Ceres High School senior multi-sport standout Elias Saldana has been named a Western Athletic Conference Male Scholar-Athlete Award recipient for the 2019-20 academic year.
“My first thought was there were so many other deserving student-athletes,” he said. “To be chosen as the one to receive it (the award) was a proud moment. It’s a cool achievement.”
Saldana currently has a cumulative grade-point average above 3.5.
“It’s important to be a good student,” Saldana said. “My parents (Isacc and Nina) always made sure school came first. They always pushed me to be the best I could be. They’ve always been supportive. I don’t think they missed a football game. The only time they missed a wrestling match was to watch my brother play basketball.”
Saldana will focus on academics at Sacramento State.
He will major in business.
“It’s the first time in nine years I don’t have anything planned for summer,” Saldana said. “I always had football practice. I’m going to miss everything about sports—playing with my teammates and competing. I’ll miss creating more memories.”
Saldana earned six varsity letters during his prep athletic career, including three in both football and wrestling.
A starter on Ceres High’s offensive and defensive lines as a senior, junior and sophomore, Saldana rarely came off the field while playing in a total of 30 games.
“It was exhausting but that’s what I wanted. I wanted to be pushed. There’s no point in being an okay football player.”Elias Saldana
“It was exhausting but that’s what I wanted,” he said. “I wanted to be pushed. There’s no point in being an okay football player.”
“He’s the type of player you will remember for a long time just because of his personality in terms of being a great person,” said Matt Chachere, Saldana’s head coach his senior and junior years. “He was extremely coachable and committed. He was talented. He raised the bar for his teammates by practicing really hard and being physical. Everything he does, it’s a full-go effort. All the other players respected him.”
“There’s no time to be nice or hesitate when you’re playing sports,” Saldana added. “If you do something you’re not supposed to do, you’ll slip up.”
Saldana’s dominance on both sides of the field earned him second-team all-league honors this past fall.
He enjoyed his best season to date on defense with the Bulldogs.
Saldana collected 78 tackles and four sacks at nose tackle.
He also anchored Ceres High’s offensive line. Saldana played left guard.
“I was a lot more aggressive,” he said. “I understood my positions more.”
Saldana managed to compete at a high level despite being slowed by shoulder, finger, knee and ankle injuries.
He broke his left ring finger two games into the season.
Saldana racked up a career-high 14 tackles and one sack in Ceres High’s 35-26 Homecoming loss to Lathrop.
“I improved throughout the years,” he said.
Saldana ranked in the top 10 in the Sac-Joaquin Section Wrestling Rankings for heavyweight grapplers prior to suffering a season-ending leg injury.
He placed first at the 54th Annual Ceres Invitational, second at the Mike Tamana Tournament, third at the Tin Brown Memorial and sixth at the Pat Lovell Holiday Classic.
“I’m proud of the way I’ve grown as a wrestler,” he said. “I didn’t realize I was going to be that good. But you can be as good as you want to be if you understand the sport and put in the work. It’s up to you.”