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New year, same goal for wrestlers
Coach Festa has high expectations for CHS grapplers
Ceres High Schools varsity wrestling team returns a host of talent from this past season, including junior John Alba. Alba helped lead the Bulldogs to a runner-up finish in the Western Athletic Conference last year. - photo by DALE BUTLER/The Courier

Steve Festa takes a great deal of pride in being head coach of Ceres High School's varsity wrestling program.

"It's special," said Festa, fourth-year leader of the Bulldogs. "I feel lucky to have this position. I'm so fortunate. It's something I don't take for granted.

Ceres High's amassed a 10-8 record in Western Athletic Conference dual-meet action under Festa's direction. The Bulldogs had the second-best team in the WAC last winter.

"I want to continue the legacy and tradition they (Frank Cheek, Glen Nowicki, Bruce Scott, Chris Mendonca and Jon Nowicki) built," said Festa, who served as an assistant coach for seven seasons prior to earning a promotion.

The 2015-16 Bulldogs have three team captains in John Alba, Diego Diaz and Tyree Williams.

Alba (152s) and Diaz (182s) are key returners, along with Frankie Mendez (106s), Luis Camarillo (126s), Tyler Fleming (126s), Brian Becerra (132s), Jaden Cooper (145s), Aiden Moore (160s) and Spencer Nelson (170s).

Williams (195s) is Ceres High's top newcomer.

The Dublin High School transfer wrestled for the Bulldogs as a sophomore.

"I found out he was back in Ceres when school started," Festa said. "I was walking across campus and saw him. He came over and shook my hand. He's going to be hungry. It's his senior year."
Alba, Diaz and Camarillo all qualified for the Sac-Joaquin Section Masters Championships last winter.

"John was a takedown away from making state as a sophomore," Festa said. "He's stronger. He has more experience. Diego put in the most offseason work. He's already shown improvement from last year."

The Bulldogs totaled 220.5 points en route to a runner-up finish at the WAC Championships a season ago. The Bulldogs, Livingston Wolves and Los Banos Tigers finished in a three-way tie for second place in the conference dual-meet standings with identical 4-2 marks.

Crosstown-rival Central Valley won the WAC's overall title after totaling 233.5 points and amassing a 6-0 record. "Central Valley is the returning league champion," Festa said. "They're going to have a good team. I expect us to win it all. I'm very confident in our team. We're going to work hard to improve."