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Central Catholic senior is Widmers next wrestling wonder
Sierra High junior Alex Nuanez and McNair of Stockton senior Aaron Ceballos are two of three Mantecans who will compete at the California Interscholastic Federation State Championships in Bakersfield later this week. Nuanez is the first Sierra wrestler to qualify for the event, while Ceballos, a Manteca native, will make his second trip to state. - photo by Bulletin file photos

MODESTO — Manteca High alumni and local wrestling legends Don and Joe Widmer left their marks in the mid-’60s.

Now Central Catholic senior Steven Widmer, Joe’s son, is carrying on that legacy.

“I have some big shoes to fill,” young Widmer said before practice Wednesday.

Widmer is one of three Mantecans who will compete in the California Interscholastic Federation State Championships at Rabobank Arena in Bakersfield Friday and Saturday.

His father qualified for the Northern California Tournament (there was no state tournament then) in 1964. Don, Steven’s uncle, won the Sac-Joaquin Section and NorCal championships in 1965 and ‘66 in the 191-pound weight class.

The Widmers are deeply rooted in Manteca and Lathrop. The Lathrop’s second elementary school is named after Joseph Widmer, Jr., Joe and Don’s father. Don’s sons, junior Grant and senior Ray, play sports at Sierra High. Ray took second at 189 pounds in the Valley Oak League Tournament and advanced as far as the section Masters Tournament.

As for Steven, a berth to the state championships was a long time coming.

He lost a one-point heartbreaker while battling for the final available berth at Masters his freshman year. As a sophomore, he won the first of three consecutive Western Athletic Conference titles but got sick leading up to the Sac-Joaquin Section Division V Tournament, where he placed sixth and failed to qualify for Masters.

Last year he won the Division V Tournament but lost two matches by a point each at Masters.

Widmer was a young man on a mission at this year’s Masters event held at Stockton Arena last Friday and Saturday. After winning the WAC and D-V tournaments in the 125-pound division, he continued his undefeated postseason streak by starting 3-0.

With a berth to state already clinched, Widmer’s next goal was to make an unexpected run at a Masters title. He was ranked the seventh best wrestler at 125 by The California Wrestler going into the tournament and could do no worse than sixth place in the second day of the event.

He edged out Sheldon’s Eric Meredith — who upset third-ranked Brandon Egleston of Turlock and No. 6 Peter Santos of Woodcreek to get to the semifinals — 3-1 to set up a championship-round meeting with highly favored Union Mine junior Cody Tow.

Tow, a two-time state qualifier who is ranked sixth in California, shut out Widmer 6-0 to earn his second Masters championship.

“He’s tough, but it showed me what I had to get ready for,” Widmer said. “I thought I’d have a shot at placing, and to make it to the finals was a big step.”

Widmer is familiar with Manteca’s other state qualifiers, Sierra junior Alex Nuanez and McNair of Stockton senior Aaron Ceballos.

At Masters, Nuanez lost to eventual 171-pound champion Hudson Buck (Vacaville) in the second round but reeled off six straight victories to finish in third place. He is the first state qualifier in Sierra history.

The 130-pound Ceballos, whose brothers Elizar and Efren advanced to state while at Manteca High, will make his second state appearance after taking second last Saturday.

Ceballos, Nuanez and Widmer grew up on the mats together while competing for the once-defunct Manteca Area Wrestling Club, now called the Lancer Youth Wrestling Club.

“It’s pretty neat,” Widmer said, “We practiced as little kids together. We don’t see each other much anymore except at tournaments, but it’s cool to see us all doing well.”