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A Stellar Year
Gabriel Balderas had a memorable sophomore season with Ceres High School's varsity wrestling team.

He won two of four matches en route to a top-16 finish in the 112-pound weight class of the CIF State Championships, staged last Friday and Saturday at Bakersfield's Rabobank Arena.

Balderas was a spectator last season when Bulldog teammate Curtis Hulstine participated.

"He (Gabriel) proved he belonged there," Ceres High head coach Jon Nowicki said. "He did a great job. It should give him confidence going into next year."

Said Balderas: "I was pretty disappointed because I wanted to make it further. After talking with my coaches and teammates, I was happy. They told me I had an amazing year and were proud of me. I put a lot of work in during the offseason."

Gabriel overcame an early deficit and defeated Durham junior Lucas Gaeth by major decision (10-2) in the opening round of the State meet. Gaeth scored on a takedown in the first period.

"I was a little nervous but I was focused," Gabriel said. "I knew what I had to do. I stayed composed and went to my moves."

Balderas won by forfeit against Balboa's Emil DeGuzman in the second round.

He lost by technical fall (16-1) to Righetti's Josh Rodriguez and major decision (13-0) to Gilroy's Paul Fox.

Rodriguez and Fox finished second and eighth, respectively.

"The only kids he lost to placed," Nowicki said. "That's a huge accomplishment for him. He achieved his goal, which was to win at least one match at State. We're really proud of him. He had a heck of a season. He's one of the best guys in the area. With a good offseason, he'll be in an even better position next year."

Balderas compiled a 41-14 record this season.

He posted several upset wins on his way to a sixth-place finish at the Sac-Joaquin Section Masters competition.

He placed third at Divisionals.

He won the 112-pound title at the Western Athletic Conference tournament.

Gabriel will be vying for a return trip to Bakersfield in 2012.

"I'm very motivated now," he said. "I want to have the feeling of placing at State. I definitely think I can if I continue to work hard and perfect some of my moves."