In a night of frustration and disappointment for local wrestlers, leave it to a rising program -- Phoebus High -- to score the only victories by any Peninsula or Bay Rivers District school Friday night at the 31st annual Virginia Duals.
The best part: the 43-26 first-round win came against Poquoson, one of the area's traditional powers, and was followed up by a surprising 41-31 victory over Riverbend of Fredericksburg, putting the Phantoms into Saturday's Black and Blue Division semifinals.
Senior Titus Fox's pin against Garrett Hughes clinched the Phantoms' unlikely trip to the Black and Blue semis, and accentuated the program's rise to prominence in recent years.
"We're trying to show everyone that we're to be reckoned with," Fox said. "They weren't expecting us to be where we are. But we're not going to hide."
"This is big for us," Phoebus coach Maurice Ward said. "This is the first time we've advanced in the Duals, so this is big for us."
Ward said this success is just another building block in his desire to make the Phoebus wrestling program as prominent as its football team, which last month wrapped up its third consecutive undefeated, state-championship season.
"I said (going in), hey guys, we're coming here to make history. For us to win the Peninsula District (in 2009), then repeat in the district (last season), it's one step at a time," said Ward. "Last year we didn't advance in the Duals, but this year we did. It's one step at a time and we're moving ahead each year."
Phoebus will meet No. 2 seed Great Bridge in Saturday's 2 p.m. semifinals.
The Phantoms defeated No. 6 seed Poquoson to start the night, overcoming early big-points victories by the Islanders' lower-weight wrestlers.
Poquoson's Thomas Payne, the Group AA state champion last year in the 103-pound class, pinned the Phantoms' Raymon Watson in 1:51 in the 112 bout. Ogburn, who placed fourth at 112 last year at state, scored a 15-0 technical fall against Dieguito Pritchett in the 119 match.
Payne said the win reminded him of why he loves wrestling at the Virginia Duals.
"I love them. Dual meets get you motivated because it's all about the team," he said. "The energy -- that's the biggest part. It brings out the best in everyone. When the crowd is behind you, it makes you go even harder."
Of all the other PD and BRD teams in the Black and Blue division, York High came closest to joining Phoebus in the quarterfinals.
The Falcons went into the heavyweight bout trailing 34-33. However, Riverbend's Steven Sarver pinned York's Brandon Hayes with 47 seconds remaining in the second period.
"We made every move we could possibly make, but we just couldn't find those last few points," York coach Todd Parrish said. "But we battled hard against the No. 3 seed. I can't ask for anything more."
The Falcons take on Bay Rivers District rival Poquson at 8 a.m. Saturday in a losers' bracket match. Other Black and Blue losers' bracket showdowns will include Gloucester vs. Tabb and Smithfield vs. Hampton. Grafton takes on Suffolk's Lakeland High.
Menchville, the only Peninsula-area team competing in the American High School bracket, was manhandled 55-18 by top-seeded Liberty of Bethlehem, Pa. The Monarchs take on Kempsville at 8 a.m. Saturday.
In the collegiate brackets, Virginia schools didn't fare much better than the local high schools, going a combined 0-4 in opening dual meets in the National bracket.
Old Dominion followed up a first-round loss to Edinboro (Pa.) with a 38-3 rout of VMI. The Monarchs face Wyoming at 10 a.m. Saturday. Virginia, which lost to Buffalo, handled Liberty University 35-3 in the losers' bracket. The Cavaliers face Arizona State at 10 a.m. Saturday.
The Apprentice School, the only state program competing in the small-school American bracket, fared no better, losing to York (Pa.), Johns Hopkins (Md.) and St. Andrews (N.C.).Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun