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Local grapplers compete in trials

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By Dave Kavanaugh

Bring on the world.

That’s essentially what Las Vegans Marcos Martinez and Jesse Valdez said in their first real foray into higher level martial arts competition. Each of the two went 2-2 in the recent World Team Trials for Grappling in Phoenix.

Martinez and Valdez have been training in jiu jitsu, adding to their growing martial arts repertoire based on years of collegiate wrestling.

Both own multiple state high school wrestling championships, won as members of the Robertson title teams in the early 2000s. Both went on to wrestle for Dana, a college in Nebraska; Valdez wrestled briefly for New Mexico Highlands. And both have continued their educations while continuing to develop their grappling with the help of local MMA competitors Christian Montaño and Robert Gutierrez as mentors.

The World Team Trials tournament was run alongside the Sunkist Kids International Open (freestyle, Greco-Roman, women’s freestyle), the tournament that kicks off the senior-level wrestling season.

“You score points in a match for takedowns, passing guard, mounting, taking the back, escaping, etc.,” Martinez explained, “and a match is five minutes long.”

Martinez  (145 lbs.) lost his first-round match 5-1 to Tom LeCuyer, the eventual tourney champ and a third-place finisher at the world championships last year. After bouncing back for consecutive victories via submission and point-decision, Martinez was eliminated just a round from placing.

Valdez (163 lbs.) lost his opener, won his second 11-3 and won his third by injury default. He then lost to Michael Kelly in the third-place bout; had he won, he would have qualified for the world team.

“We’re right there with those guys, so now we train harder,” Martinez said.

Note: Martinez is also an assistant coach to the Robertson wrestling team.