Martinez to wrestle for national title

Martinez to wrestle for national title

CLEVELAND — The orange singlet is waiting.

So is a potential historic moment.

Illinois wrestler Isaiah Martinez defeated Alex Marinelli of Iowa via a 5-2 decision in the semifinals at 165 pounds on Friday night during the NCAA championships at Quicken Loans Arena, advancing Martinez to his fourth straight national title match.

“In training they put you in hard situations where guys aren’t just going to play patty cake with you,” Martinez said. “(Marinelli is) a real good wrestler ... and those matches remind you of how to grit things out.”

Martinez — who won a 10-1 major decision on Friday morning in the quarterfinals against Chance Marsteller of Lock Haven — will face Penn State’s Vincenzo Joseph tonight in a rematch of last year’s title match that Joseph won. 

Joseph defeated David McFadden of Virginia Tech 3-1 in the other semifinal on Friday night.

Martinez  — the only four-time All-American in Illinois history — beat Joseph 4-1 on March 4 at the Big Ten championships.

“Whenever me and Isaiah wrestle, it’s usually a pretty exciting match,” Joseph said. “We’re both looking forward to it. We know it’s going to be a good one, and we’re just ready to put on a show. I guess a rematch is pretty fun, too. Everyone wants to see a rematch.”

Martinez, who won his first national title in 2015 at 157 and followed up a year later with his second national championship in 2016 at 165, will try to become the first Illini wrestler to win three national championships. 

And he’ll do so by wearing the orange singlet he’s reserved for milestones like tonight.

Martinez first broke out the orange apparel during his first national title match and vowed to only wear the color in national title matches.

“He was checking my bag,” Illinois coach Jim Heffernan said with a laugh. “He’ll probably hang it up in his room for a little extra motivation for (today).”

Tonight’s championships start at 7 p.m., with the 165-pound title match expected to happen between 8-8:30 p.m.

And when Martinez takes to the mat one final time as an Illini, he’ll have one thought on his mind: beating Joseph.

“Of course, I wanted him again in the finals,” Martinez said. “At the end of the day, it really doesn’t matter, but of course I want that matchup again. We did it at the Big Ten finals. Now it’s time to do it for real.”

Parker in hunt for third-place. Illinois’ Emery Parker exacted some revenge.

Now, he has a chance at a third-place finish.

Parker cashed in on two third-period stalling violations by his opponent en route to a 7-5 victory over North Carolina’s Chip Ness in the 184-pound consolation quarterfinals at the NCAA wrestling championships on Friday, earning All-America honors in the process.

Parker, who lost to Ness in Thursday’s preliminary round, will wrestle No. 4 seed Domenic Abounader of Michigan today with a spot in the third-place match on the line.