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Sean Martin Named 2023-24 Wirtz Athlete of the Year

By Joe Mertens '15, 05/22/24, 1:45PM EDT

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Sean Martin was a three-year letter winner for the football program and a four-year letter winner for the basketball program and has been voted Athlete of the Year by the student body of Saint Ignatius High School.

OHIO CITY, OH - Sean Martin is the 2023-24 John J. Wirtz Athlete of the Year Award winner. This award is given to a senior athlete who has significantly contributed to the sports program in more than one sport and has demonstrated academic ability, coachability, dedication, leadership, exemplary behavior, and citizenship. The nominees are presented to the student body of Saint Ignatius High School, who vote for their athlete of the year, which began in 1958 and was named after John Wirtz in 1974. Martin is a dual-sport athlete with the football and basketball programs.

The news came to Martin on Thursday, May 16, after Graduation practice, when Athletic Director Rory Fitzpatrick '88 announced it to the senior class. "I was immediately filled with joy and happiness because I knew it was such a prestigious award. There have been amazing athletes in the school's history who have won this award," explains Martin. "To receive this award is exciting, and I am overjoyed."

During his four years at Saint Ignatius High School, Martin collected three varsity letters with the football team. Martin was a star running back and cornerback for the Wildcats. In his three years as running back, Martin rushed for 550 yards on 121 attempts and found paydirt eight times. Martin caught 24 passes for 242 yards and three touchdowns as a receiving back. On the defensive side of the football, Martin collected 46.5 tackles, two interceptions, and two fumble recoveries in his Wildcat career. 

"What makes Sean stand out is his competitiveness. Sean wants to win; you can see that in his play, and he gets in the zone," explains Head Football Coach Ryan Franzinger '02. He is a tremendous person and well deserving of the Wirtz award."

Martin broke onto the scene for the football program in the first game of his junior year against the Mentor Cardinals in 2022. In a triple overtime thriller at Cleveland Browns Stadium, Martin would score three of the Wildcats' four touchdowns in the 26-20 victory. Martin would also add an interception in that win. 

Perhaps a game that will forever be remembered by the Class of 2024 is the Cardiac Cats' comeback against Cleveland Heights in the 2022 OHSAA Regional Quarterfinal. Trailing 42-14 at the break, the Wildcats pulled off the largest comeback in program history, scoring 28 unanswered points in the second half. Martin was an influential part of the comeback as he would rush for 93 yards on ten carries, adding 67 receiving yards on three catches and scoring on a 46-yard touchdown to pull the Wildcats within seven in the third quarter. 

"The first game that comes to mind is the Mentor game to start my junior season. The theatrics of the game, how it went back and forth to win in overtime. That game was able to get my name out there," Martin reflects. The comeback game against Cleveland Heights is something I will never forget as well to keep coach (Chuck) Kyle's season alive."

On the basketball court, Martin was a four-year varsity letter winner, a member of four District Championship teams, three Regional Championship teams, and the 2023-24 OHSAA Division I State Champions. Martin was also a star member of the 21-0 undefeated JV team.

"That is such a special award when you look at the history of it with Tremendous athletes in multiple sports, and Sean is that. I love his character; he is such a hard worker," Head Basketball Coach Cam Joyce explains. "His role changed throughout his time with basketball. He was a starter on the JV team as a freshman and sophomore year as the top scorer, but when he was on varsity, he shifted to a defender role, and we needed that, especially in the Brunswick game in the Regional Final." 

Martin was a defensive presence for the Wildcats and would come off the bench when the team needed a spark. That was shown especially in the Regional Final win against Brunswick when the Wildcats entered the fourth quarter trailing the Blue Devils by nine. With Martin's defensive presence, the Wildcats began making their comeback and defeated Brunswick 46-43. 

"The two games before the State Championship game stick out to me while on the basketball team. We faced Brunswick and then Delaware Hayes. We were down late in both of those games," Martin explains. We had to get defensive stops and big buckets to get back in those games, and of course, there isn't a better feeling than winning a State Championship."

It is much more than athletics for Martin as off the court; Martin is a tremendous ambassador for Saint Ignatius. "Sean always smiles and respects the coaches and his teachers off the court. I thought he was always a guy you could count on for Wildcat For The Day to show prospective students what it's like to attend this great school," says Joyce. "Sean is a great representation of what it means to be a Man For Others."

"More than anything, Sean is a great, solid young man. He was such a fantastic student-athlete and showed that for three years for us with football and four years with basketball," Franzinger says. "That multisport talent is becoming rarer, and Sean found a way to balance the workload. I am so happy Sean has joined this Fraternity of Wirtz Award winners."

Martin understands how special it is to be named the Wirtz Athlete of the Year by the student body and is humble for having the chance to represent the Blue and Gold for all four years. 

"It has meant the world. I know there are a lot of people watching, not just at the games but through the SIBN," says Martin. I know that there are a lot of people before me who have worn the Blue and Gold at a high level, and I have loved the support. It meant the world to play the last four years at Saint Ignatius."

One of the many requirements to become a Wirtz Award winner is to be a dual-sport athlete, and Martin leaves his advice to future dual-sport student-athletes at the high school level: "Don't be afraid. If I can do it, they can too," Martin says. For me, only good things can come out of playing multiple sports because most sports correlate with each other. If you want to be a dual-sport athlete, do it."

Martin graduated from Saint Ignatius on Monday, May 20, from Public Hall and will continue his academic and football career at Northwestern University as a defensive back for the Wildcats. Martin becomes the 66th Saint Ignatius Athlete of the Year Award winner, joining a legendary list that includes Oliver Luck '78, Mike Buddie '89, Rob Parris '06, and more. A complete list of award winners can be found here. Congratulations to senior Sean Martin, the 2023-24 John J. Wirtz Athlete of the Year Award winner.