John Alba had a rave review for the Azevedo-Hitchcock Wrestling Camp.
"It was like no other camp I've been to," said Alba, who qualified for the CIF State Meet during his junior year at Ceres High this past winter. "It was very intense. It was very challenging. We learned moves I haven't seen anybody do before on the mat. It made me rethink the most basic things. It showed us what we need to do to be at the level of elite."
The grueling eight-day clinic was staged, July 5-12, at McDermont Field in Lindsay, Calif.
Ceres High's Alba, Brian Becerra, Luis Camarillo, Jaden Cooper, Diego Diaz, Tyler Fleming, Antonio Gonzalez, Austin Hanshew, Ethan Letras, Frankie Mendez and Aiden Moore, and Mae Hensley Junior High's Brian Ayala and Trae Hammond attended the camp as members of the Ceres Pups Wrestling Club.
Coaches Casey Palino Sr. (Ceres Pups), Steve Festa (Ceres High) and Cecil Cervantez (Mae Hensley/Ceres High) also participated.
"This year is the first year we attended," Festa said. "We got recruited to go there. I didn't know what to expect. The wrestlers and coaches got a lot out of it. Everything was a competition. It was an eight-day grind. It was really intense."
Alba and Co. focused on individual training during the first four days of the camp.
Grappling legend John Azevedo provided instruction from 9-11 a.m.
Azevedo placed first three times (1978-80) while representing Cal State Bakersfield at the NCAA Division-II Wrestling Championships. The Roadrunners finished first as a team twice (1980, 1979).
Azevedo won the 126-pound NCAA Division-I title in 1980.
He claimed back-to-back state championships (1974-75) at the prep level.
Twin brothers Zander and Evan Wick of San Marino High School won CIF state titles under Azevedo's guidance this past season.
Azevedo led Calvary Chapel to seven state team titles in 12 years.
He coached Cal Poly San Luis Obispo for 10 seasons, retiring in 2011.
"He's originally from the Modesto area," Festa said. "He graduated from Grace Davis High School. He qualified for the 1980 Olympics. He placed fourth at Worlds in 1982. He's got a lot of coaching experience. He brings so much to the table. He shared his practice plan and what they do. He was so gracious and humble."
Added Alba: "I was in complete awe."
Ceres compiled a 5-2 record during the team-dual portion of the camp, held July 9-12.
The Pups won two of three matches en route to a top-four finish in the Gold Bracket.
"We were competing the moment we woke up until we went to bed," Festa said. "Everybody pushed each other. I saw improvement."
The Ceres Pups and 11 other clubs attended the Azevedo-Hitchcock Wrestling Camp.
"I wanted to give them an opportunity to challenge themselves," Festa said. "They did. There were ups and downs just like a wrestling season. That's what makes you tougher. We had a great time. This is something I can see us doing for years to come."
"We learned a lot," Alba said. "We rose to the challenge and overcame what we thought were our limits. It brought our team closer in a lot of ways."