With Jeffrey Ogburn signing to wrestle for Appalachian State and Thomas Payne for Bloomsburg of Pennsylvania, it is the first time Poquoson’s storied program has sent multiple wrestlers to D-I on scholarship since Jacob Inge (VMI), Mike Akers (Virginia Tech) and Victor Jackson (Lock Haven) signed after the 1998 AA state championship season
Ogburn and Payne were never separated by more than one weight class during their four years as Poquoson High wrestlers. In fact, as freshman they wrestled to determine which would compete at the 103-pound spot they both coveted.
Similarities in weight and talent meant they were often training partners who staged plenty of heated, though never nasty, battles on the mat in the Islanders wrestling room. Both benefited from the partnership.
Payne became the school’s 44th state champion when he won the AA title at 103 pounds in 2010, before Ogburn made it 45 state champs by winning at 126 pounds this past season. Their latest common bond is the Division I scholarships they signed late in the school year.
“Other than (perennial AA champion) Christiansburg, it’s not real common for a Virginia school to send a couple of wrestlers to Division I in the same season,” Poquoson coach Mike Casey said. “It’s not a coincidence that it’s Jeffrey and Thomas.
“They drove each other and played key roles in each others’ success and their opportunities to get to the next level.”
Ogburn holds the career victories record for the Islanders with 141, three more than Akers. Payne’s 136 wins tie him for third with Inge.
Each, of course, will remember his state championship triumph above all others. Payne earned his state title at 103 pounds with a 10-4 win over Tanner Sine of Millbrook with a little mind-play and a lot of funk.
Funk is a term for a wrestler who will scramble to create points-scoring opportunities for himself out of different situations for himself with things like hip and bottom movement. For Payne it was simply a matter of convincing himself he could get funky in the hyped atmosphere of the finals at the Salem Civic Center.
“I had to brainwash myself, convince myself that I could keep it simple, stay calm and not try to make too many big moves,” Payne recalled. “It felt pretty great to win the state title, and afterward guys like (Islanders three-time state champion) Casey Graham welcomed me to the club.”
Ogburn had to wait a little longer, until his senior year, to get the state title after coming close twice earlier in his career. When he got it, via second round-pin over Fauquier’s Bennett Payne with his signature combination half-nelson/arm bar, it was not only a dream-come-true but a triumph over a chronic illness that would’ve sidelined a less determined athlete.
“I’ve dealt with ulcerative colitis my whole high school career and it was nagging me all season long,” Ogburn said. “But I pushed through it and it was unreal, because I’ve always wanted to get my name on the (Poquoson wrestling room) wall (of state champions).
“Then it felt great to sign the papers to go to Appalachian State, because wrestling in college has been a goal since I was young.”
Ditto for Payne, who went 33-2 as a senior and finished third in the state at 120 pounds despite missing significant time with a knee injury. Their love of wrestling and familiarity with injury has both leaning toward majoring in exercise science and perhaps becoming physical therapists.
Casey expects them to be successful students and athletes in college.
“Both are good students, but both have to work at it,” he said. “They have a good idea about managing their time and studying.
“Both have the skills to do well at the next level.”
POQUOSON WRESTLERS WHO’VE GONE DIVISION I
Anthony Burke, Virginia
Aaron Keeton, George Mason
Billy Sheridan, Campbell
Brad Fitzpatrick, Old Dominion
Mike Akers, Virginia Tech
Victor Jackson, Lock Haven
Jacob Inge, VMI
Gil Decher, VMI
John Morris, Lehigh
Scott Brown, Bloomsburg
Casey Graham, Indiana
Jarrod Fitzpatrick, VMI
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