TURLOCK — The Turlock High wrestlers paid painful dues at three top-tier tournaments. They needed a hometown confidence boost.
The 21st Bulldog Classic, Turlock's annual matfest, was perfectly timed for the home team.
Five Turlock wrestlers annexed weight-class titles Saturday as the Bulldogs totaled 207 points to top runner-up De La Salle with 150 ½. Smiling through most of the long day was Turlock coach Mike Contreras.
"We had to have a tournament like this," he said. "Our guys had been running into a lot of state-ranked people. This was good."
Many of the Stanislaus District's best traveled to Clovis for the top-tier Doc Buchanan. Nevertheless, some spirited competition accented the day in the teeming Turlock High gym.
The biggest cheers were reserved for the Bulldogs, of course, led by champions Jason Valdovinos (120), Rafael Herrera (132), sophomore Isaac Bertolotto (138), Ricky Flores (220) and Ricardo Garcia (285).
Valdovinos, a senior, shined with three pins and a technical fall. But it was Herrera, a junior, who supplied more than a little drama.
Herrera trailed Monache's Sibavon 5-0 before he rallied to win overtime 11-9. Sibavon escaped with three seconds left to earn the overtime but Herrera's quick takedown in OT ended it.
"Rafael's conditioning was a little better," Contreras said. "When you go down five points against a good wrestler, most of the time you don't come back."
Flores and Garcia, Turlock's senior big men, also continued strong seasons. Garcia prevailed in a strong heavyweight class though he was ill.
"He gutted it out," Contreras said.
The meet's outstanding wrestler was Central Catholic senior Joey Abbate, who's still finding his wrestling legs after standout duty on the Raiders' state championship football team.
Abbate rolled through the 145-pound class, one division heavier than last year when he advanced to the State Meet, with three pins and a major decision.
"I'll be wrestling pretty close to 100 percent in two weeks," Abbate said. "I'm more comfortable this year at 145. I cut (weight) a lot last year at 132."
For now, early pins are in order for the overachieving Raider.
"I'm trying to conserve energy in the first round, because it goes quickly," Abbate said. "I'm just trying to battle."
The only disappointment in the Abbate household was the finals loss by Danny Abbate, Joey's brother, who was pinned by Valdovinos.
Oakdale, gearing for another strong season, brought only a partial lineup to Turlock and placed third in the 23-team field.
Other champions included Oakdale's Logan Eaton (106), Artist Lor of Sheldon (113), Albert Landeros of Tracy (126), Coby Williamson of Buhach Colony (152), Tyler Malone of Oakdale (160), Steven Strasser of Buhach Colony (170), Devin Aiello of De La Salle (182) and Sherman McVay of Oak Ridge (195).