By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Ceres High Schools new-look varsity wrestling team working hard to improve
Senior Nick Santibanez will lead Ceres High Schools new-look varsity wrestling team. The Bulldogs lineup features several veterans and a host of newcomers. - photo by DALE BUTLER/The Courier

Ceres High wrestlers now have a place to train year-round.
The school's old auto shop building was converted into a practice facility.

"It's something we've always wanted," Bulldogs head coach Steve Festa said. "We got it painted and our depth charts up. It looks sharp."

Bulldog grapplers expected to contribute this year include Nick Santibanez (Sr., 132 pounds), Abel Morales (Jr., 220s), Rudy Gonzales (Jr., 220s) Tyree Williams (So., 182), Gabriel Roman (Sr., 132s), Daniel Raya (Jr., 138s), Jorge Sandoval (Jr., 160s), Felix Feliciano (So., 285s), Jonathan Rodrigues (So., 195s), Cameron Thatcher (So., 152s), Benzell Williams (Fr., 106s), John Alba (Fr. 145s), Diego Diaz (Fr., 170s), Michael Vargas (Fr., 113s), Louis Camarillo (Fr., 120s) and Brandon Ramirez (Fr., 126s).

"The kids are really excited," Festa said. "We have high expectations. We're looking to compete for a league championship and qualify for team sections. We want to take our program to the next level. Nothing is going to be given to us. We have to put in the work."

John (Mae Hensley), Benzell (Mae Hensley), Diego (Mae Hensley), Michael (Cesar Chavez) and Louis (Cesar Chavez) competed at the junior-high level last school year.

"We definitely have a young team," Festa said. "It's a good opportunity for us to build for future success. This new class of freshmen is pretty special."

Festa was promoted to head coach after Jon Nowicki stepped down to fill a job opening in Tulare.

Steve, a 1998 Ceres High graduate, was an assistant on Jon's coaching staff for seven seasons.

The Bulldogs experienced a remarkable turnaround under their direction.

Ceres High placed third in the WAC dual-meet standings (4-2) and qualified nine individuals for Divisionals this past season.

The Bulldogs tied for first place with Los Banos (5-1) and qualified for the Division-IV Team Dual Championships during the 2011-12 school year.

Ceres High made history when it advanced to the Division-IV Section Team Dual Tournament for the first time in school history in 2009-10. The second-place Bulldogs completed a near-perfect run through the Valley Oak League dual-meet season (7-1).

Ceres High had two CIF State Meet qualifiers.

Gabe Balderas (class of 2013) and Curtis Hulstine (class of 2010) advanced three times and once, respectively.

"It made sense," Festa said while talking about his promotion. "It's an honor to be in this position. I'm lucky. I appreciate the responsibility I have. I take it serious."