By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Miller, Espinoza, Sanchez garner special recognition for excelling
A newcomer to Central Valley’s boys wrestling team, Michael Miller (left) qualified for the CIF State Meet. Ceres High girls grappler Vanessa Sanchez won 16 matches.

Central Valley’s Michael Miller has been named the Ceres Courier’s Male Newcomer of the Year for the winter sports season.

Central Valley’s Samantha Espinoza and Ceres High’s Vanessa Sanchez have been named co-Female Newcomers of the Year.

Miller (boys wrestling), Espinoza (girls wrestling) and Sanchez (girls wrestling) all had memorable first seasons with their respective teams.

“We had a lot of good first-year wrestlers,” Hawks head coach Rob Beckhart said. “Sam and Michael stand out because of their dedication and work ethic.”

“I don’t know why Vanessa decided to do wrestling her senior year,” Bulldogs’ assistant coach John Alba said. “But I’m glad she came out. She had the right mindset. She never backed down from a challenge. Not every wrestler has that attribute. She had a lot of confidence in herself and her physical ability.”

Miller made program history by becoming the first Hawk grappler to win two matches at the CIF State Championships. The Grace Davis transfer amassed a 2-2 record on his way to finishing in the top 24 in the 140-pound weight class. He was two matches away from placing.

“He’s an elite wrestler,” Beckhart said. “There was nobody in the state he couldn’t compete with. Any coach would want a kid like that in their room.”

Miller compiled a 23-8 overall record.

He took sixth at the Sac-Joaquin Section Masters Championships.

He finished second at the Central California Conference Tournament.

“He joined our team at a time when we were struggling to find our identity,” Beckhart said. “He made our whole team better. Guys were a little more focused. He was a perfect teammate. He stayed after to help other kids make weight. I wish I had someone like that every year.”

“I’m proud of what he was able to do,” Beckhart added. “He always had a good game plan and was able to take advantage of most of his opportunities. He had a shot to beat anybody. He was never overmatched.” 

Espinoza, a sophomore, posted a 20-10 record while competing at 170 pounds for most of the season.

She advanced to Masters.

She won three of five matches en route to a seventh-place finish at South Regionals.

Espinoza claimed a title at the Central California Conference Championships with a perfect 2-0 mark.

She also helped lead the Hawks to a share of the league’s overall championship and first-place finish at the CCC Tournament.

“Sam was new to wrestling,” Beckhart said. “She learned really quickly. She routinely stayed after practice to work with the coaches. Right now, she’s strong and athletic. You’ll see her transition into a more technical wrestler with more experience. As she gains confidence, she’ll be one of the top girls in the area.”

Sanchez represented Ceres High at the Masters Tournament.

The 235-pound senior placed fifth at South Regionals.

She was sidelined with an ankle injury during the Western Athletic Conference Finals.

Sanchez posted a 16-15 overall record on the year.

“She did a lot for the team, not just on the mat, but as a leader,” Alba said. “She was there every day at practice even through injury. She had a never-say-no attitude. Some athletes would not have finished the season.”

Sophomore Samantha Espinoza compiled a 20-10 record and claimed the 170-pound title at the Central California Conference Championships during her first season with Central Valley’s varsity girls wrestling program. - photo by Dale Butler