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Young wrestlers making effort to be the best

By Fletcher Word
Special to La Prensa

One year ago Felipe Martínez was 12 years old and a rising star on the northwest Ohio wrestling scene. He’s still a rising star, but the location has shifted a bit.

For a half-dozen years, Felipe worked out with the East Toledo Wrestling Club and won virtually every tournament he entered. But his father, Joe Martínez, ultimately decided that he needed to provide his son with a bigger challenge. He found that challenge in southwest Ohio at the Jeff Jordan State Champ Camp.

So Joe Martínez, his wife Cookie – Toledo area natives both – their two sons, Felipe and Joe, Jr., and daughter Concepción, packed up and made the move to be closer not only to Jordan but also to the Graham Local Schools of St. Paris, Ohio.

Jordan, who grew up in Champaign County and attended the Graham Local Schools, captured four Ohio High School State Titles during his youth and then moved to the University of Wisconsin where he was a two-time NCAA All-American and a Big Ten champion.

After graduation, Jordan took an assistant coaching position at Purdue University before moving back to his hometown and starting one of the best wrestling camps in the nation.

According to Joe Martínez, his son has benefited greatly from being with Jordan. “It’s a great program,” says Joe. “He’s just been around a great coach and great athletes.”

In fact, it’s not just the coach who has been so important to Felipe’s improvement, it’s also the wrestlers who have been attracted to that part of the state.

“Your workout partners are not as great in northwest Ohio,” says Joe. “They are more dedicated down here.”

Felipe, who will turn 14 in February, is currently a seventh-grader who will be attending Graham High School, a state Division II school, always ranked at the top of the wrestling heap.

Joe, Jr., a ninth-grader just cracked the school’s wrestling team’s starting line-up.

Felipe, in the meantime, travels the country entering tournaments which he wins relentlessly.

In November of last year, Felipe won the 15 and under age group at 115 pounds at the Cliff Keen Kickoff Classic in Tulsa. He is expected to do just as well at the 10th Annual Cliff Keen Reno Worlds, April 6-8, 2007.

He may just be the best grappler in the nation for his age and weight.1

This weekend, January 19-20, 2007, he travels to Tulsa for another tournament—the 52nd Annual Cliff Keen Tulsa Nationals. See www.worldofwrestling-roller.com/main.asp

Remarkably, however, he may not even be the best wrestler in his family, pound for pound.


Primos Mario y Moises

Felipe’s two cousins, Mario and Moises Guillen, nine and eight years of age respectively, are intent on matching their kin’s accomplishments. The two youngsters, both with the East Toledo Wrestling Club, also have lofty national rankings. Mario finished second at the Cliff Keen Kickoff Classic in Tulsa last November, at 55 pounds, and Moises finished fifth. At a national tournament in Cincinnati several weeks ago, Mario finished first and Moises third.

What makes these youngsters achievements so far this year even more impressive is the fact that they just moved up into the nine and 10 year-old age bracket. Usually they are wrestling older, more experienced kids.

And according to their uncle, Joe Campos, it’s not easy to compete when you have garnered such attention so early.

“We went down to the Cliff Kean Kickoff Classic in November 2005 and it was like Mario had a bull’s-eye on his back,” says Campos. “Everybody had heard of him.”

Not that it really mattered. Mario won the gold medal that year at 46 pounds.


So what’s in the future for the Guillen brothers? Will they follow their older cousin to southwest Ohio?

Too soon to tell, says Campos. The family will wait to judge the state of the wrestling programs at local high schools when the boys are ready for that step. Mario has indicated that he would love to attend Lakewood’s St. Edwards, the Division I cream of the high school crop.

But if dedication counts for anything, Mario and Moises will remain on top for quite some time. Evenings in the Guillen home present an unusual scene for the uninitiated. Mario and Moises are not generally outside running around the neighborhood, or in the living room watching television or playing video games. A typical evening for these grapplers is working out in the basement, lifting, practicing technique, honing their skills … hour after hour.

And during those endless workouts, there’s one thing they know for certain—their older cousin, Felipe, is doing exactly the same thing … trying to get better!





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