By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Dawgs edge Hawks, capture WAC dual-meet title
Brian Becerra (pictured right) and Ceres Highs varsity boys wrestling team earned a hard-fought 35-26 victory while battling Christian Oliver and crosstown-rival Central Valley last Wednesday at Phil de la Porte Gymnasium. - photo by Contributed to the Courier

Ceres High's varsity boys wrestling program made history this past week.

The Bulldogs annexed their first conference dual-meet title since 1995 with a 35-26 victory against crosstown-rival Central Valley Wednesday evening at Phil de la Porte Gymnasium.

"It's the most exciting dual I've ever been a part of," Ceres High head coach Steve Festa said. "Our guys responded. Our talent and experience was the difference."

The first-place Bulldogs posted a perfect 5-0 record in the Western Athletic Conference standings.

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

"Ceres has wanted this for a long time," Central Valley head coach Rob Beckhart said. "I'm happy for them. They have great kids. They wrestle hard."

"It's something we've been thinking about since last year," Festa said. "We were prepared. When the season is over, we'll reflect on what we accomplished. We got to keep pushing forward."

The Bulldogs edged the Hawks by just nine points.

Ceres High held a 4-0 advantage in victories by pin.

Bulldog John Alba won by pin (1:24) over Hawk Ryan Palecek at 152 pounds.

Luis Camarillo won by pin (1:59) over Ryan Hendrix at 126 pounds.

Shanald Lal won by pin (5:03) over Anthony Voss at 106 pounds.

Brian Becerra won by pin (5:14) over Christian Oliver at 138 pounds.

Ceres High's Diego Diaz, Ethan Letras and Aiden Moore were also victorious.

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

Letras won by major decision (11-3) over James Murphy at 160 pounds.

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

"Anything can happen," Festa said leading up to the crosstown showdown. "That's why we can't let up. We got to stay determined. I feel very confident in our guys."

Nate Curry, Will Sprouse, Tyler Beckhart, Severo Vazquez, Wilbur Arellano, Kyle Hendrix and David Lezama picked up victories for Central Valley.

Curry won by major decision (11-2) over Andrew Gibson at 182 pounds.

Sprouse won by major decision (13-5) over Tyler Fleming at 132 pounds.

Beckhart won by decision (9-5) over Conner Johnson at 220 pounds.

Vazquez won by decision (9-6) over Jaden Cooper at 145 pounds.

Arellano won by decision (6-4) over Michael Vargas at 120 pounds.

Hendrix won by decision (5-4) over Frankie Mendez at 113 pounds.

Lezama won by forfeit at 285 pounds.

"It was a close dual," Festa said. "Both teams led. We didn't give up any pins. I'm proud of that stat."

Added Alba: "There was a lot of pressure on both teams."

Central Valley won 21 of its last 22 conference dual matches prior to losing to Ceres High.

The Hawks reeled off 18 straight victories from 2014-16.

Ceres High amassed an 11-7 record during that same time span. The Bulldogs went 5-1 in 2016, 4-2 in 2015 and 2-4 in 2014.

"Ceres is doing what they expected to do," Beckhart said. "I think our kids have really surprised some people. We're young."

"At this point of the season, we're focused on continuing to get better," Festa said.

The Hawks failed in their quest to force a three-way tie atop the WAC standings with the Bulldogs and Livingston Wolves.

"I wasn't surprised Central Valley put up a good fight," Alba said. "They've had great seasons."

The Bulldogs and Hawks will compete at the WAC Championships this Saturday in Los Banos.

"We haven't won the WAC overall title yet," Alba said. "We have to place in the top two at the WAC tournament."