When a knee injury forced junior wrestler Brooks Martino to sit out his sophomore campaign, he could’ve done just that: sit out.
With a demanding course load, the underclassman could’ve done what most Ivy League athletes would do — focus on his studies and come back to the team the following year. But Martino isn’t like most Ivy League athletes.
“I really got the sense, even in the first two months I was here that he bled Red and Blue. It was all about Penn wrestling,” first-year coach Alex Tirapelle said of his captain. “He’s the type of guy I think any coach would want in his program.”
Last year, as the Quakers drilled double leg takedowns and shot defense, Martino developed another side of his game.
“Last year I learned a lot about how to be a leader off the mat,” Martino says.
The 157-pounder notes that he has always been an energetic guy who likes to make people laugh in addition to leading by example. That’s why it should have been no surprise when he emerged last year as the emotional leader of the team.
He’s hoping this year will be different though, as Martino looks forward to getting back on the mat.
“I can’t even explain it,” Martino said. “Last year, it was really aggravating just sitting here literally every day just watching the guys work hard. I couldn’t be happier to be back in the room.”
Still, it was his ability to push past the annoyance of being sidelined that allowed him to emerge into the leader that Tirapelle saw from day one this year.
“It was kind of an easy decision [to say] ‘Hey this is a guy who should be expressing his opinion to the team and be leading the guys going forward,’” Tirapelle explained.
The wrestler who led the team in pins his freshman year en route to a 15-7 record expects big things from himself this season.
“My goal is initially to get that starting spot,” Martino said, before adding that he wants to be beating ranked wrestlers by the end of the season.
On top of all of that, Martino hopes to reclaim his dominance in terms of scoring bonus points for the Red and Blue by taking the team pin title back from senior Lorenzo Thomas.
There’s no doubt that the best part of Martino’s game is his ability to dominate on top. However, when asked what position he would pick if he had a choice in the third period of a close match, he replied that he would likely choose neutral out of habit. Although he admits he may need to rethink that strategy.
“There’s been a couple of matches in the past where we’ve kind of looked at each other and been like ‘Huh, maybe we should’ve picked top there,’” Martino said.
To this, Tirapelle chuckled. But of course there is one thing most important to Tirapelle about Martino.
“I want him to be healthy most of all,” he said.
Still, the junior is more than just an asset for his ability on the mat.
This season Martino and the Quakers hope it will all come together for the junior wrestler, so that he can be who the Red and Blue lean on for emotional support as well the guy whom they rely on to record a crucial pin.
Regardless of which role is required, Martino is more than capable of conquering it head on with a smile.
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