How do you describe a second-place finish at one of the toughest tournaments in the state? A tournament in which you finish ahead of two former state runners-up?
Well, if you’re Wapakoneta Redskins junior John “J.T.” Martin, the answer is, “Not good enough.”
That was exactly how the Redskins 106-pounder felt after his result at last week’s Top Gun Tournament at Alliance High School.
“It’s a tough tournament,” Martin said between matches at the Wapakoneta Invitational on Saturday. “It feels good to be successful there. But I got second, so I know I’ve got to work.
“I can’t just be satisfied with getting second at Top Gun. I’ve got to work to get better. You’ve got goals, and to get those goals you’ve got to work hard and put the time in.”
It is exactly that drive and determination that propelled Martin to the state tournament in both his freshman and sophomore years. And after two years of wrestling in the rather large shadow cast by former state champion and state runner-up Logan Erb, Martin is ready to cast a shadow of his own.
Anything less than a state title this year would be “not good enough.”
“That’s been my goal all along,” Martin said. “I feel like I have the potential to get a state title and anything short of it, I know I have to work harder.
“And I know that I won’t be satisfied. Even if I win a state title, I won’t be satisfied, because I’ll have to come back the next year and do it again.”
If Martin can accomplish that goal, he will join Erb and Brent Miller as the only state wrestling champions from Wapakoneta. Erb and Miller won their titles in the now defunct 215-pound weight class. Martin competes in the newly created 106-pound class.
“The lighter-weight guys on our team, they don’t like to wrestle him,” Redskins varsity coach Jason Rostorfer said. “He doesn’t take it easy on anybody. He’ll shove them in the wall. He’ll throw them off the mat. He wrestles hard. And if they don’t wrestle hard, they’re going to get beat up pretty good.
“He’s got that attitude and that’s why he’s winning as many as he is. I don’t think he’s the most talented wrestler. But he’s the hardest working wrestler we have and he’s made himself into what he’s doing now. The credit goes to him and his work ethic.”
Rostorfer said that work ethic was on display after Martin struggled to a seventh-place finish at the prestigious Brecksville Holiday Tournament in late December.
“J.T. is a kid that will have setbacks and he uses that to motivate him,” Rostorfer said. “He got seventh at Brecksville and his comment was, ‘That’s not good enough. That’s not going to happen again.’ His mentality is, I’m going to go to practice and I’m going to do something to fix it. And that’s why he practices as hard as he can.”
Martin has had to take on a new role for the Redskins this season. As a freshman and sophomore, he watched experience veterans such as Erb and Jake Beemer lead the way. Now he’s the leader of a new generation of Wapak wrestlers.
“Absolutely he’s the leader,” Rostorfer said. “He’s the one who starts our practices, gets them running, gets them warmed up. He leads by example is the biggest thing.
“My philosophy is talk is cheap. Anybody can say they’re going to do something. But J.T. doesn’t talk about what he’s going to do. He just goes out and does it. And it shows.”
Said Martin, “It’s different. I’ve always been looking up to those guys. It’s like I’m following in their footsteps. I’ve got to pick up right where they left off. But I want to exceed what they did. I want to be even a better leader.
“And you can ask the guys, I’ve been stepping it up in practice. I’ve been intense. I’ve been pushing everybody else. I want to be that great leader that they were.”
Martin wrestles and lifts year-round, hitting the mat at least twice a week during the offseason.
“It’s my life,” he said.
The intensity of the one-on-one struggle is what appeals the most to him.
“You control whether you win, whether you’re successful,” Martin said. “You control whether you’re varsity. A coach can’t tell you, ‘Hey, you’re not going to wrestle,’ because you’ve got to win in a wrestle-off. I like that. You control everything. When you win, it feels great.”
And to have a “J.T. Martin State Champion” placard hanging next to the ones for Erb and Miller?
“That would be amazing,” Martin said. “It’s undescribable. I’ve been at state. I’ve seen Logan win it. And I’ve seen me come short. And it just fuels me. I want to win it so bad. It would just be an amazing feeling to win a state title. And that’s my goal.”