By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
75 grapplers attend first California Champ Camp
Mathias Kangas
Six-year-old Mathias Kangas was among the 75 participants at the California Champ Camp. - photo by Dale Butler

Billy Murphy’s love for wrestling was kindled during his childhood.

Murphy’s grappling skills were so advanced by the time he reached high school, he was rarely challenged.

The 2006 Hughson grad/two-time CIF State Wrestling Meet champion returned to the Central Valley this past week to serve as the main instructor at the First Annual California Champ Camp.

“Wrestling is a part of me,” said Murphy, 34. “It will be for the rest of my life.”

“There are plenty of life lessons in wrestling,” he added. “You learn how to deal with both sides of it—adversity and success. It humbles you.”

Murphy enjoyed reuniting with his younger brother Curtis Hulstine, camp director, a CIF State Meet qualifier with the Bulldogs in 2010 and head coach of Ceres High’s girls wrestling program since 2019-20, last week.

“I haven’t seen him in a couple years,” said Hulstine leading up to the clinic. “We talk all the time. He’ll be staying at my house. And we’re going to golf a lot. He loves golf.”

“Family is first,” Murphy said. 

The California Champ Camp was staged, July 29-31, at Ceres High School.

The clinic was open to wrestlers, aged 4-18.

Approximately 75 grapplers, including more than a combined 30 from the Ceres High, Mae Hensley Jr. High and Ceres Pups wrestling programs, signed up for the camp.

Registration was $175 for three days, $120 for two days or $60 for one day.

Campers checked in between 8:30-9:30 a.m. during the first day of the clinic.

Participants received more than 16 hours of instruction on six full mats at Phil de la Porte Gymnasium from Murphy, Hulstine, Casey Paulino (Ceres High), John Alba (Ceres High), Angelique Huerta Alvarado (Ceres High), Steve Festa (Mae Hensley Jr. High), Adam Borges (Mae Hensley Jr. High), Tony Ormonde (Pups), Mark Kangas (Pups), Nathan Pimentel (Pups) and Austin Moore (Pups). 

Central Valley High School sophomore grappler Angel Melgoza attended the clinic.

Father Juan Sr. watched from the sidelines during Friday’s session.

“It’s a perfect setup,” opined Juan . “They have coaches at each mat helping all of the kids. I like the pace that they’re going. This is going to help him a lot in the long run.”

The camp consisted of two, two-hour sessions and one 90-minute session each day.

“I enjoy teaching and watching kids develop,” Murphy said. “It gives you that competitive feeling again.”

Murphy started wrestling at the age of six when his mother Kathy Lederle signed him up with the Turlock Club.

He dedicated 16 years of his life to the sport.

“It was life-changing,” Murphy said. “It kept me out of trouble. But I don’t think I was that much of a troublemaker.”

Murphy won back-to-back 130-pound titles (2006, 2005) while representing Hughson High at the CIF State Meet. 

He had a combined record of 168-3 at the prep level according to He finished 55-0 as a junior and 48-0 senior year. 

A three-time, high-school national champion, Murphy won all 15 of his matches while competing unattached at the University of Iowa in 2006-07. 

He took first at 133 pounds at the National Junior College Athletic Association finals during his lone season with the Iowa Central Community College wrestling team in 2009. He was also named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Wrestler.

“What kept me coming back is the love for the sport,” Murphy said. “It’s also a little easier to like when you’re winning.”

Hulstine was a standout wrestler at Ceres High from 2006-10.

He had a career record of 113-31.

He qualified for the CIF State Championships, collected 45 wins and just six losses, finished third at the Sac-Joaquin Section Masters Tournament, placed first at the Division-IV Tournament and claimed the 125-pound title at the Valley Oak League Finals during his senior year.

Murphy resides in Iowa with his wife and four children.

They have three sons and one daughter.

Murphy has been employed as an electrician for the past 11 years.

He just started offering one-on-one wrestling lessons.

“This is our first time building a camp from the ground up,” Hulstine said. “After years of wanting it to happen, we finally figured it out. Billy will always be a part of it. He’s done a lot of good things for wrestling in our area.”

Casey Paulino
Ceres High School boys wrestling head coach Casey Paulino provides instruction at the California Champ Camp. - photo by Dale Butler
Billy Murphy and Curtis Hulstine
Former Hughson High star wrestler Billy Murphy, pictured with his brother Curtis Hulstine, was the lead instructor at the July 29-31 California Champ Camp at Ceres High School. Hulstine was director of the clinic. - photo by Dale Butler