Twenty-Five questions with Israel Martinez, Montini’s new Head Coach
By Andre’ Morgan
The biggest question of the 2010 wrestling off-season has been answered. Israel Martinez has been named the third Head Wrestling Coach in the history of Montini Catholic High School. Martinez will follow the wildly successful Mike Bukovsky as the head of the Bronco wrestling team. What remains are a lot of little questions that only the new head coach can answer.
Montini is arguably considered the top program in Illinois and is often refered to as the team of the past decade. Last month Bukovsky decided to step down after leading Montini to back-to-back state titles to spend more quality time with his family. Martinez, his second assistant, immediately became a front running candidate to succeed Bukovsky.
Twenty–six applicants wanted to run the nationally recognized program with Martinez out distancing a former United States Olympian Joe Williams. The former Mt. Carmel and Iowa stand out is considered the best wrestler in the state's history. The other interviewed top candidate was former Portage, Indiana head coach and an Illinois state champion Reggie Wright. When the dust settled Martinez was the one chosen to maintain the current Broncos perch as state champions.
Solid as a wrestler himself, Martinez is often mentioned in conversations as one of the best Illinois has ever produced. He posted a career 116-1 record as a prep at Aurora (West) High School. He won five IKWF state titles to go along with three state championships at 112, 130 and 145 pounds in high school. A dispute with his coach led to Martinez leaving the team while ranked number one and not having a chance to follow Williams as an Illinois four time champion.
A three time Asics All-American in freestyle, Martinez also became a member of the 2000 USA Wrestling Cadet World team.
Martinez captured the National Junior College championship (38-0) while wrestling for Northern Idaho in 2003. Although signing a National Letter of Intent to compete for the number one college program Iowa, Martinez never wrestled for the Hawkeyes following several personal issues and returned to Illinois to become a wrestling coach.
Since 2005, Martinez was an assistant to Bukovsky and opened his own wrestling school, Izzy Style Wrestling in Bensenville, Illinois. Many of the top wrestlers have flocked to Martinez to learn what made him a successful wrestler.
Below you will find twenty-five questions I posed to the new head coach. As we get closer to the season, there will be a more in depth video interview with Coach Martinez.
1. What were your first thoughts when you were told you got the job?
I was a little shocked because I thought I was simply going in for a 2nd interview and then our AD, Bob Landi, offered me the job. Once the original shock wore off, I was very excited.
2. What do you envision the future of Montini as?
As a school, Montini is thriving. Our administration, faculty, alumni, and student body are second to none. We have made so many capital improvements over the last several years. Montini is the place to be. From a wrestling standpoint, I am hoping to continue the tradition established by my predecessor, Mike Bukovsky. If our program's future is anywhere near our current level, I will be extremely proud.
3. Who will be you assistants?
I am excited to have John Dziewiatkowski, Joe Riccordino, Mike Mucha, Tony Norton, Mark Holstein, and Jered Hensley return as assistants. I will also be bringing in some other guys that bring a lot to the program, but I need to work out the details first. Our coaching staff will be one of the best in the country.
4. How can the Montini schedule improve?
Coach Bukovsky has done a great job putting together one of the toughest schedules in the country. I would like to continue along this path. We are scheduled to attend the Ironman, Clash, Dvorak, and Cheesehead again this year. Once this year is over, we'll see what other opportunities are presented to us. One area where we will try to improve is the schedule of our lower levels. I would like to see our Frosh/Soph and JV get more opportunities in duals and tournaments.
5. Any plans to petition up to move up to 3A?
No plans as far as I know. I would welcome that challenge if our administration decides to go that route.
6. With the lineup you have returning do you think Montini can win state in your first year at the helm?
That is the plan. Coach Bukovsky has set the bar pretty high by winning 8 state titles in the last 11 years. We will do everything in our power to bring home #9.
7. What are your thoughts on following Coach Bu's legacy?
Coach Bu is synonymous with Montini and especially Montini wrestling. He has been so active in so many aspects of wrestling in the state of Illinois. I can only hope to achieve half of what he has. He is a true legend at our school and I wish him the best of luck. Although I am the current Head Coach, Coach Bu will always be THE Montini Coach.
8. What schools do you consider Montini's main rivals?
I think this is ever changing depending on the strength of various programs. For years, Sandwich was our main rival. Then, Providence, St. Rita, and Mt. Carmel came to the forefront. When Carl Sandburg had several really strong years, we were always trying to battle them. Glenbard North was probably our most heated rival of recent memory and now Marmion is right there too.
9. What are your thoughts on the sudden rise of Marmion in AA?
Those who know the situation first hand know this was not a sudden rise. Those guys have been working hard in their kids club for years and now they are reaping the rewards. They have improved their schedule, their coaching staff, and their training opportunities. Any team willing to put in the resources they have to create a winning program should be commended.
10. How will you balance your time with your Izzy Style wrestling club?
During the high school season, all my time will be dedicated to Montini wrestling. This is my number one priority. Izzy Style will focus on private sessions, camps, clinics, freestyle and greco training, etc. in the off season. I love wrestling and I love training kids. I will always be able to find time for this.
11. Do you think there could be a conflict of interest between Izzy Style and Montini?
None whatsoever. I have been extremely involved with the Montini program over the last couple of years and there has not been any issues with Izzy Style. I know things change when your Head Coach, but I am confident that I will be able to balance everything effectively with the aid of my coaching staff.
12. Will your brother Nathan be a part of the Montini program?
I haven't talked with Nate about this. Those who have trained with him know that he is one of the best technicians in the state. He could be a valuable asset to Montini or any other wrestling program. We'll have to see.
13. Will your father Jose be a part of the Montini program?
Thankfully, yes. I had a long conversation with him and he will be joining the coaching staff. I am so excited to have him be part of the program. He has coached more IHSA state champions than any coach in the history of Illinois wrestling. He has forgotten more about wrestling than I currently know. He is unbelievably knowledgeable on technique, training methods, and motivation. He is the main reason for my competitive success and the biggest influencer in my life. Without him, I would not be in a position to be the Head Coach at Montini. He has dedicated his life to the sport of wrestling and I am lucky to have him on staff.
14. Do you think your hiring signals an end to any questions concerning your past issues?
I can't control what others think or questions they ask. All I can do is be the best person and coach I can be. I was up front about my past issues with Montini and they chose to hire me. They realize that I have done a lot of growing up over the last several years and my best is yet to come. I am confident that they will not be sorry with their decision to give me a chance at such a great job.
15. Why should an 8th grader consider you as their future coach and the Montini program?
I don't want any family to attend Montini for me or for the wrestling program. I want them to attend Montini because it is a great school which builds young men and women. I have seen so many kids over the years who have been touched by the infectious family atmosphere of the school. I am more proud to be a part of that than any state championships we have won. Wrestling is just a small part of what kids get when they decide to go to Montini.
16. Is this your dream job?
YES! Coaching dedicated individuals at a nationally ranked program in the state I grew up and wrestled in. It does not get much better than this.
17. How long do you envision yourself being at Montini?
I am not one to make exact predictions, but I am hopeful I can do a good enough job to be here for a very long time.
18. What will be the philosophy of the Montini program?
As a person, I will expect our kids to be respectful of their teammates, classmates, teachers, parents, family, friends, and themselves. Anything less will not be tolerated. As a wrestler, hard work and dedication will be our main focus. With our coaching staff and schedule, anyone who gives 100% will have no choice, but to succeed.
19. Explain the role of the Montini wrestler and educational goals?
At Montini, education comes first. Without the educational aspect, we do not have a wrestling team. Kids will learn this very quickly. Our standards for eligibility are much more stringent than IHSA rules. We also have an advanced grading scale. Any kid who does not put forth maximum effort in the classroom will not be a successful part of our wrestling team. I am not too worried about this because Montini has some of the best teachers in the state that will help our kids develop in the classroom.
20. Will your entire program be a part of the Illinois freestyle and Greco season or a select few?
That will be up to each individual wrestler. Some kids play baseball or football and I am good with that. Montini promotes multiple sport athletes and I will support this philosophy. Obviously if you want to get better at something, you have to put in the time. Hopefully our kids will put in the time. In terms of Izzy Style, we will be limited to the number of Montini wrestlers we will be able to accept due to IHSA bylaws.
21. Now that you are a head coach, how will you feel about your wrestlers training at other places like Overtime?
I am a fan of kids putting in the time and wrestling where they feel comfortable. If they want to train at Overtime, I am ok with that. Not sure if they are ok with that, but I am. Overtime is very successful as are many of the other programs in the state. It is all-good in the long run for Illinois wrestling.
22. Do you have any plans for future physical growth of the wrestling room at Montini?
I would love to expand the wrestling room, but that is not my call. Does Illinois Matmen want to make a generous donation to the cause?
admin: I wish we had those kind of funds Izzy!
23. Will your tournament schedule change in any way?
This year will be the same. We will evaluate each year at the end of the season and do whatever is in the best interest of the program as a whole.
24. Why do you think you were picked over more famous candidates like Joe Williams and Reggie Wright?
Not sure I would describe Joe and Reggie as famous, but I am glad this wasn’t a criteria for becoming the Head Wrestling Coach at Montini. If that were the case, Tiger Woods and Justin Bieber would have been excellent candidates. I am proud of what I have accomplished as a competitor and as a coach. I know Joe and Reggie personally and I like them both. I’m sure they would have done a great job in the position, but fortunately, the Montini administration thought I was the best man for the job.
25. Will you be working inside the building at Montini at some point and in what capacity?
No immediate plans to do so, but if it were in the school's and my best interest, I would be open to anything.