Since he started as a freshman at Cedar Ridge at 106-pounds, Fernando Martinez has always had a goal of wrestling inside the Greensboro Coliseum for the state championships.
Last week, he finally got there–possibly two years overdue.
In 2020 as a freshman, Martinez reached the semifinals of the Mideast Regionals at Cape Fear High School in Fayetteville. He was one win away from qualifying for the state championships, but was injured against Chapel Hill’s Lucas Daily in the championship round. He was forced to forfeit his consolation semifinal match against Southern Durham’s Ashton O’Neal.
Last year, the pandemic forced major changes. For starters, the NCHSAA moved the season to June, leading to sweltering conditions in gyms across the state. Also, Eastern Guilford High School in Gibsonville hosted both the Mideast Regionals and the state championships. Martinez got a highly questionable draw at 120 pounds and lost in the quarterfinals to Southern Durham’s ShyHeem Davis. With no consolation bracket to fall back on, Martinez was eliminated and his dream of wrestling in Greensboro was dashed for a few more months.
After winning the 113-pound Mideast Regional Championship at Union Pines High School in Cameron last week, Martinez made his first trip to the Greensboro Coliseum one to remember.
On Saturday, Martinez pinned West Carteret’s Skylar Oxford in 3:57 to finish 5th in the state at 113 pounds. It is the best-ever result by a Cedar Ridge wrestler in a 3A Tournament. The only other Red Wolf to place in a 3A Tournament is Colin Davis, who finished sixth in the 2018 State Championships at 182 pounds.
Martinez became the first Cedar Ridge wrestler to place in the top five of the state Wrestling Championships since Adam Howard finished 5th in the 2013 2A Tournament at 152 ponds. Josh Collins is the only Red Wolf to win a state championship, taking the 189-pound title in the 2005 2A/1A Tournament.
Martinez ends his junior season 42-10. He will enter his senior season with 97 wins and is line to become the first Red Wolf with 100 career wins since Ethan Knapp won 107 matches from 2003-2007.
This season, Martinez competed in weight classes ranging from 113-to-126 pounds in hopes of becoming more well-rounded. He says what made the difference in placing in the state championships was improved conditioning.
“I put in more work this year than past years,” Martinez said in the week leading up to regionals. “I haven’t been able to pin as many people this season so I had to go longer in matches. Conditioning has been a part of my daily routine this year.”
After a victory over South Brunswick’s Ethan McCullough on Thursday in the opening round, Martinez led Caleb Haynes of North Gaston 2-0 at the end of the first period in the state quarterfinals on Friday morning. Haynes started from the top in the second period, quickly gained an advantage and pinned Martinez in 2:38.
In the consolation bracket, Martinez defeated South Johnston’s Ethan Brownlee 8-1. Martinez pinned Elkin’s Devean Huskey in 3:55 to move into the consolation semifinals.
Martinez’s top-5 finish capped an overall solid year for Cedar Ridge wrestling. The Red Wolves finished 3rd in the Central Carolina Conference, their best as a 3A team.
Cedar Ridge sophomore Kaden Tatro won two matches in the consolation round. After falling to Salif Conneh of Eastern Guilford in the opening round, Tatro pinned Crotan’s Blake McCabe in 2:20. Tatro scored a 13-1 major decision over Triton’s Nathan Williams in the next round.
Orange had nine wrestlers qualify for the state championships. Sophomore Jared Hutchins came closest to placing at 132 pounds. Hutchins defeated Christian Klutz of Jimmy Carson in the consolation round in 3:49. Hutchins edged Western Harnett’s Cameron Curva, the Mideast Regional Champion, 8-7 in the next round. Hibriten’s Ross Watts, who finished fifth, eliminated Hutchins.
Orange senior Brendon Worsham pinned North Brunswick’s Tristan Marks in the opening round of the 182-pound tournament. Central Academy’s Brady Ross, the eventual state champion, defeated Worsham in 5:29. Hiroki Cruz of Western Carteret, the Eastern Regional Champion, defeated Worsham in the consolation round 7-5. Worsham ends the year 29-8. He qualified for the state championships three times in his career.
At 220 pound, Orange’s Elijah Acosta earned his 30th win of the season with a pinfall victory over Jeffrey Klugh of Currituck in 4:06 of a consolation round. Acosta ends his junior season with a 30-6 record and individual championships in the Jim King/Orange Invitational and the Quentin Crosby Invitational in Greensboro.
Orange’s Acoya Isley, who claimed three individual tournament championships this year, won a consolation round match. He ends his first varsity season 23-8.