Wrestler brings out best in Wildcats

By: Cecil Conley, Sports Editor
-A +A
Julio Ceron has nothing to prove to his Whitney High School wrestling teammates. They can all attest to the senior’s talent because they have each had to face him at one time or another. Practice begins with each wrestler finding a partner for a takedown challenge. The first to score a takedown rotates to find another partner. The loser stays put and waits for a winner to arrive. Ceron makes the rounds, taking down one teammate after another. He competes in the 215-pound division, but the challenge puts him against underclassmen who can barely tip the scale. In last Thursday’s practice, for example, Ceron worked his way around the wrestling room to Nathan Torno. The 119-pound sophomore boldly went where few of his teammates would dare to go. Torno took a shot and grabbed Ceron’s left leg. Ceron countered by leaning forward to put weight on Torno’s neck and shoulders. Torno finally had to let go of the leg for fear of being squashed. Such mismatches serve a purpose, coach Dan Parker said, in teaching the youngsters not to be intimidated. “He goes against much smaller kids, but they don’t back away from him,” Parker said. “I think it’s a pride thing to go against the best wrestler in the room.” Ceron’s résumé reflects his success. The four-year varsity veteran was a two-time Pioneer Valley League champion and reached the 2010 Sac-Joaquin Section Masters tournament as a junior. Whitney now competes in the Capital Athletic League, so Ceron will face new opposition in his bid for a hat trick. His ultimate goal is to survive the Masters meet and reach the state tournament. The disappointment lingers for Ceron after falling short last year. He is not planning to do so again. “I was pretty down,” he recalled. “I was devastated after all the work I put in. I’ve got to make it this year.” His work this season is already paying off. Ceron won his weight class Saturday at the Armijo Invitational in Fairfield. It was the fourth tournament in which Ceron has earned a medal. Jordan Powell finished first at 152 pounds. Justin Martinez (119) and Joe Atwood (140) both were second. Whitney placed fourth in the 22-team event. Parker is doing everything in his power to ensure Ceron will be ready for the postseason. Parker does not hesitate to raise his voice during practice, but he tries to find a “mid-level volume.” He has rarely had to yell at Ceron. “I can be more conversational with Julio. He understands,” Parker said. “I don’t have to do a lot of hollering with him. He knows when I’m being serious. I can bring it down a notch with him.” Ceron absorbs everything Parker says. That comes with wrestling for the same coach for four years. “You have to know what he wants from you,” Ceron said. “He’s always saying, “Circle in!’ It has been the same since my freshman year. I hear that in my sleep.” Getting Ceron to listen is easy for Parker. Stepping onto the mat to wrestle with him is a challenge. Few of Ceron’s teammates can handle him in practice, so Parker will occasionally play the opponent. “I take it to him,” Ceron joked, “He’s huge, but I can keep up with him. His conditioning’s not that good, so I get him tired and then I can take him down.” At least Torno should not feel alone.