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CHS ends CVs run of dominance
Bulldogs finish first, end 22 years of futility
Aiden Moore filled a key role while leading Ceres Highs varsity boys wrestling program to its first first conference dual-meet title in 22 years this winter. - photo by Courier file photo

Ceres High's varsity boys wrestling program enjoyed a breakthrough season during the 2017 Western Athletic Conference dual-meet campaign.

The Bulldogs captured their first title since 1995 with a thrilling 35-26 win over defending-champion/crosstown-rival Central Valley on Feb. 1 at Phil de la Porte Gymnasium.

"I've been here for 10 years," Bulldogs head coach Steve Festa said. "I've had some great teams. We've never gone undefeated."

"The most enjoyable part was seeing past generations of wrestlers watch us accomplish the goal," Ceres High veteran grappler John Alba said.

The first-place Bulldogs posted a perfect 5-0 record in the WAC standings.

The third-place Hawks (3-2) fell short in their bid for their fourth consecutive WAC dual-meet crown.

"We've been waiting for another opportunity since last year," Festa said. "We were prepared. We proved we have the top varsity lineup in the WAC."

"This year's team was able to do it because we're close," Ceres High veteran grappler John Alba said. "We're like brothers. Our bond helped us overcome all challenges."

Alba and fellow Bulldog seniors Frankie Mendez, Aiden Moore, Diego Diaz and Conner Johnson have been wrestling for Festa since the seventh grade.

Steve previously coached at Mae Hensley Jr. High for six years.

"We finally reached our goal," Alba said. "We worked hard for it."

"It just makes me proud," Festa said. "These kids deserve it."

Ceres High and Central Valley each won seven individual matches during last week's crosstown showdown.

The Bulldogs got 24 points from their four pins.

Alba won by pin (1:24) at 152 pounds.

Camarillo won by pin (1:59) at 126 pounds.

Diaz won by major decision (14-2) at 195 pounds.

Moore won by decision (4-1) at 170 pounds.

"We knew Central Valley would be one of our toughest competitors," Alba said. "There was a ton of pressure. We all fought hard. We weren't going to let anybody take away our dream. This is something I'm going to remember forever."

Ceres High ended Central Valley's run of dominance in the WAC.

Winners of back-to-back conference overall titles, the Hawks reeled off 18 straight dual victories from 2014-16.

Central Valley also made program history by finishing first at the Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV Championships and Team Duals last winter.

The Bulldogs finished second behind the Hawks at both events.

Ceres High also had to settle for runner-up honors in the WAC.

The Bulldogs had a combined record of 16-7 against conference dual-meet competition the past four years.

Ceres High was 5-1 in 2016, 4-2 in 2015 and 2-4 in 2014.

"As much as this is an individual sport, the camaraderie of a team is so important," Festa. "Our team is so close. I can only wish more athletes at Ceres High would give wrestling a chance."