Jon Nowicki, head coach of Ceres High School’s varsity wrestling program for the past seven years, stepped down to fill a job opening in Tulare.
Nowicki, 32, will work with children diagnosed with autism.
The Bulldogs experienced a remarkable turnaround under Nowicki’s guidance.
“It’s hard to walk away,” said Jon, a 1999 Ceres High graduate. “It’s been a big part of my life. I’m definitely going to miss it. I’m still going to be around but not for day-to-day practices.”
Nowicki spent seven seasons with the Bulldogs.
“The thing I’m most proud of is we never had a losing record,” Jon said.
Ceres High managed to compile a 4-3 record in the Valley Oak League during Nowicki’s first year at the helm despite competing with a thin roster. The Bulldogs’ roster featured just eight grapplers.
“We had such a small team,” he said.
The Bulldogs placed third in the Western Athletic Conference dual-meet standings (4-2) this past season. Ceres High qualified nine individuals for Divisionals.
The Bulldogs tied for first place with Los Banos in the WAC (5-1) and qualified for the Sac-Joaquin Section 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). A decent-sized home crowd watched as Ceres High defeated powerhouse Sonora, 53-24, on Senior Night.
“That night still gives me goose bumps,” Nowicki said.
Ceres High had two CIF State Meet qualifiers during Nowicki’s tenure.
Gabe Balderas (class of 2013) and Curtis Hulstine (class of 2010) advanced three times and once, respectively.
Balderas had a career record of 156-42.
Hulstine went 113-31.
“I’m definitely proud of their accomplishments,” Nowicki said.
Glen Nowicki, Jon’s father, coached at Ceres High School for 17 years.
Jon’s wrestling career spanned more than 10 years. He competed for the first time in the first grade as a member of the Ceres wrestling club. Jon suited up for the varsity team at Ceres High for three seasons. He took eighth in the 152-pound weight class at the state meet during his senior year. Nowicki compiled a 33-11 overall record his freshman year with the Bulldogs. Jon finished in the top 12 in the state in Washington as a sophomore.
“I’ve been around wrestling my whole life,” he said. “I was born during a practice.”
Steve Festa, a former Bulldog wrestler, was named Nowicki’s successor.
Steve was an assistant on Jon’s coaching staff for seven years.
“I feel very comfortable leaving the program in his hands,” Nowicki said. “I know he’s going to do a great job with the kids.”