Each day, Central Catholic High junior David Ferry walked into the practice room and received his dose of humility from assistant coach Billy Murphy.
Murphy, 22, is hardly over the hill. He's an Olympic hopeful, a two-time state champion at Hughson, and -- worse for Ferry -- he doesn't like to lose to anyone at any time.
"I don't think I've ever gotten a takedown from Billy," Ferry admitted. "If I do, I might as well quit wrestling."
It speaks to Ferry's tenacity, along with Murphy's talent, that the CC star won a state wrestling title before he's brought Murphy to the mat. And there's no doubt the two facts are connected.
Ferry, hardened by his sessions with Murphy, marched to a 51-2 record and a state championship in the 135-pound class. His dramatic 4-2 overtime victory over Santa Fe's Joey Davis in the final, watched by nearly 6,600 at Bakersfield's Rabobank Arena, demonstrated Ferry's gradual improvement and overall focus.
That's why he's The Bee's obvious selection as the 2010 Stanislaus District Wrestler of the Year.
Murphy, about 10 pounds heavier than Ferry, knows his protégé is no pushover. He also knows Ferry excelled long before Murphy agreed to work as an assistant coach under Steve Strange, who was also a two-time state champion at Hughson.
In fact, Ferry logged a 50-2 record and finished eighth at State as a sophomore. He was already good, but good is not enough to step onto the top of the podium. Enter Murphy and his school of hard knocks and lessons learned very well.
"David's speed, hip action and weight distribution all are better," Murphy said. "He's really good."
Ferry's season accelerated after his two losses, both on the same day at Five Counties in Fountain Valley. One of the losses came against Davis, a 3-1 decision that Ferry clearly remembered. From that point, he swept his last 26 matches to capture the Western Athletic Conference, Sac-Joaquin Section Divisional and Masters and the pulsating 6-0 run at Bakersfield.
"I guess I let it be OK to lose (twice) that day," Ferry said. "My attitude changed after that. I always felt I was the best from then on. There were close matches, especially the last two, but I always felt I was in control."
Ferry, cat-quick and elusive, made believers of everyone.
"He doesn't give up a lot of points," Oakdale coach Brian Stevens said. "He'll beat you 4-2 but the match is not really that close."
Between his coaches and the presence of three-time state champion Louis Bland early in his high school career, Ferry was bred to win. The trend shouldn't change, as long as he agrees to take his lumps from Murphy.
Said Strange, "If Billy is not in the room, there's no title."
Bee staff writer Ron Agostini can be reached at email@example.com or 578-2302.