RIPLEY - About a year ago, Jake and Preston Martin were on the verge of something special.
The Ripley wrestlers looked to be a few minutes away from pulling off a brotherly double at the Class AAA state tournament in Huntington.
Jake captured a championship at 138 pounds and older brother Preston was leading Seth Cutright of Buckhannon-Upshur 3-1 late in the second period when the unthinkable happened - his knee gave out, with an injury default handing Cutright the title at 152.
"It's real heartbreaking,'' Preston Martin said, "knowing that you're going to win the match and you blow your knee out.''
It's been a long road back for Preston Martin, but there he was Saturday afternoon, locking up another trip to the state tournament, finishing second at 160 pounds during the Region 3 meet at Ripley High School.
Jake Martin also worked his way into the finals at 152 and earned a regional championship. The top four finishers in each weight class advanced to next week's state tournament at the Big Sandy Superstore Arena in Huntington.
While Jake Martin, now a junior, is already a two-time state champion, and shared the Most Outstanding Wrestler award in last year's state tournament, senior Preston Martin has twice reached the finals and lost.
Jake has seen some disappointment this season, losing twice to Trapper Hayes of Parkersburg - whom he beat in the state finals two years ago. But his older brother has endured more obstacles in an attempt to get back to the big show.
"I had to sit the whole football season,'' Preston Martin said. "It was half a year before I could get back on the mat. It's been a battle since, a struggle to try and get back. My knee is still a little wobbly. I'll probably have to get surgery after the season.
"It's a good motivator, though. It keeps you going. I'm looking to better myself, and now I have something to strive for.''
The brothers, so close in age (17 months apart) and skill level - Jake (28-4) is ranked third at 152 by the state coaches association and Preston (22-4) second at 160 behind Cutright - would seem to make natural practice partners.
And they are, despite their physical differences.
"It goes back and forth,'' Preston said, smiling. "It's a blood match.''
Jake points to his brother's stockier frame.
"He's a little heavier,'' Jake said, "and a little stronger.''