STOCKTON -- T.J. Belton is still getting back into wrestling shape, the result of a lengthy football season, but he looked pretty good at the Big Valley Classic.
Belton, a Central Catholic High senior, was one of three Raiders to win individual championships in front of 1,500 Saturday at Stockton Arena. Central Catholic was the team champion as well, outpacing runner-up Turlock 356-211½.
Belton was the champion at 160 pounds, beating Bishop Manogue of Reno's Gary Albright 3-2. He was joined atop the podium by teammates Andrew Perez (112 pounds) and David Ferry (125).
Turlock had four wrestlers make the finals, with two of them -- Brandon Egleston at 103 pounds and Fabian Garcia at 119 pounds -- winning it all.
Two more wrestlers from the Central California Conference won individual titles: Pitman's Cesar Padilla at 145 pounds and Buhach Colony's Miguel Torres at 152 pounds.
It was only Belton's second tournament this season. He's ranked No. 2 in the state at 160 pounds by The California Wrestler.
"I'm still getting the feel," Belton said. "But I'm getting there faster than I thought."
Against Albright, his takedown in the first period proved to be the difference.
"He was a defensive wrestler," Belton said. "He kept the match close."
But being out there, grinding away for six minutes, was good for Belton.
"If it were earlier, I'd be gassing out, getting tired," he said. "But we've done a lot of running these last few weeks. I'm getting back."
Pitman's Padilla came back with a takedown at the end of the first period and a reversal near the end of the second period in a 6-4 victory over Austin Oliver of Lindhurst.
Oliver was undefeated in 18 matches before Saturday night's 145-pound championship.
"My coach (Adam Vasconcellos) told me he was pretty slick," Padilla said. "He was pretty funky. He tried a lot of rolls when I had him down. He was unpredictable."
Padilla stared back at the scoreboard in the middle of the arena. It was lowered, the house lights turned off, leaving the championship wrestlers under a spotlight.
"I got a little nervous when I saw we were on the stage like that," Padilla said. "It was just me, (Oliver) and the ref. It pumped me up."
Turlock's Egleston opened the championship round with a dominant performance, an 8-1 victory over Lincoln of Stockton's Logan Lazaro. Egleston's hoping history doesn't repeat itself.
"Last year, I beat him here, but he beat me at sub-sections," Egleston said. "I wanted to get him back after the loss in the (postseason)."
Egleston and Central Catholic's Tanner Feuerstein hooked up for a tight match in the semis, with Egleston getting the takedown for a 3-1 win.
"I had some good matches," said Egleston, who didn't place here last year. "It feels pretty good to win when you're on the stage like that."
His teammate Fabian Garcia looked impressive in his 6-4 win over McNair's Aaron Ceballos in the 119-pound final. The two state qualifiers split their two matches last season.
Central Catholic saw two champions in the lower weights.
Andrew Perez jumped out to an early lead, giving up a late takedown in a 6-4 victory over Sheldon's Isaiah Hurtado. And David Ferry sealed his win in the 125-pounds with a late reversal in a 6-3 victory over Archbishop Riordan's Nick Mazza.
"He's a stockier wrestler," Ferry said. "You can't get shots in on him too easily. So I worked on tying up with him and trying to get the throw-by or the ankle pick."
Bee staff writer Will DeBoard can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2300.