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CHS wrestler earns return trip to CIF state meet
Ceres High junior Gabriel Balderas welcomed the challenge and succeeded.

Balderas joined elite company when he became just the sixth Bulldog grappler in the last 17 years to qualify for the CIF State Wrestling Championships twice.

"It wasn't a fluke last season," head coach Jon Nowicki said. "He deserved it. He's just at a whole another level this year. His technique's gotten better. He's more aggressive. He's mentally tougher. He has the experience. That's helped him."

Gabe punched his ticket to state with a top-7 finish in the 113-pound weight class at the Sac-Joaquin Section Masters Tournament at Stockton Arena on Friday.

Balderas placed second with a 4-1 record.

Gabe beat Turlock's Jason Valdovinos (decision, 7-1), Rodriguez's Brandon Vu (decision, 11-4), Will C. Woods' Manny Griego (pin, 5:58) and West's Ulysses Juan (decision, 8-2).

Valdovinos, Griego and Juan won Divisional titles the previous week.

Gabe lost by decision (3-1) to Oakdale's Juan Garza in the finals.

"He had the toughest draw I've ever seen in my life," Nowicki said. "He destroyed everyone. He's peaking right now."

"Going back to state, it's exciting," said Balderas, who improved to 42-11 on the year. "I've put in a lot of hard work. I'm hoping to place this year. I have more confidence in my moves."

Bulldog teammate Nick Moran endured a heartbreaking end to his prep wrestling career.

The 152-pound senior placed eighth with a 3-3 record.

He fell one win short of qualifying for state.

Moran beat Ponderosa's Andrew Kean (decision, 6-3), Bella Vista's Jon Burke (decision, 5-0) and Woodland's Austin Cunningham (decision, 9-8).

Nick lost to Folsom's Isaias Diaz (technical fall, 15-0), Johansen's Jaime Recio (decision, 11-5) and Escalon's Jonathan Costa (decision, 7-2).

"He was real close to going," Nowicki said. "At least he got to go up on the podium and get a medal. I'm proud of him for placing. He wrestled hard. He had a great season. I don't have any complaints. I hope he doesn't have any regrets. He was an integral part of the team."

Ceres High's Nick Santibanez, Ruben Sanchez and Armando Morales had identical 1-2 records.

Morales, a junior heavyweight, beat Woodcreek's Dominic Balmer (decision, 2-10).

He lost to Armijo's Andrew Fuimaono (pin, 5:20) and Rosemont's Ronnie Requena (pin, 1:15).

Sanchez, a 195-pound junior, beat Woodland's Danny Sandoval (decision, 3-1).

He lost to Casa Roble's Anthony Trobridge (decision, 7-0) and Oak Ridge's Preston Dean (major decision, 11-0).

Santibanez, a 120-pound sophomore, won by forfeit.

He lost to Antelope's Brandon Matu (pin, 5:30) and Johnson's Christian Cotter (pin, 0:06).

Central Valley High School sophomores Adrian Vizcaino and Rick Brown gained valuable experience while competing at Masters last week.

"Adrian and Rick both have promising futures," Beckhart said.

Vizcaino posted a respectable 2-2 record on his way to a top-16 finish in the 182-pound weight class.

Adrian beat Del Oro's Kevin Love (pin, 4:06) and Will C. Woods' Manuel Esquer (decision, 3-2).

He lost to West's Amrit Singh (technical fall, 17-2) and Oak Ridge's Zach Claiborne (pin, 4:44).

"Adrian made a solid run," Beckhart said. "He's just got a switch that he turns on. He's good on his feet. He doesn't let people push him around. I can't express how proud of what he's done."

Vizcaino won 34 of 45 matches this season.

He had a .500 record as a freshman.

Brown won one of three matches at 170 pounds

He beat Casa Roble's Collin Cole (pin, 3:30).

He lost to Center's Garret Rose (major decision, 15-2) and Lodi's Colin Anderson (decision, 1-0).

Rick compiled a 26-13 record this season.

"I don't know if anyone has improved more than him," Beckhart said. "He listens to what you tell him and he works hard. He's like a sponge."

Hawk senior Anthony Centeno dropped two of three matches at 160 pounds.

He beat Elk Grove's Donzell Porter (pin, 5:35).

Centeno lost to Whitney's Jordan Powell (decision, 4-2) and Natomas' Rafael Pantoja (decision, 3-2).

"It's a little disappointing," Beckhart said. "I honestly thought he should have gone to state based on his performance in the Los Angeles area."

Anthony placed sixth at the Shark Tank Invitational, held Dec. 29-30, at Corona's Santiago High School.

Centeno's overall record this year was 26-7.

He took sixth at Divisionals last season.

Central Valley qualified a combined eight wrestlers for Masters the past two seasons.

"We're getting better," Beckhart said.

The CIF State Meet will be staged this Friday and Saturday at Bakersfield's Rabobank Arena.