Jaden Cooper has been named Ceres High School’s Male Athlete of the Year.
Athletic director Shawna Nunes presented a Bulldog trophy to Cooper last month.
CHS coaches participated in the voting process.
“Mrs. Nunes called me to the Doghouse and told me,” he said. “I was super surprised. I didn’t think I was good enough for that award. We have so many great athletes at our school.”
Jaden was motivated by his failures in basketball and football when he was a student at Whitmore Charter.
"One of my biggest motivations was to prove to everybody I knew I could be a really good athlete."Jaden Cooper
“I was never good at any of the sports I did in junior high,” said Cooper, who stood just 5 feet and weighed 100 pounds in the seventh grade. “One of my biggest motivations was to prove to everybody I knew I could be a really good athlete. I went from nothing to something. It’s unbelievable. Anything is possible.”
Cooper’s transformation into one of the Ceres High’s top wrestlers didn’t happen overnight.
“I had no experience,” he said. “I felt like I was playing catchup and had to work 10 times harder than the other guys.”
Jaden improved each year.
Cooper enjoyed his best season to date this past winter.
“Every year, he got better,” Bulldogs’ head coach Steve Festa said. “He didn’t have early success. Patience was the key. He was willing to learn. He had a great work ethic. He showed up early and left late. It was an honor to coach him. He’s one of the best wrestlers to ever come out of Ceres High.”
Jaden compiled a 30-8 overall record during his final year with the Bulldogs.
Cooper earned a measure of redemption by winning the 145-pound title at the Western Athletic Conference finals. He placed second in 2017 and fourth during his sophomore year.
Jaden also helped Ceres High claim its second consecutive team title at the WAC tournament.
He made history by becoming the Bulldogs’ first individual champion at the Mike Tamana Invitational.
Cooper finished in first place at the Sac-Joaquin Section Division-IV Championships.
“As much as I wanted to achieve that goal of getting to state, I had so many great experiences,” he said. “I met so many great people. I never would have thought I would win WAC and Divisional championships. It’s crazy.”
Cooper loved the individuality of the sport of wrestling.
“Everything is on you,” he said. “Nobody else can decide how good you’re going to be. It’s up to you to show up. You can’t put the blame on anybody else.”
Jaden earned five varsity letters during his prep athletic career, including four in wrestling and one in track and field.
“Wrestling molded me into the person I am now and going to be,” he said. “It taught me how to set a goal and do everything I can to reach the goal. It boosted my confidence in all aspects of my life. I worked my tail off. I’d do it all over again.”
Cooper will continue his education at UC Davis.
He’ll major in sociology.
Jaden wants to become a therapist.
“I’m definitely going to miss it (wrestling) a lot,” he said. “But I’m at peace with it. I’m going to focus on academics and my career.”