2021-22 Kevin Higgins College Scholarship Recipient: Israel Martinez
A graduate of Valley Center High School in the greater San Diego area, Israel Martinez had the opportunity to climb the rugby ranks with the San Diego Mustangs Youth Rugby Club. As a freshman with the Mustangs, Israel immediately earned a starting front row position on the U16 side that advanced to win the U16 SoCal championship. During the spring 2021 season, he played loose head prop and led the team to the Tier 2 National Championship. The forwards coaches have a saying about him, “Izzy plays a man’s game.” He is a tough, gritty player, but a sweetheart of a young man. He is very coachable, courteous, and soft spoken. He is a generous teammate, and respected and beloved by his teammates and coaches,” said Matty Sandoval, San Diego Mustangs coach.
Martinez will attend American International College in Springfield, Massachusetts. In his first fall season with the Yellow Jackets, Israel has adjusted well to collegiate student-athlete life. “Israel Martinez has been a spark of energy for AIC Rugby. He is passionate about his play, he is there for his teammate, and has been a great find for us on the field. As far as his rugby ability, he has turned our heads.
Israel entered the year wanting to play hooker but realized very quickly that he was a little lean for our front row. He quickly transitioned to play in the back row and was able to crack the starting 15 a few times this year as a 6 and 8 and regularly is in the 23. Israel is mobile, dynamic, and strong in contact,” said American International College Director of Rugby, T Fletcher.