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Ceres High School's varsity wrestling program has made substantial gains since the arrival of coaches Jon Nowicki and Steve Festa in 2006-07.

The Bulldogs have amassed a winning record in the Valley Oak League in two of the past three seasons, placed at multiple tournaments and enjoyed a tremendous amount of individual success.

Seniors Curtis Hulstine, Keegan Overbey and Tony Spinella will lead the way this year.

"We have a strong team and it starts with our captains," assistant coach Steve Festa said. "With those three leading the way, it makes us more confident. They're the leaders of our team. Their dedication to be the best sets them apart from others."

Hulstine compiled a 40-8 record as a junior. He won two of four matches at the Sac-Joaquin Section Masters Meet, and took second at the Division IV and Valley Oak League championships in the 112-pound division. During the regular season, Curtis won titles at Bear Creek, Ceres High, Sheldon and Stagg, and placed fourth at the Big Valley (Stockton) and Coast Classic (Scotts Valley) tournaments.

"This is my last year so I got to give it my all," said Curtis, who will compete at 125 pounds. "I want to place at state. That's my main goal. It's going to happen this year. I've been working hard."

Hulstine has improved greatly since his sophomore year, when he went 0-2 at Masters, placed fifth at Divisionals and finished fourth at the league finals.

"I'm more of an all-round wrestler now because I've had a lot of training since then," Hulstine said. "I just love the sport. It's fun. You have to challenge yourself."

Hulstine will receive valuable mentoring from older brother Billy Murphy this season.

Murphy, an assistant coach at Central Catholic High School, placed first twice (2005-06) and third once (2004) while competing at the CIF State Meet, and amassed a 168-3 career record as a member of the Hughson High wrestling team. He also took first at the Senior National Championships and was a two-time junior national champion. Billy captured the NJCAA 133-pound title during his freshman year at Iowa Central Community College in 2008-09.

"He's given me pointers," Hulstine said. "It's great having that connection. He wants the best for me. It's awesome."

Overbey won one of three matches at Masters, finished fifth at Divisionals (3-2) and took second in league while competing at 130 pounds during his junior year.

Spinella posted a 1-2 record at Masters, finished in fifth place at Divisionals and placed third at the VOL meet in the 152-pound class last year.

Tony and Keegan will wrestle at 152 and 135 pounds, respectively, this season.

"I can see all three of them making it to state and placing," Festa said. "That's the expectation. Everyday, we remind them how far they've come."

Other Bulldogs expected to contribute this year include Wesley Schwieger (103/112), Gabe Balderas (103/112), Brandon Christeson (112/119), Raj Singh (130-135) Nick Moran (140), Andrew Cefre (140/145),Christian Rodriguez (145/152), Shawn Amirfar (152/160), Chad Atchison (160/171), Christian Moore (171), Erik Eisenbeis (189), Lucas Silva (215/285) and Ruben Sanchez (215/285).