Lakes Drowns Region Wrestling

The Ocean Lakes wrestling team won the first Eastern Region title in school history Saturday at Oscar Smith High School. Photo by Jason Norman

The top of the Eastern Region has long been a popular hangout for Virginia Beach wrestling teams.

Cox has won it and the past, and gone on to a state title. Kellam has been Hampton Roads' top school. But until this season, Ocean Lakes hadn't won so much as its own Beach District.

Last weekend, that all started to change, as the Dolphins roared through the local ranks to make one round of school history. Armed with more matsters than any other school in the region, Lakes leaped to a 167.5-140 lead over second-place Kellam on the first day of competition at Oscar Smith High.

Kellam's Sean Button started the final round by snaring the 106-pound crowd, the area's only sophomore titlist. Then Dalton Henderson (113) and Eddie Bracy (120) became Lakes' first champions.

Steven Cotnoir brought Hickory a 126 title, and Kellam's Christian Olanowski notched his second consecutive 132 regional championship. Button's teammate Ross Benzel got the 138 championship, and Salem's Zach Kechter won the 145 tourney for the third time.

"It's a feeling of the next step," said Kechter, who's finished in the top three in states the previous two years. "This keeps me driving to get there. At states, I have to leave it all our there. I was confident, but I never underestimate my opponent."

After taking second in the region last year, Ryan Fairbee of Grassfield outlasted Granby's Codie Martin 13-9 to take the 152 event.

"I knew that this was my year, and I was ready to wrestle," Fairbee said. "You train hard with your coaches and teammates, and you stay focused. I wanted to build my lead and beat my opponent by as many points as possible."

Going for his second straight 160-pound title, Salem's Torrance Brown scored a quick takedown against Hickory's Mason Mele, then notched a near-pin for a 7-0 lead midway through the second period. But with 47 seconds left, the wrestlers fell out of bounds, and Brown came up unsteadily, forcing an injury timeout.

Mele scored three straight points, then started the third period on the bottom. He escaped to get to 7-5, but Brown scored a quick point. They fell out of bounds again, and Brown scored another takedown. Mele escaped and got a reversal to cut the lead to 10-7, but time ran out, and Brown got the crown.

"I just got a little dizzy," Brown said of the stoppage. "I wasn't thinking straight, but once I got myself together, I was fine. I didn't know what happened. He capitalized on my mistakes, and I was just trying to keep my head right and keep my lead. The hard work I put in makes me confident."

After defeating him last week in the Beach final, Gunter Dickson of Cox got a 1-0 lead over First Colonial's Ryland O'Brien in the 170 final. Dickson started the third period on top, and O'Brien strained to his feet with about 30 seconds left.

Then he leaped in and grabbed Dickson's legs. Flipping over, he suddenly planted Dickson's shoulders to the mat for the pin with 11 seconds left.

"Whoever went out in front of me, I'm going to scrap," said O'Brien, who beat two other top district seeds in the tournament. "I'm going to scrap as hard as I can. I knew in the back of my mind, I could get up and tie it, but I was looking for that role. I knew it was going to be open as soon as he brought me down, and it was open."

Smith's Stacey Kennedy gave the home school a victory, beating Lakes' Jack Ogburn 9-5 for the 182 title.

"It meant a lot," Kennedy said of the win. "I went from coming in sixth in district last year to winning district and regional this year."

Up 3-1 in the the 195 match, Indian River's Aaron Rowe got an inadvertent whack to the mouth from Blaze Crossley of Landstown, necessitating a blood timeout. The pair fell out of bounds, and Rowe's blood flowed again for another timeout.

With four seconds left, Crossley faked a lunge, then hurled himself at Rowe's bottom half. But Rowe managed to juke away as the buzzer sounded for the win.

"If anything else, (the injuries) fired me up a little bit more," Rowe said. "It's aggravating. I knew to stay low and keep my hands down, to do my thing."

In another Beach championship rematch, Landstown's Eldon Valery and Kempsville's Brandon Hubbard ended the first period scoreless. Hubbard, who fell to Valery in district competition, escaped early in the second, then scored a takedown for a 3-0 lead. Valery twisted away and scored his own takedown to cut to 3-2 as the period ended.

He escaped early in the third to tie the score, and the two went face to face for a while. With seconds left in the period, Valery lunged at Hubbard. Hubbard stepped back and slipped behind Valery, but not far enough to score a takedown as the buzzer sounded, sending things to overtime.

Two overtime periods ended with no points scored, and Hubbard started the next one on the bottom. With about 20 seconds left, he made it to his feet. Valery wrapped an arm around him, but Hubbard spun away to score a reversal point with 14 seconds left. Valery leaped forward and grabbed Hubbard's leg, but Hubbard knelt on top of him and held him down until the last buzzer sounded.

"I wanted to hold him down and not let him shoot," Hubbard said. "I knew I could escape. I'm pretty strong in my bottom work. I was just thinking about all the things my coach had taught me about scrambling, and not letting him get his weight over on me. (Winning) was pure joy and euphoria. All the hard work I put in finally pays off."

In the 285 title match, Great Bridge's Tony Williams took a 1-0 lead over Smith's Deonte Freeman, who he beat for the Southeastern District title last weekend. After a third period full of shoving, Williams grabbed Freeman and fell on top of him for a takedown to ice his first regional title.

"It feels phenomenal," Williams said of the win. "I've never wrestled in front of this type of crowd before, and it's a great feeling to come out on top. You try to not focus on the crowd, to not focus on the noise around you. You just focus on the task at hand, and keep moving forward."

Overall, Lakes just had too many wrestlers and too many wins, as the Dolphins slipped past Kellam 175.5-155, with Bridge coming up a 109.

"With the Cox, Kellam, Great Bridge, all the state perennial powerhouses in Hampton Roads," said Lakes coach Chris Barnhart, "Ocean Lakes isn't really in that, as of late. It's wonderful. A district title, a regional title, it's a great thing. I told the kids to take advantage of this opportunity, to enjoy the moment, and to make things happen. Our hard work would pay off in the end."

The Dolphins and the rest of Hampton Roads' best head to Fairfax this weekend for state competition.

"It feels fantastic," Henderson said. "We've come a long way, from finishing third or fourth, building it up to being regional champs. We believed in each other, and it worked out for us."