It didn't take Charlie McDonald very long to transition from the football field to the wrestling mat.
The Escalon High senior bumped up two weight classes from his junior year and looked very impressive in winning his weight class at the Western Invitational on Saturday afternoon at Modesto Junior College.
Three weeks ago, McDonald was the starting running back for the Cougars football team, which advanced to the Sac-Joaquin Section Division V semifinals. Saturday, McDonald's muscular frame made him look even larger than the 189 pounders. It took him 31 seconds to catch Golden Valley's Daniel Lopez in a cradle and pin him in their championship match. McDonald shared outstanding wrestler honors with Chris Castillo of Zillah, Washington.
"I feel a lot better, a lot stronger, at 171s," said McDonald, who wrestled at 152 pounds last year.
He battled an ankle injury through football, but it didn't hamper him at MJC.
"It's something that the doctors can't do anything about," he said. "I thought I might take a little time off, but the first week of practice it felt great."
McDonald was one of several Stanislaus District athletes to take championships.
Central Catholic saw five of its wrestlers take home titles, including four in a row in the lightweights. Andrew Perez (112 pounds), Steven Widmer (119), David Ferry (125) and Maverick Ille (130) were joined by heavyweight Matt Galas at the top of the podium.
"We've got a pretty good group to train with," said Widmer, who beat Calaveras' Brandon Rutledge 6-0 in their championship. "You can't take a break at any time, because everybody's tough. You always have to go hard; it's why we did so well here."
Perez had a tight match with Madera South's Adam Magnusson. He led 4-3 heading into the third period and touched Magnusson's shoulders to the mat for two near-fall points. But Magnusson reversed him in the final moments for the 6-5 final margin.
Widmer and Ferry followed with easy victories. Ferry beat James Logan's Eric Perez 8-3 in a match where he led 7-0 before Perez rallied.
Ille beat Downey's Matt Galton 6-4 in a match that saw Ille lead most of the way, although Galton only trailed 5-4 late.
"We'd never wrestled before," Ille said. "He was really strong."
The two spent much of the match grappling in the middle of the mat, as each side was cheered on by large rooting sections.
"I like this tournament, being in Modesto," Ille said. "We don't compete in too many tournaments close by. My whole family gets to come to this one."
Ripon senior Ryan Mackey was another local winner, beating Zillah's Kane Koerner 6-2 in their final. He led 1-0 before pulling away in the third period.
"This is only my second tournament," Mackey said. "I'm still pretty exhausted after football season."
Ripon coach Glenn White is from the Zillah area; he went to high school with one of the Zillah coaches.
"Their wrestlers stayed at our homes over the weekend," Mackey said. "They're some pretty good guys."
But Koerner didn't stay at the Mackeys.
"No," he said. "That might have been a little uncomfortable."
Bee staff writer Will DeBoard can be reached at email@example.com or 578-2300.