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Ceres High, Central Valley among 22 to compete at 49th Annual Ceres Invitational
Wrestling tourney to be held Saturday
John Alba (red singlet) and Daniel Raya will represent the Bulldogs wrestling program at the Ceres Invitational this Saturday at Ceres High. - photo by DALE BUTLER/The Courier

The 49th Annual Ceres Invitational will be staged at Ceres High School this Saturday.

The varsity tournament will begin at 9 a.m., with finals slated to get underway at 7 p.m.

The following schools will be represented: Ceres High (Western Athletic Conference), Central Valley (WAC), Patterson (WAC), Beyer (Modesto Metro Conference), Downey (MMC), Grace Davis (MMC), Johansen (MMC), Central Catholic (Valley Oak League), Sierra (VOL), Hilmar (Trans Valley League), Hughson (TVL), Buhach Colony (Central California Conference), Delhi (Southern League), Bear Creek (San Joaquin Athletic Association), Argonaut (Mother Lode League), Bret Harte (MLL), Linden (MLL), Summerville (MLL), El Dorado (Sierra Valley Conference), Liberty Ranch (SVC), Jesuit (Delta League) and Foothill (Pioneer Valley League).

"It's a big event," Bulldogs head coach Steve Festa said. "We work hard to put on a fun tournament for the wrestlers. We give them the attention they deserve."

Ceres High increased its tournament field size from 15 to 22 teams.

Each bracket will feature 24 wrestlers, up from 16 a year ago.

"Three different sections are represented," Festa said. "I didn't do anything different. We got a good reputation. We put on one of the best tournaments in the Central Valley. The competition is a big step up. That's what we want."

Beyer, Buhach Colony and Modesto High placed first, second and third, respectively, at the Ceres Invitational last year.

Central Valley finished a program-best fifth in the team standings.

The Hawks will compete with a revamped lineup this season. Central Valley lost 10 of its 14 starters to graduation, excluding Severo Vazquez, Joaquin Garcia, Jose Castillo and Christian Oliver.

Vazquez compiled a 4-1 record on his way to a fourth-place finish in the 145-pound division at the 2013 Ceres Invitational.

Garcia placed fifth with a 3-2 record at 182 pounds.

Louis Saucedo, a Modesto High transfer, will make his debut with the Bulldogs. Saucedo captured the 113-pound title at the Ceres tourney last year.

"We're pretty young," Central Valley head coach Rob Beckhart said. "I'm just looking for effort now. I'd be happy with a top-10 finish."

Ceres High had 10 medalists while finishing in seventh place at its home tournament a year ago.

Abel Morales, Rudy Gonzales, John Alba, Diego Diaz, Daniel Raya and Aaron Page will lead Ceres High.

Morales (220 pounds, 2-1 record), Gonzales (220s, 3-2), Alba (145s, 2-2) and Diaz (170s, 1-3) placed second, fourth, fifth and sixth, respectively, last season.

Page, formerly of Central Valley, will make his debut at 126 pounds with Ceres High.

Matches will be staged inside the big gym and multi-purpose room.

The top three teams win trophies.

Individual medals will be awarded to first- through fifth-place finishers.

Coaches will also hand out Most Outstanding Wrestling awards to the tournament's top lower and upper weight grapplers.

"My expectations are high," Festa said. "We should have several individual champions and win a team trophy."