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Martinez contributing at Central Valley following three-year break from sport
Central Valley High School 106-pound grappler Claudia Martinez improved her overall record to 22-8 after winning two of three matches at the Pitman tournament on Saturday in Turlock. - photo by DALE BUTLER/The Courier

Claudia Martinez made a name for herself at the youth level with the Ceres Hawks Wrestling Club.

She won titles at the Kids Folkstyle State Championships in 2011 and 2010. She placed second in 2009. Claudia took second twice and third once at the freestyle state competition.

Martinez took a three-year break from wrestling to heal arm injuries.

"It's great to be back," said Claudia, a sophomore competing at the varsity level with Central Valley High School's wrestling program. "I really missed the sport."

Martinez has won 22 of 30 matches this year.

She had a .500 winning percentage (2-2) against male competitors.

"I've been wrestling guys since I was little," Martinez said. "It's a lot different in high school. They're stronger. It's a challenge. I'm a girl but I can be pretty aggressive."

Martinez earned a spot in the Hawks' 14-person lineup early in the season.

"I always left the door open for her," said Central Valley head coach Rob Beckhart, who recruited Martinez when she was a freshman but wasn't overbearing. "Everybody gets treated the same in the room. She earned her spot. She was a little rusty in the beginning. The last time she wrestled was in the eighth grade. She gets better every week. She's tough. She's not a complainer. She does what I ask her to do. She works really hard."

"I'm proud to be on this team," Martinez said. "They're like my family. They don't judge me. They support me. I grew up with half of them."

Claudia, who competes in the 106-pound division, had a 1-2 record against boys during the Western Athletic Conference dual-meet season.

"A lot of people in the crowd get excited to watch her wrestle," Beckhart said. "She's not giving up six points every time she's out there. She's a fighter."

"I try to focus on my match and not let anything get to me," Claudia said. "It's great to hear my name. It makes me want to keep going."

Martinez made her WAC dual-meet debut with the Hawks at Los Banos on Dec. 10.

She won by technical fall (15-0) against Devin Vaca.

"That was my first dual meet in high school," Martinez said. "There were a lot of people there. My heart was racing before the match. Right when the whistle blew, reality hit, and I knew I had to focus and strive for the best. I stuck to the basics. Simple moves get you far. I'm not perfect. I need lots of improvement."

Claudia lost by major decision (18-7) to Pacheco's Anthony Velazquez on Jan. 20 in Ceres.

"I could have done better," Martinez said. "But he was a good wrestler. He deserved to win."

Martinez challenged Ceres High's Tyler Fleming before suffering a four-point (13-9) loss on Jan. 13 at Phil de la Porte Gymnasium.

Martinez defeated Chavez High School's Jimmy Vannawong, 14-8, in non-league action.

Claudia finished first against female competition at Central Valley and Atwater, second at Pacheco and Pitman, and fifth at Pittsburg.

Martinez didn't place at the Asics Napa Valley Classic. She posted a 4-2 record.

Martinez will look to follow in the footsteps of former Central Valley grapplers Lexy Cordova, Malynda Lomeli and Rose Moore.

Cordova, Lomeli and Moore all qualified for the CIF State Girls State Wrestling Invitational.

Claudia and Rose are cousins.

Veronica Martinez, 24, Claudia's older sister was a three-year wrestler at Downey High School. She placed second at state in the 103-pound division.

"When we were younger, my sister showed me a lot of moves," Claudia said. "She taught me how to leg ride."

"Wrestling's in her blood," said Ramona, Claudia's aunt and Rose's mother.

Martinez will compete at the 2015 Girls Wrestling Regional Invitational, Feb. 6-7, at Lodi's McNair High School. The top five finishers in each weight class advance to state. The state meet will be staged, Feb. 27-28, at the Visalia Convention Center.

"The sky's the limit for her," Beckhart said. "She's so young. She's wrestling at such a high level."

"I take the sport serious," Martinez said. "I'm going to try my best to get to state."