That the wrestling season has finished qualifies as a misnomer.
More correct, the off-season connects one season to the next. And the upcoming months sometime become more important than the regular season, especially for up-and-coming wrestlers eager to make progress.
"If you want to go to the next level, you have to improve your skills," Central Catholic coach Steve Strange said. "David Ferry has to get better. Otherwise, he'll just be the kid who won the state title last year."
Ferry, the CC junior who annexed the 135-pound title at the 37th CIF State Wrestling Championships last weekend in Bakersfield, couldn't agree more.
"The target will be on my back," he said.
Ferry does not plan to rest on his achievements. For starters, he's advised by a pair of two-time state champions — Strange and assistant coach Billy Murphy. They'll no doubt pound the point home that not building on your résumé means you're losing ground.
To avoid that, Ferry probably will compete at the National Junior Championships — which attracts the nation's top juniors — March 26-27-28 at Virginia Beach., Va. Three years ago, Central Catholic junior Dominic Galas came within a match of placing at this event, a building block toward his runner-up finish at state as a senior.
"Everyone is so happy for David, but how do we use this for motivation? What can you do to make yourself more competitive?" Strange said. "Competing at the nationals has got to be good for him."
Ferry went 6-0 to step to the top of the podium. His run was hatched with a pair of pins and an impressive victory over a wrestler from a powerhouse program (Poway). He parlayed two reversals into a come-from-behind 5-4 victory over Blake Kastl of Gilroy, leading him to the title match against top-ranked Santa Fe junior Joey Davis.
How Ferry won the title, via a thrilling and dramatic takedown with 25 seconds left in overtime for a 4-2 victory, already takes its place in local wrestling lore. What wasn't covered was how well Ferry performed in the final against a confident opponent who had beaten the attacking Raider earlier in the season.
Ferry negated his foe's confidence, however, with a high-quality first period featuring a takedown 30 seconds into the match. In fact, the crowd at Rabobank Arena buzzed as Ferry nearly positioned Davis for a quick pin.
"Davis was tall and lanky and explosive, and you knew you wouldn't get many chances after that first takedown. He's just too good. He dominated the Southern Section and his matches at the tournament were not as close as David's," Strange said. "To do what David did in that first period, it had to shake him (Davis)."
Davis, starting from the up position, dominated the second period but Ferry somehow muscled his way out of trouble and retained his lead. Though the CC star probably grew too cautious late in the match — resulting in a tying takedown by Davis with 10 seconds to go in regulation — Ferry countered in the overtime.
"That was by far David's best match of the tournament," Murphy said. "He was moving his feet and getting close enough to take his shots. That's talent."
NOTES — Tyler Allen, the Oakdale High senior and former wrestling star confined to a wheelchair after an auto accident three years ago, was approached by many wrestlers and friends on the arena floor Saturday night. One of his admirers was Vacaville senior and 145-pound state champion Tyler Johnson, who honored Allen with a tattoo on his calf. Allen received a medal of recognition for his personal comeback during Friday morning's opening ceremonies. ... Oakdale, which medaled three wrestlers at state for the first time (junior Shane Tate took third at 130), placed 13th in team standings. Turlock and Central Catholic tied for 22nd. The Bakersfield Drillers, with their campus only a few blocks from the arena, outpointed Selma for the team title. ... There were no pins during the 14 title matches.
Bee staff writer Ron Agostini can be reached at email@example.com or 578-302.