The Virginia Duals, held for the 37th time Friday and Saturday in Hampton Coliseum, is a double-elimination wrestling tournament. But often, teams that start 0-2 are awarded another match, extending their stay in the esteemed event.
Lafayette, competing in the event for the fourth consecutive season, had grown accustomed to that special consolation round. Until Saturday, when the Rams finally broke through with a 47-29 morning win over Hanover after getting thumped into the losers bracket by Virginia Beach's Kellam High on Friday night.
"I don't think they expected to win a match there," Lafayette coach Chris Wiatt said.
In past years, the Rams competed in the Black and Blue Division, which features only in-state schools. This season, Lafayette battled in the American Division that featured two teams each from Pennsylvania and New Jersey, and another from South Carolina.
"It was nice to actually win a legitimate tournament match," Lafayette 160-pounder Keven Nguyen said.
The Rams were eliminated in the noon round 48-24 by Hayfield.
Kane Hurt (145) and Nguyen won both of their matches on Saturday. Hurt scored a technical fall (18-3) against Aaron Huffman of Hanover, then pinned Hayfield's Sam Snoots in 1:52. Nguyen took down Jordan Chaulklin of Hanover (4:52) and finished his day with a 6-5 decision over Gerard McCarron of Hanover.
Jordan Robbins, a 113-pound freshman, finished 2-1 for Lafayette, as did Caleb Troup (120) and Noah Cotton-Caballero (heavyweight).
Grassfield of Chesapeake beat Camden Catholic (N.J.) 39-33 for the American championship.
"Every team we wrestled had really tough kids," Wiatt said. "Kellam is amazing. They really out-classed us completely. The other two matches we were competitive in. But at the end of the day, it was a good experience, a good time. It was good to get a win there."
The Duals wrapped on Saturday with a major surprise for Bay Rivers wrestling fans as two teams — Smithfield and Poquoson — qualified for the evening final in the Black and Blue Division.
Poquoson captured the crown with a 39-18 victory.
No. 5-ranked Virginia Tech took the championship of the National College Division with a 24-10 victory over No. 15 Oklahoma.
In the afternoon, the Hokies gained a 22-15 triumph over North Dakota State. Oklahoma was a 25-11 winner over Arizona State.
Kutztown University of Pennsylvania topped Ferrum 27-12 for the American College title while Pennsylvania's Nazareth High knocked off South Dade of Florida 34-28 for the National High School Division championship.
Black and Blue Division
With wins in the semifinals on Saturday afternoon, the Packers and Islanders earned a berth in Saturday night's final. It is the first time in Duals history that two Bay Rivers teams have competed for a title against each other, and it marks Smithfield's first trip to the championship round in nine appearances. Smithfield came from behind to defeat Amherst County 44-32, while the Islanders topped long-time rival Grundy 39-27.
It was surprising enough that the two teams were in the semifinals.
"We're both a little banged-up," said Poquoson coach Eric Decker, and the point was reinforced with the number of forfeits by both teams as they progressed through the brackets.
For Poquoson, the win over Grundy was more than a token semifinal victory. The two teams have a long and illustrious history of competition against each other. However, in most cases, it has been the Golden Wave that has been on the winning end, including five consecutive AA state championships over second-place Poquoson (1994-1998) almost a generation ago. Poquoson won the AA state title in 1999, but had to defeat Christiansburg to take home the championship trophy.
The teams had tangled three times at the Virginia Duals, with Grundy winning all three matches — 45-21 in 1989, 46-15 in 1990, and 41-16 in 1995 — the first year the Duals operated in its current bracket format, according to wrestling guru Jason Bryant of MatTalk Online.
For the Islanders, it took a spirited comeback to overcome the Wave. Through the 120- to 138-pound matches, the teams dueled to a 9-9 tie. But Poquoson forfeited the 145- and 152-pound matches, instantly giving Grundy a 12-point lead, and putting Poquoson into a deep hole at 21-9.
Poquoson scrambled back. Ian Burress (160) and Colton Hicks (170) earned 3-1 decisions to close the gap to 21-15. Then in a surprising move, it was Grundy that forfeited the 182-pound. match to Mason Fiscella, evening the score at 21. At 195, Robert Henesey, last year's 3A state runner-up at 195, who has been wrestling at 182 pounds for much of the year, returned to 195 to eke out a 5-3 win over Grundy's Cullen Creek.
However, the Islanders forfeited the 220-pound match, and Grundy retook the lead 27-24.
Bryce Buchanan, who usually wrestles at 220, entered the circle for the 285-pound match against Michael McCowan. The two struggled to a 2-2 draw, and required two rounds of scoreless overtime before reaching a sudden-death round, which Buchanan won, by scoring the first point, to tie the team score at 27.
But Grundy had run out of manpower and roster options, and was forced to forfeit both the 106- and 113-pound matches, giving Poquoson the win.
"We had a great route to the final," said Decker. We knew that we'd have to wrestle Great Bridge, and if we could get past them, would have to face Grundy. We knew we were capable of beating both."
With regard to the district opponent, Decker said "We know each other really well."
Decker added wrestlers from both teams share a bond as members of the Peninsula Wrestling Association, which he coaches with assistance from Smithfield coach John Swartz.
"I coach a lot of guys on their team for seven months a year," Decker said.
Henesey, who was an eighth-grader when the Islanders won the Black and Blue tourney in 2014, said "This is a great opportunity. It's awesome."
Smithfield faced an equally challenging task, and were behind 14-8 to Amherst County after the fifth bout at 145-pound. Yet, Swartz felt the momentum set in the first match paved the way for a Packer win.
"Michael Snyder, a freshman, lost the decision at 120 (9-4 in the first bout)," Swartz said. "But, he set the whole tone for the team (by not being pinned)."
Down by six, the Packers scored four straight falls to build 32-14 lead. Samuel Feliciano (152), Jacob Walker (160), Dawson Stevens (170) and Stanley Smeltzer (182) each pinned their opponents with Stevens, the hero from last night, according to Swartz, delivering the fastest pin, a 40-second takedown of Josh Brooks.
Brett Dees (132) scored a 17-2 technical fall over Samari Brogdon, and Preston Jones (138) won a 5-3 decision over Hayden Berkey to aid the Packer effort.
National College Division
Old Dominion captured the bronze round with a 19-16 win over Campbell (NC).
The Monarchs quickly fell behind 10-0 after the first two bouts. But the Monarchs began a methodical comeback, which saw ODU grapplers win six of the next seven bouts to build a 19-13 lead. Kevin Budock (141), Michael Hayes (149), Seldon Wright (165), Antonio Agee (174), and Jack Dechow (184) won by decision before Kevin Beazley scored a 14-1 major decision over Willie Bivens.
Virginia Tech won its final four bouts to clinch their championship slot. Zach Epperly (174) scored a technical fall, while Zachary Zavatsky (184), Jared Haught (195) and Ty Walz (285) won their bouts, with Haught and Walz earning major decisions.
The University of Virginia won the silver round, defeating Lock Haven 31-11 in the final.
George DiCamillo (141) scored a fall over Lewis Williams at 2:32, while Jack Mueller (125) and Andrew Atkinson (157) earned technical fall wins. Mueller defeated Jake Field 15-0 and Atkinson topped Jon Ross 18-0, helping the Cavaliers build an insurmountable 25-0 lead through the 165-pound. bout.
Holtzman can be reached by phone at 757-298-5830.