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Hail Ceasar! | Top Ranked Oakdale Wrestler Aims For State Glory Hail Ceasar! | Top Ranked Oakdale Wrestler Aims For State Glory
Ceasar Garza Is Arguably NorCal’s Best Pound-For-Pound Wrestlers — And He’s Proved It During A Whirlwind Start To His Senior Campaign • To become... Hail Ceasar! | Top Ranked Oakdale Wrestler Aims For State Glory

Ceasar Garza Is Arguably NorCal’s Best Pound-For-Pound Wrestlers — And He’s Proved It During A Whirlwind Start To His Senior Campaign •

To become the fourth CIF wrestling champion in Oakdale High history this season, Michigan State-bound Ceasar Garza has to be better than any other California wrestler at his 170-pound weight class.

Just to be safe, Garza has widened the search.

Since placing seventh at the 2020 state tournament his sophomore year, Oakdale’s No. 1 ranked senior (The California Wrestling Newsletter) has battled elite competition from across the country, representing multiple weight classes.

Garza won the 162-pound California State Finals in June, but the unofficial state championships were held in lieu of a CIF-sanctioned postseason (cancelled because of COVID-19), and essentially was just a strong invitational.

The real prizes — medals with CIF logos — will be awarded in February at Mechanics Bank Arena in Bakersfield.

It’s where the footsteps of Oakdale’s past state champions can be followed. If Garza upholds his top ranking, he will be the first Mustang champion since Rudi Burtchi took his second straight championship in 2008. Matt Cox also won a title in 2000, and Trevor Machado-Ching did it five years later.

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“I know that I want to be one of the best Oakdale wrestlers in history, so I got to keep growing better and better, day by day,” Garza said.

Ceasar Garza, Oakdale, Wrestling
Garza celebrates his 2020 Sac-Joaquin Section Masters title, just months before the pandemic would lead to high school sports shutting down indefinitely. (Ike Dodson photos)

The history is easy for Garza to recall, because he’s lived it.

He was in the building back in 2011 when his cousin Juan Garza rallied alongside teammates Ronnie Stephens, Garrett Fortado, Tanner Feuerstein, Shane Tate, David Ferry, Dustin Harris, Trent Noon and AC Brown to win Oakdale’s second Sac-Joaquin Section Masters title and first since 1964.

Oakdale coach Steve Strange was an honorary member of the staff at that point, having already departed Central Catholic to take the Oakdale job the following year. He remembers Ceasar building credibility in youth wrestling, and being a part of Oakdale’s traveling entourage.

“Back then he would be running around the stands, the kid could arm-bar anybody at 8,” Strange said. “He was a standout, just one of those kids you knew was going to be something.”

Strange also won a pair of state titles from 1996-97. Though he did it for Hughson, he knows the path well.

“Ceasar has been working hard and focused, made all the national tournaments and has been getting great competition,” Strange said. “He is unique with big dreams and he knows that he can accomplish a lot.

“He just does things that most kids can’t do.”

David Ferry, Steve Strange
The Oakdale wrestling coach duo of David Ferry, left, and Steve Strange have three CIF State titles between them.

After winning his CIF medal, Ceasar competed in the Grand River Rumble (Idaho), the Midwest Iron Man Duals (South Dakota), the Grappler Fall Classic (twice, in South Carolina) and Folkstyle Nationals (Iowa). Since the 2021-22 season began in December, Ceasar has wrestled six out-of-state challengers in just three tournaments, and faced opponents ranked No. 1, 2 and 3 in California.

“Getting this level of opposition early in the season gives me an idea of where I am, and what I need to do,” Ceasar said. “It gives me opportunity to keep getting better.

“It’s important that I keep growing off those matches, take things away from them and try to make more seperation from others.”

Ceasar already has two of the biggest matches of the season under his belt. He beat California’s 160-pound No. 2, Calvary Chapel’s Luke Gayer, in triple overtime to win the 170-pound bracket at the La Costa Canyon Hamada Classic in Carlsbad on Dec. 4.

A week later, he dropped a 1-0 thriller against the overwhelming favorite to win the 182-pound CIF bracket, Joseph Martin of Buchanan-Clovis. That match, featuring two of California’s No. 1 ranked wrestlers, went down in the finals of Oakdale’s own James Riddle Classic on Dec. 11.

The pace of Ceasar’s competition is almost unsettling.

After winning the prestigious Reno Tournament of Champions on Dec. 18, he rounded out a stretch of 75 days with 13 matches against state place winners. Five of those were also ranked in the top 20 in the country.

Let’s take a closer look at that run, below:

It’s the kind of resume that lands you atop ranking boards, and makes you targeted by your opponents.

“Being (ranked) No. 1 just motivates me, because other guys are trying to get you,” Ceasar said. “They know they got to out work you.”

High-level performances also garner collegiate attention.

Ceasar will join a Michigan State program that has thrived with the help of Northern California talent like Peyton Omania (De La Salle-Concord) and Chase Saldate (Gilroy). Through Dec. 18, the two are a combined 17-3 in NCAA matches this year and Saldate is ranked No. 21 in the country. Michigan State is 5-0 in duals and Omania’s gold medal performance helped Michigan State win the Navy Classic on Nov. 20.

The Spartans hold the key to Ceasar’s ultimate goal, to be an NCAA champion. It’s a long way away, but progress is the only path.

“I think I have definitely matured as a young man,” Ceasar said. “I have become more in love with the sport, and I took advantage of every opportunity with the pandemic taking a year.

“It’s just made me hungrier.”

Ceasar said he has polished his forward pressure and aggression since his sophomore season, improved his stamina and is tougher in the top position.
Strange credited Ceasar’s attention to fundamentals and his quick thinking on the mat. Ceasar’s re-shot, countering an opponent’s aggression with a sudden surge for the legs, is tough to defend.

Ceasar Garza, Oakdale, Wrestling
Garza, right, prepares to make a move against Eli Blake of Del Oro-Loomis during the 2020 SJS Masters 145-pound final.

It’s a style of wrestling that is fantastic for pupils of Oakdale’s club program which Ceasar also coaches, with a big smile and plenty of energy.

“I like coming back into the practice room, helping train the little guys, bringing everybody up in that type of environment,” Ceasar said. “It’s just something I feel special about, just having fun and being yourself.”

Being blessed with a bright future creates a deep list of kudos.

“I just want to thank the Lord, the community in Oakdale, my coaches, my mom (Irma Garza), my dad (Justino Garza) and anyone who has been a big part of this since I was a kid.

“Hopefully this inspires the little kids to keep working.”

Ike Dodson

Ike Dodson currently works as an information officer for California Correction Health Care Services. Prior to that he was an award-winning journalist with over 14 years of experience writing about the Sac-Joaquin Section.

  • Juan Garza

    December 24, 2021 #1 Author

    What an awesome article

    Reply

  • Juan Garza

    December 24, 2021 #2 Author

    Ceasar has worked from amo day til Sunday since he was 5 years old. He’s a testimony to hard work dedication and inspiring others to do their best. He has traveled the nation to compete at a high level during this pandemic. But it has only made him more resilient and driven to be the best. Thanks Ike for the article it’s a recognition that is part of a wrestlers fortitude and hard work. Thanks also for mentioning all his past and mentors who have driven him along the way to becoming a better humanitarian. Keep up the good work with great knowledgeable research. Thank you god bless and Merry Christmas.

    Reply

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