Ceres High varsity wrestling head coach Steve Festa received a text message from former Bulldog grappler Charlie Davis last week.
Festa and Davis communicated after Ceres High's John Alba got eliminated from the 44th annual CIF State Championships.
"He told me to remind John he went 0-2 his junior year when he first qualified for state," Festa said. "The next year, he came back and became a state champion."
Alba didn't win a match but gained valuable experience competing at the state tournament on March 4 in Bakersfield.
"It was a whole different experience," Alba said. "It felt empowering. I'll have a lot of confidence going into my senior year."
"John was very dedicated this year," Festa said. "He's always worked had. Every season, he gets better. It's exciting to see the improvement. I have no doubt he'll continue down that path next year."
Alba competed in the 145-pound weight class at the state tournament.
He lost by pin (2:48) to Selma senior Ruben Garcia and technical fall (17-2) to Buchanan junior Greg Gaxiola.
Garcia and Gaxiola placed second and fourth, respectively.
"That's the level I want to be at next year," Alba said. "It's going to take a lot of work."
"The experience he got will definitely help him for next season," Festa said. "John has the ability to place at state. We just need to get better."
Alba, Ceres High's first state qualifier in three years, compiled a 50-11 overall record this year.
John placed fifth at the Sac-Joaquin Section Masters Meet.
He finished second at the Division-IV tournament.
Alba claimed his second straight WAC championship.
John lost two of three matches at Masters his sophomore year.
"I had more drive this year," Alba said. "My training partner (Tyree Williams) and coaches helped me get to where I got. I still have a lot of room to improve. I would like to wrestle in college. Hopefully, I can get a scholarship."
"I knew he was a special athlete when we first met," Festa said. "He wrestled for me in the seventh grade at Mae Hensley Jr. High. John is a very talented wrestler.
If he keeps working hard, we'll get better results. He's already started his offseason training."