Turlock High Class of 1996 graduate Joey Martinez’s road to success as a collegiate wrestling head coach began with his years wearing Bulldog blue and gold.
The Bulldog product is a collegiate hall of fame coach and has a unique success story. He started when he was young, and ultimately the lessons learned in wrestling while at Turlock High gave him more knowledge than he could ever imagine.
“When I wrestled I went all over the area and developed that way until I was a little older before I was in high school,” said Martinez. “When I went to Turlock High I didn’t know a ton of people because my junior high was small, so I really stuck to wrestling. It helped me develop a lot of things of who I am now, all things I had to overcome. Looking back, it helped me do what I do now, it forced me to overcome obstacles, when I have things going on now I just figure it out.”
The hard work and opportunity also came with the assistance of family who were there every step of the way and still are.
All the things I mentioned I am appreciative but the good part is seeing all these student athletes walk across the stage and getting a degree.Joey Martinez
“Even to this day I still get at least a couple family members at the latest meets, least three or so, but they all still support wrestling in Turlock as well,” said Martinez. “They go to state and all that, we are a wrestling family.”
Once Martinez graduated in 1996 he wasn’t sure what was next, but he knew that wrestling in college and earning a degree were his goals.
“My next step was college and I always wanted to go to college and graduate from school and ended up at Menlo and now I am here,” said Martinez. “I can’t take all the credit from myself, not just me, I did a lot of things on my own but I had a lot of help and guidance, from grandpa, to my dad, mom, uncle, aunt and whole family system was good and it helped me as well, wasn’t just me — a lot of people helped me get to where I am now.”
Menlo College, which competes in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA), has been the home for Martinez since he stepped foot on the Atherton, California campus in 2001.
Martinez graduated from Menlo College in 2003 with a degree in Psychology while also wrestling.
The Turlock native was a two-time NAIA All-American (2002 and 2003) and earned the Menlo College Team MVP award twice.
Before this, Martinez had worked his way up at Skyline Junior College where he was a two-time Junior College State Champion, accumulating an overall record of 61-0.
He was inducted into the Menlo College Athletics Hall of Fame in 2013.
Martinez now serves as the Director for men and women’s wrestling at Menlo.
The 2017-18 season was historic for Martinez, as he earned the Menlo College Coach of the Year honors, was named the Cascade Collegiate Conference Coach of the Year and the NAIA National Coach of the Year.
“This year we did really well, won a bunch of awards,” said Martinez. “This year was a banner year, we went off. Two wrestling classics and had two women who were all American and ESPN broadcasted. We had the men win Conference, first year officially with seven all conference wrestlers. Ten academic all-conference and we beat every team. Eight guys qualified for nationals and two conference champions, two guys placed in national tournament.”
His authentic style and ability to create winners — in all aspects — has created one of the more successful athletic programs which has seen the majority of its athletes graduate, which is what is most important to Martinez.
“All the things I mentioned I am appreciative but the good part is seeing all these student athletes walk across the stage and getting a degree,” said Martinez.
While the coach and director, Martinez has seen a graduation rate of 92 percent and an 86 percent retention rate.
He has coached 31 Academic All Americans, four athlete of the year awards, 78 regional place winners, eight NAIA West Regional Champions, two Cascade Collegiate Conference Champions, 71 National qualifiers, 18 All Americans, one National Champion and one valedictorian.
Excellence isn’t just on the mat for Martinez. He and the wrestling teams have fundraised thousands of dollars for local charities and non-profit organizations.
They participated in the Community Outreach programs that saw them interact with over 300 youth in area and have also been part of the Red Cross Blood Drive on campus for over 10 years, he said.
“We are the biggest teams on campus combined both programs; we have about 13 coaches, including myself, couple managers, big group,” Martinez added. “We also got our wrestling room renovated; we’ve got good support. The school is great and the love backing us up in anything we do from the president, to AD and professors, not just wrestling but sports in general. Can’t complain, get to wake up every day and coach and not many can say that.”