James Murphy is peaking at the right time.
The Central Valley varsity boys wrestler placed fourth at the Sac-Joaquin Section Division-IV Championships this past weekend at Sacramento's Foothill High School.
Murphy earned his first-ever trip to Masters during his final season with the Hawks.
"We had a lot of talks about this possibly being his last time wrestling," head coach Rob Beckhart said. "He responded. I knew he had the ability to make it. He just loves to compete."
"The fact that it's my last year in high school, it gave me extra motivation," James said. "I did a lot more work outside of the season. I was in the weight room more. I watched videos on different wrestlers. I'm more focused this year."
Unseeded for Divisionals, Murphy competed in the 154-pound weight bracket.
James placed third at the Western Athletic Conference Tournament the previous week.
"I didn't look at the seedings," he said. "It wasn't a huge deal to me. I wanted to wrestle my hardest. I knew if I did my best, I'd make it to the next level."
Murphy had to battle back through the consolation bracket.
"I was in the blood rounds," he said. "If I lost, I was out. It made me focus more."
James attributed his success this season to improved technique.
Murphy also increased his wrestling IQ.
"The last couple years I wrestled with pure strength," Murphy said. "I was way more reckless in attempting moves. That didn't work for me. It pushed me to get better."
Hawk teammate Kyle Hendrix just missed securing a berth to Masters.
The top four individuals in each weight class advanced.
Hendrix, a sophomore, placed fifth at 134 pounds.
Central Valley's Ryan Palecek (172s), Natanael Lezama (197s) and Moises Galeana (222s) all took sixth in their respective brackets.
"We had a bunch of guys finish fifth and sixth," Beckhart said. "I'm proud of them for putting in the effort. The expectation will be a little different for them now that they have the experience."
Central Valley earned 70 points on its way to finishing 11th overall in the team standings at Divisionals.
Patterson (197), Rosemont (176) and Ceres High (145.5) placed first, second and third, respectively.
The Masters tournament will be held, Feb. 22-23, at Stockton Arena.
"Every person deserves to be there," Murphy said. "I'm going to take it one match at a time, do my best and see where it gets me."