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Bulldog Saldana wins top male athlete award
Elias Saldana final
Senior Elias Saldana has been named Ceres High School’s Male Athlete of the Year. Saldana earned six varsity letters, including three in both football and wrestling. - photo by DALE BUTLER/ Courier file photo

Senior Elias Saldana has been named Ceres High School’s Male Athlete of the Year.

 Saldana found out on Tuesday when Bulldog Athletic Director John Bussard notified him by phone.

“He was one of the most underappreciated athletes in the area,” Bussard said. 

“I’m honored to receive the award,” Saldana said. “It’s a great achievement. It’s not something I was shooting for. I wasn’t expecting to get it because I’m not a three-sport athlete.”

Saldana earned six varsity letters during his prep athletic career, including three in both football and wrestling.

A starter on Ceres High’s offensive and defensive lines as a senior, junior and sophomore, Saldana rarely came off the field while playing in a total of 30 games.

“It was exhausting but that’s what I wanted,” he said. “I wanted to be pushed. There’s no point in being an okay football player.”

“He cares about Ceres High, competing and doing the most for his teammates,” said Matt Chachere, Saldana’s head coach his senior and junior year. “He plays with so much effort. He never taps out.”

Saldana was voted team captain during his final two seasons with the Bulldogs.

“He’s the type of player you will remember for a long time just because of his personality in terms of being a great person,” Chachere stated. “He was extremely coachable and committed. He was talented. He raised the bar for his teammates by practicing really hard and being physical. Everything he does, it’s a full-go effort. All the other players respected him.”

Saldana’s dominance on both sides of the ball earned him second-team all-league honors this past fall.

He enjoyed his best season to date on defense with the Bulldogs. Saldana collected 78 tackles and four sacks at nose tackle.

He also anchored Ceres High’s offensive line. Saldana played left guard.

Saldana managed to compete at a high level despite being slowed by shoulder, finger, knee and ankle injuries.

He racked up a career-high 14 tackles and one sack in Ceres High’s 35-26 Homecoming loss to Lathrop.

“He’s the most physically, dominant linemen I’ve seen,” Chachere said. 

Saldana ranked in the top 10 in the Sac-Joaquin Section Wrestling Rankings for heavyweight grapplers this past winter prior to suffering a season-ending leg injury.

He placed first at the 54th Annual Ceres Invitational, second at the Mike Tamana Tournament, third at the Tin Brown Memorial and sixth at the Pat Lovell Holiday Classic.

Saldana amassed a 28-11 overall record his junior year. Saldana won two of four matches at the Sac-Joaquin Section Masters Tournament. He placed at six different events. 

“He did so much in a short period of time,” said Steve Festa, Saldana’s coach his junior and sophomore years. “He’s one of the best wrestlers to ever come out of Ceres. He was successful on the mat because of his attitude, drive and competitiveness.”

Saldana had a cumulative grade-point average above 3.5 at Ceres High.

“It’s important to be a good student,” he said. “My parents (Isacc and Nina) always made sure school came first.”

Saldana will focus on academics at Sacramento State.

He will major in business.