Second championship wrestling title for hard working McNary sports star 

McNary student-athlete Ali Martinez as she holds her 2024 Athlete of the Year award given by the Salem Sports and Breakfast club. 

Keizer-born McNary senior Ali Martinez is many things: a student, an athlete, a sister and a daughter, although if there is one thing she is not, it’s lackadaisical.

Born to parents Amanda and Toby Martinez, along with her three siblings, the 18-year-old McNary student has earned significant acclaim recently for her second straight year winning the OSAA 6A/5A wrestling championship for her weight class. 

In addition, Martinez was also presented with the Salem Breakfast Club’s Athlete of the Year award. 

To understand who she really is, however, one does not need to listen for long to gather that she is going places. 

A born-leader, Martinez describes herself as responsible, dependable and perpetually cheery. 

“I’m the glue for my family because I always have a positive attitude and am always willing to do anything for anyone,” Martinez said. 

Taking the athlete portion of her academic career seriously, Martinez noted her typical daily routine involves practicing from 5 a.m. – 9 p.m. during the week for the three sports she is a part of this Spring, softball, club wrestling and flag football. 

Her official record for her championship-winning senior season is an impressive 35-2 though, during her interview, Martinez revealed that each of her 35 wins, including her championship win, ended in a pin. 

Martinez gave a recounting of her championship match noting that while there were a few unknowns involved, she persevered and stayed true to the hard work she had put in until that point. 

Her championship match was against a wrestler from Eagle Point High School, Alixia Hernandez, with the win (by pinfall) coming in the third and final period at 5:07. 

Starting off, Martinez noted her biggest initial disadvantage was that she had never wrestled against Hernandez nor seen her wrestle, making her an unknown when thinking about what to focus on for the match. 

After overcoming the butterflies of nervousness in her stomach she cheered on her fellow teammates while trying to continue to focus on her upcoming match. 

When the match started, Martinez described how she found her resolve when she determined her best way to win the match was to envision how she would handle her opponent rather than worry about what her opponent would do to her. 

Redirecting her focus in this way helped, as Martinez stated how when she was able to feel that she had more drive than her opponent, the fear of loss quickly dissipated. 

“From all those double practices every day and the early mornings, I could tell I had that little extra that she didn’t have and I think that’s what made me win that match.”

The match was tied with both wrestlers scoring points on each other in a back and forth exchange when finally Martinez noted a change in the match’s pace. 

As both wrestlers grew more tired, the referee reset them for the final period. 

For this, Martinez chose the neutral position, both wrestlers standing and facing each other, with one thought in mind: You are not tired and this is your match.

The final moments had Martinez taking Hernandez down and, knowing Hernandez was adept at scrambling away from the opponent, trying to stop her. 

As Hernandez attempted to sit-out and away from the takedown, Martinez saw her chance and drove her opponent forward with all her might. 

This surprised both Hernandez and Martinez, though Martinez remained steadfast and continued to bowl over her opponent right onto her back, according to Martinez. 

Once there, Martinez clamped down on her arm and head grip and held on to her opponent for dear life in order to secure a pin. 

“I looked up at my dad and I could see the excitement in his face,” Martinez said. 

“After I had my hand raised, all I could do was smile, gave my coach a hug and then when I saw my dad, I just started bawling,” she finished. 

When it comes to herself, Martinez was an open book, discussing her hopes for the future as well as critically looking back on how she has gotten to where she is now. 

She first became interested in wrestling in sixth grade on a dare with her brother. 

The stipulations were that if he were to join the football team while in his eighth grade year, Martinez would join the wrestling team, which, as time can tell us now, was what happened. 

While not being very good at first, she stuck with it and reached the point in eighth grade where she was trying out for a national team, though this dream was cut short due to a labral tear, which also prevented her from competing in her freshman year at McNary as well. 

In her sophomore year, she had her labrum surgery and, not wanting to be too far from the mat, still worked as the wrestling team’s manager for the season. 

In all, Martinez wrestled throughout her sixth, seventh and eighth grade years, though due to injury, was unable to wrestle again until a junior at McNary, though she was still debating it as she ended up needing gallbladder surgery as well. 

Despite being in the off-season, Martinez still rolls around on the mat at the Salem Elite Wrestling club located at 2373 Kuebler Rd. 

The club is a continuation of the regular season where student-athletes can continue to practice as well as go to various events and tournaments. 

While wrestling was not exactly her favorite, Martinez discussed how as time went on, competing on the mat helped show her a lot about herself as well as help her develop the high standards to which she holds herself. 

“It taught me that I can do so much more than I thought I was ever capable of and that I’m a way better person after wrestling, because I’m not a cocky person,” Martinez said. 

Martinez was also honored as the Salem-Keizer Athlete of the Year, which she attained through her dedication and success in sports. 

She was nominated for the Athlete of the Year award for both wrestling and softball though has only won it for wrestling so far. 

Off the mat, she is an avid softball player, noting that it is her true favorite, although she admits that wrestling has slowly become a favorite as well, effectively casting the jury out on the matter. 

Her favorite position is at either second or third base due how the position allows her to get a fuller look at what is happening on the field as well as reacting to it. 

This year will be her fourth varsity start on the McNary softball team and this year is even more special as her younger sister, Marlina, who also wrestled for the Lady Celts, made the varsity team. 

As the sport that provided her first real introduction into a team dynamic, Martinez described how it shaped her team work ethic when competing in other ways. 

“I think it led to a lot of how I acted in the wrestling room because you learn individuality in the wrestling room, but also how to cheer on a team,” Martinez said. 

This camaraderie extends to family as well with Martinez noting that while she and younger sister Marlina may have bickered when younger, they have only grown closer by being on the same teams. 

“I don’t think we ever realized how much we can depend on each other, but when we’re in the wrestling room, we look like we’re just best friends.” 

With this being her senior year, college and life is right around the corner for Martinez who described her plans for after high school as continuing to seek education. 

Though she remained mum on where exactly she would claim as her alma mater, Martinez did note that staying close to home was most desirable. 

Her current plan involves attending college and seeking a degree in physical therapy so that, regardless of whether or not she remains in sports, she will be able to remain around athletes. 

Martinez said that while she has more than enough offers to play sports while in college she is still mulling that part over as her main goal is to pursue her education. 

Looking forward to the future, Martinez noted that aside from a future in physical therapy, she would love to return back to her hometown and, if possible, work for the community such as by becoming a girls wrestling coach. 

Understanding her passion for volunteering gives this future plan much better clarity. 

Martinez is heavily involved in McNary’s unified class program which places students of varying levels and needs together in order to foster inclusion and help create more connections between students. 

In addition, she can also be found helping out or coaching her younger sisters Keizer-based little league team. 

The motivation and hard work Martinez displays seem to lend themselves to someone who will be successful, though a more descriptive way to show that would be through her own words. 

“The older I get, the more I realize how important my education is compared to being an athlete. I will only be an athlete for so long, but I’ll need a steady job and knowledge forever.” 

Martinez atop an opponent from West Salem as she tries to secure a half nelson 
Martinez adorned in softball gear from her 2023 season 
Martinez at bat

Contact Quinn Stoddard
[email protected] or 503-390-1051

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