Copyright © 2021 Roswell Daily Record
Copyright © 2021 Roswell Daily Record
Coaches have a sixth sense of when it’s time. When it’s time to change defenses, when it’s time to call a pass, to make a substitution, or to call a timeout.
Mostly, coaches are hard pressed of knowing when it’s time to hang up the coaches whistle and call it a career.
For a lot of coaches, the flicker of desire to coach starts to wane after years of competition and attrition. Once it does, most coaches think it’ll come back in training camp. Alternatively, the desire will return once games start, especially against rivals.
When that flame didn’t rekindle for Goddard High School’s wrestling coach Jaime Martinez this season, he knew it was time to get up off the mat and retire.
“I’ve been a head coach at Goddard for 26 years,” Martinez said. He has also coached wrestling in New Mexico for 28 years overall.
“I just felt it was time,” he said. “You get kind of tired after a while.”
Martinez’s coaching career began at Highlands High School as a football and wrestling coach. He coached at Manzano High School for a year before coming to Goddard in 1991.
Martinez has too many memories to share of his incredible coaching career. However, he did single out a couple.
One was the rivalry against the Roswell Coyotes. Martinez reflected on a match about 12 years ago, when he chose a wrestler who hadn’t won too much to wrestle at 112 pounds. His wrestler pinned the Roswell wrestler and won the match. The whole team erupted, winning the match 54-9.
“After that, the kids just steamrolled Roswell,” Martinez said. “It was a real Rudy moment.”
Martinez remembers David Anaya, his only four-time state placer, being pinned as an eighth-grader by a Roswell wrestler. Anaya vowed to work on his wrestling and figure it out. Anaya did, becoming a state champion in his senior year at 185 pounds in 2011.
Martinez has continued putting “The Wall,” Goddard’s wrestling version of the Hall of Fame, up in the wrestling room as his time as coach.
It was started by former Rockets’ coach Danny Eaker. Eaker would put the names of every Goddard wrestler who placed at state since 1969 on the wall.
Martinez feels one of his biggest accomplishments since taking over the program was getting kids to come out for wrestling. He found the niche athletes who were not into team sports. Noting kids can wrestle at 103 through 280 pounds, there was an avenue for them to express themselves.
“That’s one of the biggest things we did,” Martinez said. “We gave kids an opportunity to wrestle at every size. Kids have come back to me and said, ‘Because of you coach, I stayed in school.’ You don’t hear that until later. I’ve often wondered if I was doing the right thing. However, when kids come back and tell me that I’m making a difference. I know I’ve done the right thing.”
Martinez didn’t realize the impact on his wrestlers’ lives until they told him at a surprise party for him. His wrestlers did not understand his value to them until they had become parents.
“It felt good to hear,” Martinez said. “I wanted kids to do something, not be a bump on the log, or a debt to society. Do something!”
The wrestling team had a state champion last season in Andres Villa. Villa capped off an undefeated season going 31-0 and signed a letter of intent to wrestle for Oklahoma City University.
Goddard has not named a coach to replace Martinez yet.
For the new coach, the cupboard is not bare. The team will be young and battle tested.
Martinez has no plans to retire from competition altogether, however. He will remain the girls’ soccer coach at Goddard and coach his daughter, Julie. He may referee the following wrestling season.
Martinez’s wife, Stella, and his daughters, Camille and Julie, already have plans for him this Christmas break. His family has not taken a vacation over Christmas break together since 1987.
“I will miss the camaraderie, the bus rides with the kids and coaches,” Martinez said. “I love wrestling, because you have to make sacrifices both physically and mentally. And the values you learn from it. If you’re not all in you’re going to get hurt. I want people to think I was a good coach and a good mentor.”