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Bakersfield bound
CHS wrestler John Alba qualifies for CIF State Meet
Ceres Highs John Alba will compete at the CIF State Wrestling Championships this week in Bakersfield. The 145-pound junior qualified on the strength of his top-six finish at the Masters tournament. - photo by Photo courtesy of Juan Alba Jr.

John Alba reached his ultimate goal a year early.

The Ceres High junior qualified for the CIF State Wrestling Championships.

Alba was awarded a berth following his top-six finish in the 145-pound weight class at the Sac-Joaquin Section Masters Meet this past week at Stockton Arena.

“All the emotions hit me at once,” John said. “It was overwhelming. It’s something I didn’t think I would be able to do until my senior year.”

Alba placed fifth after winning by first-round pin (0:46) over Gregori’s Mike Villavicencio.

“I was pretty confident throughout the day,” he said. “I didn’t get nervous until the match for fifth/sixth place. The pressure wasn’t completely off.”

Alba won five of seven matches at Masters.

He compiled a 3-1 record the second day.

John guaranteed himself a trip to the State tournament with a 7-2 win over Rocklin sophomore Hunter Gonzalez.

“I wrestled hard,” he said. “I was calm. I controlled my emotions. It wasn’t an easy win.”

Alba’s other wins came against Laguna Creek’s Earnie Juarez (pin, 3:30), Folsom’s Kaleb Reyes-Small (decision, 11-9) and Calaveras’ Triston Madsen (pin, 5:21).

John lost to Elk Grove’s Terrell Turner (technical fall, 16-1) and Del Oro’s Clay Shropshire (pin, 1:56).

Turner and Shropshire took second and third, respectively.

“I’m very happy for John,” Ceres High head coach Steve Festa said. “He earned it. He’s very talented. He’s a hard worker. He doesn’t quit. He stays positive. He’s got the potential to go further. I believe he could be a state placer.”

A week earlier, John lost by decision (4-3) to Central Valley junior Severo Vazquez in the finals at the Division-IV tournament.

Alba was seeking to win his second straight title at Divisionals.

He captured his second consecutive WAC crown with a major-decision (15-6) victory over Vazquez.

“It (losing) motivated me to do better at Masters,” Alba said.

Alba dropped two of three matches while competing in the 152-pound class at Masters his sophomore year.

“My immediate plan wasn’t to qualify for State,” he said. “My goal was to improve on what I did last year. I wanted to win at least two matches.”

Alba started wrestling in the seventh grade at Mae Hensley Jr. High.

“I’m constantly improving,” he said. “If it wasn’t for my coaches, I wouldn’t be as good as I am today. They’ve made me a better wrestler and person.”

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

Gabe Balderas (class of 2013) accomplished a first his senior year when he became the first grappler in Ceres High history to advance to State for the third time.

Alba and Balderas started training together this week.

“We haven’t had a state qualifier in three years,” John said. “It’s the beginning of the future for me. I want to go there, compete and win.”

“It’s been over 10 years since we’ve had a state placer,” Festa said. “That’s our goal.”