STOCKTON — The houselights were lowered and the spotlights threw all the attention onto the championship mat Saturday night at the third Big Valley Wrestling Classic, where Central Catholic's David Ferry went to work.
Ferry (26-0) stormed to an 8-2 victory over Nevada Union's Robin Callas in the finals of the 141-pound class, a win that counted twofold for the Raiders.
Not only was it the second straight title in this event for Ferry, it also propelled Central Catholic to its third straight Big Valley team championship.
"He (Ferry) had to win," CC coach Steve Strange said in reference to the Raiders' half-point margin over Sheldon for team honors. "He is a state title hopeful for us, and he's got two (tries)."
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Few of the 646 wrestlers here needed to be told that the Sac-Joaquin Section Masters Championship will bounce back to the Stockton Arena on Feb. 26-27. Fact is, Ferry and Pitman's muscle-bound senior Gustavo Verver — the latter the 190-pound Big Valley champion — probably can book their tickets for a return trip.
Ferry, a junior, is not intimidated by big arenas. He's already qualified for two State Championships and remembers them for different reasons — winless as a freshman and an injury-plagued eighth last year.
"I blew out my knee during the second match and had to run until 2 in the morning to make weight," Ferry said. "It was brutal."
This season, Ferry is avenging those losses to upper-classmen his first two years. He ripped through the bracket in Stockton and yielded only six total points. In the final, Ferry pounced on Callas for a takedown 15 seconds into the match and won with room to spare.
The CC star stood out in a supersized meet. Wrestlers from 69 schools competed on 10 mats over two days and, before it was over, 1,264 matches were waged (not counting the hard-luck bracket).
It's hard to rise above the crowd in such a format but Verver (28-2), built like a fire hydrant with arms, made his mark. He slammed Reed's Broc Westlake to the mat in the 190-pound final, forcing an injury timeout. His eventual 8-0 win wasn't much different from his previous four — dominant.
Three other Stanislaus District products enjoyed strong performances. Perhaps the most emotional was Beyer senior Zac Andrews, who was taken down with 10 seconds left in overtime and lost to Gary Albright of Bishop Manogue 7-5.
Andrews led 5-2 going into the final round but yielded a penalty point followed by a costly reversal with 25 seconds left to force the overtime.
"I was trying to reach for an ankle but I think he (Albright) saw it coming and he flattened me out," Andrews said.
Ceres senior Tony Spinella showed some fight in the 153-pound title match by rallying from a 7-2 deficit against Anthony Vega of Lindhurst. Spinella, gaining momentum in the final round, scored twice in the final 25 seconds before falling short 8-6.
Grace Davis' Gabe Gonzalez parlayed a takedown with 15 seconds left in his semifinal into a finals berth against Bishop Manogue's Ricky McDonald. Then came trouble. The Spartan senior (22-6) trailed 2-0 after 20 seconds en route to a 10-1 setback.
"He (Gonzalez) finally got his feet underneath him and wrestled well in the third round," Davis coach Mike Cantwell said. "We wanted him to look around at the lights and make sure and enjoy this."
As did Ferry and the Central Catholic Raiders.
Bee staff writer Ron Agostini can be reached at email@example.com or 578-2302.