Ceres High School was the host site of the July 5-8 Azevedo Wrestling Camp.
“We got a lot of positive feedback from the parents and wrestlers,” Bulldogs’ head coach Casey Paulino said. “They really liked how it was a smaller camp. They got a lot of one-on-one attention.”
A total of 50 grapplers, aged 6-18, participated.
“We had 20 kids from Ceres show up,” Paulino said.
Legendary wrestler John Azevedo was the main instructor at the camp.
Azevedo placed first three times (1978-80) while representing Cal State Bakersfield at the NCAA Division-II Wrestling Championships. The Roadrunners finished first as a team twice (1980, 1979).
He won the 126-pound NCAA Division-I title in 1980.
He claimed back-to-back state championships (1974-75) at Grace Davis High School.
John coached Cal Poly San Luis Obispo for 10 seasons, retiring in 2011.
He led Calvary Chapel High School to seven state team titles in 12 years (1989-2001).
“One of his biggest strengths is being able to connect with the kids,” Paulino said. “He gets them excited about wrestling and what they can possibly do. He’s pulling greatness out of them.”
Former University of Wisconsin standout grappler Lee Kemp also made a special appearance.
“That was a surprise,” Paulino said. “He’s one of the few people that beat Dan Gable.”
Kemp posted a 143-6-1 record and won the NCAA 158-pound title three times (1976, 1977, 1978).
He had a 110-match unbeaten streak.
During his sophomore year in college, Kemp edged defending Olympic champion Gable 7-6 at the Northern Open.
He also became the first American to capture gold medals at the World Freestyle Championships three times (1978, 1979, 1983).
Kemp was inducted into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame and Museum in 1990.
“It’s not just a “wow” factor,” Paulino stated. “Most camps can’t say they have that amount of talent, expertise and experience. It’s almost unheard of. They (Azevedo and Kemp) have over 100 years of wrestling combined between the two of them.”
Camp participants received 18 hours of instruction in a four-day span.
“They kept a very high pace,” Paulino said. “They minimized the talking. That’s one of the best ways you can learn.”
A coaching clinic was also offered.
“We were able to find out what he (Azevedo) did to be successful,” Paulino said. “It was invaluable.”
The Azevedo Wrestling Camp stopped in Ceres as part of its California Tour.
“There’s never been a camp of this stature in our area,” Paulino said.
Ceres grapplers attended the Azevedo clinic in different cities the past few summers.
“It’s a very technical camp,” Paulino said. “A lot of the stuff they teach we start implementing immediately in our program. There’s always something new.”
Ceres High could be the host site for Azevedo camps in the future.
“We’re hoping to double participation if they decide to do it with us next year,” he said.
“Wrestling is one of the hardest sports out there,” Paulino added. “It will test your faith in yourself. If you’re weak-minded, it will bring that out, too.”