Joe Cemo was introduced to wrestling at a young age by his dad, Louis. The family was living in Porterville at the time, and, Joe became involved in the youth freestyle wrestling program at Monache High School. When Joe and his family relocated to Bakersfield, he attended Fruitvale Junior High and joined wrestling programs at Foothill and South High because North did not have youth programs at that time. After junior high, the family moved to Oildale and Joe enrolled at North High. During his summers at North, he would practice with the CSUB team, and two time Olympic wrestler and family friend, Tim Vanni.
During his junior year, Joe began winning some top wrestling tournaments, including the prestigious Mt. Whitney tournament where he was voted Most Outstanding Wrestler his junior and senior years. The 132 pounder was also SYL, Divisional, and Valley Champion (the only athlete in the league to hold all three credentials that year), and, was the second wrestler from North High to ever qualify for the state meet. He was awarded MVP and Most Outstanding Lower-weight Wrestler titles for the Stars along with the Male Athlete of the Year. His 44-4 overall record also garnered him the All Area Wrestler of the Year. That same year, Joe competed on the Junior Olympic Cadet National Team in Missouri and was one of 50 grapplers to represent California at the National Greco-Roman Wrestling Championships in Iowa in July. That tournament featured more than 1900 wrestlers from 46 states.
After a very impressive junior year, Joe came back strong his senior year with a 52-5 record winning four big tournaments and, once again, being named the All Area Wrestler of the Year. He was also SYL champ, placed second at both the divisional and valley meets, and, was third at the California State Wrestling Tournament. His third place finish made Joe the highest place winner North High has had since the inception of the State Tournament in 1973. Following his high school graduation, Joe competed for CSUB for two years on a wrestling scholarship before joining his dad in the family business.
While coaching the wrestling team at North, Rick McKinney said that he considered Joe to be “an elite athlete, one of a rare breed. He’s the most talented athlete I’ve ever had and he puts in more time than anyone..He has excellent technique, is flexible, is very strong, and has an un-measureable amount of desire. He’s dangerous…”.
Joe and his wife of 22 years, Brandy, still call Oildale home. Their sons Sebastian and Joey graduated from North, and, Gino is currently a junior and plays tennis. Brandy is an accountant and is involved in the leadership program through CSUB where she is finishing her bachelor’s degree. Joe works for NRG Energy at the Midway Sunset Cogeneration Plant.