Ceres High School’s boys wrestling team will compete with a thin roster for the second straight season.
A year removed from being limited to just scrimmages due to the COVID-19 pandemic, coach Casey Paulino remained optimistic while talking about his program’s future.
“I’m not entirely worried,” said Paulino, whose roster size nearly tripled from three to eight grapplers. “If we keep doing what we’re doing, our numbers are going to grow. I wouldn’t be surprised if they at least doubled next year.”
Ceres High returns just two grapplers from the 2020-21 squad, including Arturo Estrada (Jr.) and Shawn Janis (So.)
Paul Ruiz (Jr., 138s), Nathan Miranda (Jr., 220s), Martin Bolanos (Fr., 160s), Edmond Lozano (Fr., 170s), Abraham Rodriguez (Fr., 170s) and Joshua Tagle (182s) are newcomers.
“With wrestling, you lose 40 percent of your kids the first two weeks because the practices are so hard,” Paulino said. “This year, we have 100 percent retention.”
“They’re very competitive,” he added. “They want to win.”
Estrada has been named team captain.
He placed fifth with a 2-2 record while competing in the 120-pound weight class at the 2019-20 Western Athletic Conference Championships.
“It was voted on by the team after the first three weeks of practice,” Paulino said. “Art is a third-year wrestler. His skillset is a lot more advanced than the other kids. He knows what to do.”
Ceres High’s 2020-21 campaign consisted of just dual scrimmages for coronavirus-safety reasons.
Playoffs were postponed for all sports because of a late start to the season due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“COVID played a big part in it (our lack of numbers), especially with all the sports competing at the same time last year,” Paulino said. “I’m just glad we’re having a season this year. I hope nothing changes.”
Ceres High will face Beyer, Grace Davis, Johansen, Los Banos, Pacheco, Lathrop and Mountain House during the 2021-22 WAC season.
The conference tournament will be staged on Feb. 5 at Grace Davis.
The Bulldogs finished fifth during the WAC dual season and league finals in 2019-20. Ceres High qualified seven individuals for the Sac-Joaquin Section Division-IV Tournament.
Paulino hasn’t decided which of his wrestlers will compete at the varsity level this year.
“It’s going to be a difficult season,” Paulino said. “I don’t want to throw a kid out there that’s not ready. I don’t want them to get injured or morally defeated.”
“I see us being able to compete as a team within the next two to three years,” he added. “I’m hoping to have at least one state qualifier in the next five years and a placer in six to seven years. My ultimate goal is to see a state champion from Ceres.”
Paulino graduated from Ceres High in 1996.
He wrestled for the Bulldogs for three seasons.
Paulino was a part of Ceres High’s Sub-Section and VOL championship teams his junior year.
“Wrestling is a tough sport,” he said. “But it’s one of the most rewarding.”
Paulino was promoted to head coach of the Bulldogs prior to the start of the 2019-20 season.
“It’s a huge honor,” he said. “I couldn’t see myself coaching anywhere else. I have a Ceres Bulldog tattoo on my arm. I don’t know what I’d tell the other kids.”