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Hawks advance
• Central Valley boys team qualifies 10 individuals for Divisionals
Central Valley varsity boys wrestlers Natanael Lezama, Ryan Palecek and Michael Miller finished first in their respective weight divisions at the Central California Conference Championships on Thursday at Merced High School.

Central Valley’s varsity boys wrestling program had three grapplers win titles at the Central California Conference Tournament on Thursday at Merced High School. 

“We had the second-most individual champions of any team in the league,” head coach Rob Beckhart said. “Last year, we had no league champs.”

Seeded second, senior Ryan Palecek knocked off the top seed while finishing first overall in the 182-pound bracket.

Palecek won both of his matches.

He beat El Capitan’s Kyle Lee (decision, 10-3) in the finals and Atwater’s Isaiah Zamora (pin, 1:01) in the semifinals.

Lee was ranked No. 12 in the Sac-Joaquin Section.

“I’m proud of Ryan,” Beckhart said. “He was in a tough weight class. There was a fire he was wrestling with. He wasn’t going to be beat.”

Junior Natanaeal Lezama took first at 195 pounds.

Lezama won both of his matches.

“He’ more confident and willing to take more risks,” Beckhart said while talking about Lezama’s keys to success. 

Grace Davis transfer Michael Miller claimed the 140-pound championship.

The senior won all three of his matches.

 “I’m proud of Michael,” Beckhart said. “He’s been a positive influence for our team. For the most part, you don’t have to tell him what to do. He’s like a coach out there.”

Freshman Ruben Valenzuela placed second at 160 pounds.

He won one of two matches.

Juan Lezama (170s pounds, 2-1 record) and Jesus Uvalle (220s, 2-1) both placed third.

Kyle Hendrix (132s, 2-2) and Moises Galeana (285s, 2-2) placed fourth.

Evan Cooper (113s, 2-2) and David Martinez (152s, 2-2) placed fifth.

Nicholas Genasci (106s, 0-3) placed sixth.

Hawk teammates Juan Melgoza (120s, 0-2), Alex Alvarez (126s, 0-2) and Roman Ramirez (145s, 0-2) did not place.

Central Valley totaled 164 points on its way to a third-place finish at CCC Championships last week.

The Hawks had 10 grapplers qualify for the Sac-Joaquin Section Division-III Tournament.

“That’s the best I’ve seen them wrestle all year,” Beckhart said. 

Central Valley finished third in the CCC’s overall standings.

The Hawks (3-3) tied for third during the conference dual season.

“The kids improved throughout the year,” Beckhart said. “It was a learning process. Next year, they’ll be able to compete for a league title.”

Palecek, Miller, Valenzuela, Uvalle, Hendrix, Galeana, Cooper, Martinez, Natanael Lezama and Juan Lezama will represent Central Valley at Divisionals later this week.

The tournament will be staged Feb. 8-9 at Atwater High School.