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CHS staging home wrestling tourney for the 51st time
A total of 21 teams sign up for annual event
Bulldog Frankie Mendez will look to defend his 106-pound title at the 51st Ceres Invitational this Saturday at Ceres High. - photo by Contributed to the Courier

The members of Ceres High's wrestling program will set up three mats inside Phil de la Porte Gymnasium and one in the multi-purpose room Friday evening.

The 51st Ceres Invitational will be staged on Saturday.

The longstanding tourney will feature grapplers from 21 different schools, including Ceres High (Western Athletic Conference), Central Valley (WAC), Livingston (WAC), Pitman (Central California Conference), Hughson (Trans Valley League), Hilmar (TVL), Mountain House (TVL), Delhi (Southern League), Johansen (Modesto Metro Conference), Central Catholic (Valley Oak League), Sierra (VOL), Big Valley Christian (Central California Athletic Alliance), Lodi (Tri-City Athletic League), Liberty Ranch (Sierra Valley Conference), Summerville (Mother Lode League), Linden (MLL), Jesuit (Delta League) and Deer Valley (Bay Valley League).

"It's an elite tournament that showcases some of the best programs in our area," Ceres High leader Steve Festa said. "Last year, we took third. We had multiple champions. We hope to improve on that. We know what we need to do. Our hard work will determine the results."

"It's a great tournament," Central Valley head coach Rob Beckhart said. "It was there when I was in high school. It's one of the longest-standing tournaments in the state. It shows the commitment Ceres High has to wrestling. I appreciate what Steve has done to keep the tournament going."

Ceres High claimed nine individual medals at the 50th Annual Ceres Invitational.

The Bulldogs (148 points) finished behind Buhach Colony (237.50) and Pitman (185). The crosstown-Hawks (84.50) took fifth. Central Valley had four medalists.

"We have a lot of young talent this year," Beckhart said. "I'm excited to see how they do. I expect us to be competitive. I'd like to see our kids be aggressive and score points. Realistically, I can see us finishing in the top five or six. Our kids have heart. They're not going to give up."

"To be considered the best, you got to beat the best," Festa added. "That's what we want."

Frankie Mendez (106s), Luis Camarillo (126s), Jaden Cooper (145s), Brian Becerra (138s), John Alba (160s), Aiden Moore (170s), Diego Diaz (195s) and Conner Johnson (220s) will lead the Bulldogs.

Mendez took first at the 2015 Ceres Invitational.

Becerra and Moore claimed third-place medals.

Camarillo placed fourth.

Alba and Diaz both placed fifth.

Cooper placed sixth.

Johnson won one of three matches.

Ryan Hendrix (126s), Christian Oliver (138s), Severo Vazquez (152s), Thomas Delgado (195s), Tyler Beckhart (220s) and David Lezama (285s) will lead Central Valley.

Hendrix placed second at last year's Ceres tourney.

Vazquez won two of four matches.

Lezama currently ranks sixth in the Sac-Joaquin Section.

"I wouldn't be surprised if all of them (Oliver, Vazquez and Lezama) got to the finals," coach Beckhart said.

The Ceres tournament will begin at 9 a.m., with finals slated to get underway at 6 p.m.

The top three teams win Custom California plaques.

The top six individuals in each weight class will be rewarded as well.

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

"This year, we'll be giving rings to the individual champions and dog tags (to second- through sixth-place finishers)," Festa said.