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Senior wrestler at Poquoson battles illness and opponents

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Jeffrey Ogburn's most formidable opponent has never stared back at him in a wrestling singlet.

It's been inside his body, causing cramps that force him to double over at times. He's missed school due to hospital stays, some as long as two weeks. He's weathered the side effects of medication, sometimes ingesting as many as 22 pills in a day.

Ulcerative colitis, an inflammatory bowel disease that causes chronic inflammation of the digestive tract, is characterized by abdominal pain and diarrhea, according to the Mayo Clinic. There's no known cure for ulcerative colitis, but therapies usually reduce symptoms and even bring about a long-term remission.

His mother, Aimee Ogburn, said, "We've never been able to get into remission."

Since being diagnosed in 2009, Jeffrey has battled bouts of colon trouble. Doctors have prescribed various steroids and antibiotics, but nothing has eliminated the type of pain and discomfort that most teenagers never know.

"Usually after I eat, I feel it," Ogburn said.

Ogburn is a senior at Poquoson High School, eager to continue a stellar wrestling career he has maintained despite the illness. Last year's Daily Press Wrestler of the Year, Ogburn could become the school's all-time winningest wrestler, given his current record of 113-26; he believes 25 more wins will secure the mark. But wrestling, like school, has taken a back seat this season due to the colitis that required a lengthy hospital stay at the end of August.

Ogburn had homebound study until early November. At one point he dropped 13 pounds. While he has kept up with his grades, he hasn't wrestled a match yet, something he intends to change by early January.

"Broken thumb," he says holding up his right hand in a cast. The medications make his limbs weaker, he said, one possible explanation for the broken ankle he suffered in the Group AA state final last year.

Ogburn hasn't lost a Bay Rivers District or Region I match. Twice he's advanced to the state final. As a freshman he lost by a point at 103 pounds, and last year he was beaten at 119. As a junior, Ogburn placed fourth.

The colitis has been daunting. His off season training was almost nil because of the illness. He's conditioned on his own, largely by running, but wants to resume full-time training when the cast is off of his hand.

Poquoson Coach Mike Casey believes Ogburn still has potential to win a state title.

"He never asks for any special treatment," Casey said. "He's got all the skills and abilities to win it. It's just a matter of his getting into wrestling shape."

Ogburn has surgery scheduled for March in Cincinnati. It will be the first of two surgeries he will have for the colitis and he anticipates missing a month of school. The surgery is scheduled post-season.

"I wanted to wrestle my senior season," said Ogburn, who plans to move up to 132 this winter.

Several colleges have expressed interest, including Old Dominion, Maryland, Campbell and St. John's universities. Ogburn dreams of a college wrestling career and a sports medicine major.

While the colitis might have deterred others, he never thought about giving it up wrestling

Ogburn said, "I hate losing."

That hasn't happened much.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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