TUCSON - Ace Martinez didn't show up last week and Robbie Mathers never got a shot last season.
Both situations served as motivators for the two Desert Vista wrestlers and led to different but good outcomes Saturday at the Flowing Wells Invitational.
Mathers had a MRSA staph infection a year ago and missed out on the chance to test himself in the state's toughest tournament. Martinez was out to show last week's embarrassment in the finals of the Peoria Invitational was a one-time deal.
Mathers received the Outstanding Wrestler Award after winning the 125-pound title, a weight class that included five state champions.
"I really wanted to show that I was capable of winning this tournament because I never got that chance last year," Mathers said. "I really wanted to win this one."
An extra motivator for Mathers, who won the 112-pound Class 5A Division I title last season, was the fact that he finished fourth in a California tournament at the end of December and then finished third at Peoria after getting caught in a spladle in the quarterfinals.
"Those were tough situations that he couldn't help," Desert Vista coach David Gonzalez said. "He could only learn from it and get stronger."
In the finals of the Flowing Wells, he faced Sunnyside's two-time state champion and three-time finalist Louie Murillo. Murillo forced the action, taking most of the shots and being more aggressive. Mathers did a great job of fighting off most of the attacks or forcing a stalemate by locking up one of Murillo's limbs.
Murillo, who got a takedown with four seconds left in the first period, led 2-1 heading into the third period. The Sunnyside senior chose neutral for the final period. He took another shot, but Mathers stopped it, worked his way around to a cradle, took his time locking it up and slowly took Murillo to his back for a five-point move and the 6-2 victory.
"I wanted to make sure it was tight before I went for it," Mathers said. "I wanted it to hurt and know that I could keep it there for the rest of the period."
Desert Vista, which finished 10th, and Sunnyside, which won the team title handily, are in the same level at state this year so there is a good chance they will meet each other again. Murillo will most likely be the biggest obstacle to Mathers as he attempts to become the school's first two-time state champion.
"I told him that Louie is a Gumby-type wrestler and manages to worm his way out of positions," Gonzalez said. "He locked up cradle so tight that (Murillo) couldn't get out of it. This is the first of two. We'll see what it means down the line."
Mathers wasn't happy with the way he wrestled up to that point in the match.
"I was nervous because I had never won this one and it is the best," Mathers said. "I didn't want to wrestle that way (defensive as Murillo took all of the shots) but I did what I needed to in the end."
Martinez lost in the finals to Thunderbird's Jacob Graham, a two-time state champion, as the latter controlled the match in a 14-3 bout.
It might sound like baby steps, but at least Martinez went the distance this time out after getting pinned in the first period against Graham last week in the finals at Peoria.
"I wanted to prove it was a fluke," Martinez said. "I don't get pinned. At least not very often and I wanted to go the distance. I didn't go in trying not get pinned. I wanted to win, but he is a great wrestler."
Graham was up 7-0 after the first period on the strength of takedown and two separate near-fall combinations, including a tilt at the final seconds.
It was 9-0 after a Graham takedown in the second period, but Martinez showed some grit with a reversal and couple of pinning combinations that were on the edge and led to no points. But at least he wasn't timid. He was off the hips and trying to score.
"Ace wanted another shot at him," Gonzalez said. "He got it and wrestled much better. If he gets one of those (near falls) in the center of the mat who knows what happens. But at least made some strides from last week."
Martinez, who had to get a last second takedown in the second round to be beat Mesa Mountain View's Jon Huber on Friday, has made the finals at two of the state's toughest tournaments in back-to-back weekends and lost to someone who won't see at state.
"I am showing everyone that I going to be there in the end," said Martinez, who finished third at state last season. "Even in losing, I gained some confidence tonight because I think I tested (Graham) and got better from one week to the next."
The Thunder finished 10th in the tournament team standings with 121.5 points with four placers as Alex Bambic was third at 215 and Mike Arredondo was fourth at heavyweight.
Sunnyside ran away with the titles with 10 total placers and three champions for 224.5 points, while Tucson Ironwood Ridge (144), Yuma Cibola (140), Thunderbird (138.5), Corona del Sol (131.5) and Mesa Mountain View 131.5 rounded out the top six.
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