It took a little bit of time for Bryce Martin to get over the disappointment of narrowly missing out on his dream of winning a state championship. But now that the Bakersfield High senior has had some time to reflect on the end of his stellar high school wrestling career, he realizes how special it was just to make the state finals.
Martin, the BVarsity Wrestler of the Year, was the only local grappler to reach the gold-medal round of the CIF State Championships this year.
He finished the year with an impressive 39-2 record. Both of his losses, including a 12-6 setback in the 170-pound state final, came at the hands Anthony Valencia of Bellflower-St John Bosco, one of the nation's best high school wrestlers.
"It was a really fun year," Martin said. "My goal was to be a state champion. It didn't happen, but looking back I got to wrestle on the big stage. I won two Valley titles in high school. I think I had a pretty successful career at BHS.
"I was excited to go out there and end on a victory, but even though that didn't happen, being on that big stage was a blessing and it was still fun. I worked hard for it and I got what I earned."
Martin spent nearly the entire year ranked No. 1 in the rugged Central Section and No. 2 in the state at 170 pounds.
The three-time state qualifier and fourth-place state medalist in 2013 continually lived up to his lofty status.
Martin took second to Valencia at the prestigious Doc Buchanan Invitational in Clovis but won every other tournament he entered prior to the state championships.
Along the way Martin notched league, divisional, and section titles. He won five matches to reach the finals of the state meet.
"He works extremely hard," BHS coach Andy Varner said. "When we finish practice he always does a little extra. ...He's been a huge asset to our program the last couple of years, and his accomplishments are amazing."
Martin is quick to share the credit for all of his success.
"I was definitely blessed," Martin said. "Blessed with the right coaches and the right dual partners. Just the right people all around."
Martin believes his biggest strength as a wrestler has nothing to do with strength or technical ability, though he has plenty of both.
"I think what separates me is my mindset," Martin said. "I can believe that I can do whatever I set my mind to. My dad told me that at a really young age. He said whatever you want, just go do it."
Martin began wrestling in the fourth grade. But it wasn't until junior high when he truly became serious about the sport and set the goal of winning a state championship.
"Wrestling has changed my life," Martin said. "It's taught me discipline. It's taught me hard work, sacrifice, all the things you need to be a better person. It's more than just a sport. My life would be completely different without wrestling. I love it."
Martin will continue his wrestling career at the University of Indiana. The school was one of several to offer him an athletic scholarship.
While Martin is extremely excited about moving on and wrestling for the Hoosiers in the ultra-competitive Big Ten Conference, he won't ever forget his time at BHS.
"The four years here have been pretty awesome," Martin said. "Being able to wrestle with the best guys in the state and the best guys in the nation on a daily basis is such a blessing and is something that shouldn't be taken for granted. ...I'm definitely going to miss everything about this place."