part of four years of that.”
Martinez said he plans to join former Eagles Gabe and Josh Martinez (no relation) at the Air Force Academy in the fall, continuing a recent trend of the city’s top wrestlers committing to the growing national powerhouse.
By advancing five wrestlers to the finals and placing 12 overall, Discovery Canyon became the first 4A school to win the Colorado Springs Metro Wrestling Championships team title since Widefield in 2005. The Thunder finished with 227.5 points, with 5A powerhouses Coronado second at 184.5 and Pine Creek third with 169.
Coach Ron Sukle, who was named the tournament’s Coach of the Year, was proud of his squad, especially considering it was short a big-time wrestler. Discovery Canyon was without the services of injured state champion Steve Turner, whom Sukle expects to get back for regionals.
“We did a good job, the boys wrestled hard and they came through,” Sukle said. “We’ve been battling some sickness and injuries, but I’m proud of them. This is always a fun tournament for the kids, and it’s a good tournament.”
Despite being put on his back in the first period, two-time state champion A.J. Rees, of Discovery Canyon (20-1) and an Iowa State commit, won his third Metro title with a 21-5 technical fall against Peyton’s Dillon Pelkola in their 120-pound match. Pine Creek’s Alex Smith (27-3) joined him as a three-time champ after a 6-5 win over Falcon’s Cody Soulka in the finals. ... Coronado finished second in the team standings after a trio of Cougars won individual titles, but were without the services of state champion Adrian Cordova, who was out with a rib injury, and 2012 Metro champion Devin House, who was also injured. … Discovery Canyon 220-pounder Micah Bosseler didn’t let a losing record keep him from advancing to the tournament’s championship match against top seed Jacob Schoenberger, of Fountain-Fort Carson. Bosseler (8-10) was pinned by Schoenberger midway through the third period, but helped the Thunder to the team title.