Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Hispanic student stands as role model

Martinez stands as Hispanic role model
By Andy Marso • • January 31, 2010

Like many high school wrestling coaches, Melrose's Vaughn Glasener is struggling to keep his numbers up.

Apparently grueling practices and restricted diets aren't all that appealing to the children of the most obese, television-loving nation on Earth. Go figure.

Glasener had 26 wrestlers last year and only one was a senior.

But this year, only half that many showed up.

"We've kind of scratched our heads a little bit," Glasener said. "We had a couple injuries and we had one kid move away, so that's three or four of them.

"But with the others, I don't know. It was kids who had kind of paid their dues (that didn't come back), too."

That being the case, Glasener would like to tap into a new demographic with the help of a role model that's hard to miss.

He's hoping junior heavyweight Donaldo Martinez, the son of Mexican immigrants, can help inspire more of the town's Hispanics to wrestle.

Remember the old "Be like Mike" Gatorade commercials featuring Michael Jordan?

Consider this a "Sea como Donaldo" campaign.

"He's been very positive for our team," Glasener said. "We're trying to get more Latino kids involved in extracurriculars and his family's been really supportive, which is great."

Martinez' parents both work at the Jennie-O plant in Melrose, but do their best to get to his meets. It's been harder this season, as apparently turkey is one sector of the economy untouched by the recession.

"One of the saddest things is that his parents have probably only been able to see him wrestle three or four times this year," Glasener said.

Hispanics made up 12 percent of Melrose's population in the 2000 census — a number that will likely be higher in this year's count. And Martinez seems like the right guy to get them interested in wrestling.

He went 26-12 last year and finished fourth at sections. He started this year 18-2, establishing himself as one of Central Minnesota's best 285-pounders.

He's willing to help recruit, too. He brought in his cousin Diego Hernandez, a 140-pounder who has stuck with the sport for three years even though he acknowledges practices aren't a romp through a field of daisies.

"(I'm) very tired after all the conditioning and live wrestling and everything," Hernandez said. "(Cutting) weight is kind of hard too. I like to eat a lot."

Being a heavyweight, Martinez doesn't have to worry about that nearly as much.

"I can pretty much eat what I want," he said with a grin that suggests he's fully aware of how much that infuriates his teammates.

That being said, Martinez, who also plays football and is a thrower for the track team, admits that conditioning might be his biggest weakness.

He's not a cut, intimidating heavyweight, but that sometimes works to his advantage because opponents tend to underestimate him. All of a sudden, he's on them much quicker than they thought possible.

"He's a little bit more than what you think he is when you first see him," Glasener said. "He has really good feet for a 285-pound kid. You can tell he's played some soccer."

Aside from conditioning, Glasener said he'd like to see Martinez work on his killer instinct. Physically he's like a dancing bear on the mat, but his personality tends more toward teddy bear.

He's shown flashes of no-mercy intensity, though. His propensity for pulling off clinching wins in tight duals without a hint of nerves has earned him the nickname "Iceman" and he pinned one opponent this year in nine seconds.

"Right off the whistle I saw what he looked like and in my mind planned out what I was going to do," Martinez said. "Pretty much just overpowered him."

Perhaps Martinez' sense of urgency is growing as he gets closer to the day when college coaches can start recruiting him.

He would be the first in his immediate family to go to college and said he feels some pressure to make sure it happens. His parents have carved out a good life for him and his brother by working long shifts at the plant, but they don't want that life for him, and he doesn't want it either.

"I want to do something where I only have to work eight hours (a day)," Martinez said.

Specifically, he wants to be a college wrestler, study criminal justice and eventually start a career in law enforcement.

Glasener said all three goals are within reach if Martinez keeps up his studies. He noted that good heavyweights are hard to find and said that Martinez' size, laid-back personality and ethnic background would make him a natural for law enforcement.

"The main security guy over at Wal-Mart in Sauk (Centre), he's already asked me about him," Glasener said. "They'd love to have a guy like Donaldo who's big, strong and bilingual."

Being a law enforcement ambassador to the Hispanic community can wait, though.

Right now he's got his hands full being Melrose wrestling's ambassador.

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