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Local athletes, teams enjoy successful campaigns
Bulldog senior John Alba advanced to the CIF State Wrestling Championships for the second year in a row, and claimed titles at the Sac-Joaquin Section Division-IV and Western Athletic Conference meets. - photo by DALE BUTLER/Courier file photo

The winter sports season was filled with many highlights. Now is the perfect time to recollect and celebrate.

Top male athlete-Ceres High's John Alba and Central Valley's David Lezama both qualified for the CIF State Boys Wrestling Championships. Lezama (heavyweight) and Alba (145s) placed fourth and fifth, respectively, at the Sac-Joaquin Section Masters Meet. John and David both claimed titles at the Division-IV and Western Athletic Conference meets. Alba and Lezama had overall records of 41-10 and 35-14, respectively.

Top female athlete-Nayeli Pelayo made history by becoming Central Valley's first-ever two-time CIF State Girls Wrestling Meet qualifier. The 191-pound junior posted a 3-2 record on her way to a fourth-place finish at the Sac-Joaquin Section Masters Championships. She won four of five matches while taking third at the South Regional competition. Pelayo placed first at the Western Athletic Conference finals with a perfect 2-0 mark. She also captured titles at tournaments at Pacheco and Bear Creek.

Male newcomer-Gerardo Flores had a memorable first season as a key member of Central Valley's varsity boys soccer team. The sophomore forward collected 21 goals, the 11th-highest total in the Sac-Joaquin Section. Gerardo was the third-leading scorer in Western Athletic Conference. He also dished out five assists. Flores earned second-team all-WAC honors.

Female newcomer-A newcomer to the sport of varsity girls wrestling, Julia Pata compiled an impressive 23-8 overall record. The 160-pound senior qualified for the Masters meet and finished sixth at South Regionals. She took first at the Western Athletic Conference Championships. She won all five of her matches by pin en route to winning the title at Enochs' Eighth Annual Lady Eagles Invitational.

Coach-Omar Leon (Central Valley varsity boys soccer), Steve Festa (Ceres High varsity boys wrestling) and Maria Briones (Central Valley varsity girls soccer) all led their respective programs to success-filled seasons. Leon's fifth-seeded Hawks upset No. 1 East Union and No. 4 Rio Americano on their way to advancing to the Sac-Joaquin Section Division-III title game. Central Valley amassed a 20-7-3 overall record and finished in third place in the Western Athletic Conference standings (9-4-2). Festa's team claimed the blue Sac-Joaquin Section Division-IV championship banner. The Bulldogs also dominated WAC competition by winning overall, tournament and dual-meet titles. Briones led the Hawks to a 20-3-1 overall record, quarterfinal appearance in the Division-II playoffs and second consecutive WAC crown.

Team-Ceres High's varsity boys wrestling program had a banner year. The Bulldogs won the Sac-Joaquin Section Division-IV crown. Ceres High annexed its first conference team title since 1995. The Bulldogs qualified one grappler to the CIF State Meet, eight to Masters and 14 to Divisionals.

Game/Match-Ceres High's varsity wrestling team ended crosstown-rival Central Valley's run of dominance against Western Athletic Conference competition. The Bulldogs captured the WAC dual-meet title with a 35-26 win over the Hawks. John Alba, Luis Camarillo, Shanald Lal and Brian Becerra accounted for 24 of Ceres High's points as they all picked up victories via pin. Central Valley fell short in its bid for its fourth consecutive conference crown. The Hawks would have forced a three-way tie atop the WAC standings with the Bulldogs and Livingston Wolves had they won the crosstown dual.

Honorable mention-Ceres High's Aiden Moore (boys wrestling), Conner Johnson (boys wrestling), Frankie Mendez (boys wrestling), Luis Camarillo (boys wrestling), Brian Becerra (boys wrestling), Jaden Cooper (boys wrestling), Diego Diaz (boys wrestling), Talia Mauricio (girls wrestling), Alyssa Clindaniel (girls wrestling), Arieanna Cooper (girls wrestling), Lauren Cooper (girls wrestling), Cristian Garcia (boys basketball), Haaydn Martinez (boys basketball), Ismael Ontiveros (boys basketball) and Rayohna Sagapolu (girls basketball), and Central Valley's Severo Vazquez (boys wrestling), Christian Oliver (boys wrestling), Tyler Beckhart (boys wrestling), Nasson Sanchez (boys wrestling), Angel Rico (boys wrestling), Ryan Hendrix (boys wrestling), Emily Mendoza (girls wrestling), Brianna Quiroz (girls wrestling), Julia Avila (girls wrestling), Anahi Arellano (girls wrestling), Harinder Sidhu (boys basketball), Gurshan Chahal (boys basketball), Blanca Espinoza (girls basketball), Alexis Contreras (girls basketball), Angel Lopez (boys soccer), Andres Velasquez (boys soccer), Adrian Espinoza (boys soccer), Jacob Guerrero (boys soccer), Gerardo Flores (boys soccer), David Montanez (boys soccer), Jocelyn Lopez (girls soccer), Abigail Martinez (girls soccer), Citlaly Salinas (girls soccer), Jaquelynn Chavez (girls soccer), Mariana Garibay (girls soccer), Jacquelyn Sanchez (girls soccer), Laiza Quintero (girls soccer) and Mixtly Vega (girls soccer).