By Alex Zener
Corona del Sol hired a new head wrestling coach, Jesse Whitson, this summer to replace Jim Martinez, who had been just the second wrestling coach in the school’s 40-year history.
Martinez, whose teams won two state championships during his 10 years at the helm—one in 2010 and another in 2017—decided to resign in late April.
Corona’s Assistant Principal of Athletics, Cory Nenaber, immediately started looking for someone to replace Martinez, who led a wrestling program that had been one of the top six Division 6A programs in all but one of the last 10 years and had been a highly decorated and successful wrestler himself.
Martinez was, in addition to winner of a Bronze Olympic medal in Greco-Roman Wrestling in 1984, a five-time National Greco-Roman Champion, a Pan American Games medalist, a World Championship medalist, a Big 10 Champion, a Cadet Pan American Greco-Roman Team Coach and the 2013 USA Wrestling Developmental Coach of the Year.
In 2014, Martinez was inducted into the Alan and Gloria Rice Hall of Champions in the National Wrestling Hall of Champions.
Whitson may not have all the medals but he does have a strong wrestling background, high school coaching experience and the energy and enthusiasm needed in today’s environment to run a successful wrestling program that requires a lot of additional volunteer hours outside the typical wrestling season.
Whitson, a native of Glendale and a 2005 graduate of Deer Valley High School, was a two-time regional champion and twice a state medal winner in high school before accepting a wrestling scholarship to the University of Central Missouri.
A member of the Deer Valley Hall of Fame, Whitson still holds the record for escapes in a single season at 46 and for career escapes at 122.
Deer Valley’s 2004-2005 wrestling team, during Whitson’s senior year, still holds three team records: Team Average Per Dual, 57; Consecutive Dual Wins, 15; and Best Dual Meet Record, 17.
While wrestling at the University of Central Missouri, Whitson in 2009 earned a degree in social studies education. As a graduate assistant coach for the Mules wrestling team, Whitson also earned a master’s degree in sports business administration in 2010.
Whitson grew up around wrestling. His father was his high school coach at Deer Valley and he always knew he wanted to be a coach himself.
In 2011, Whitson got his chance to coach when he was hired as the head wrestling coach at Grain Valley High School in Grain Valley, Mo., where he ran a wrestling program at the Class Four level. His teams were among the Top 10 four times when he coached a state champion, along with 24 wrestlers who earned state medals and 10 wrestlers who were state finalists.
Whitson will also fulfill Corona’s commitment to excellence in the classroom and easy access for student athletes to coaches because he will be on the Corona campus as a social studies teacher when school starts Aug. 5.