Zach Rodriguez has decisive move in New Kent's win over Poquoson for the Bay Rivers wrestling title.

POQUOSON — When winning or losing your bout means the difference between a Bay Rivers District wrestling title or second place, “You feel all of the pressure on you,” New Kent heavyweight Zach Rodriguez said.

And when Rodriguez was taken down to the mat by Poquoson’s Will Leary and fell behind by two points with barely more than a minute left in the final period, the pressure increased.
“I thought to myself that I’d better regain the advantage,” Rodriguez said. “I didn’t want to be the one to lose the district title.”

So he dipped his shoulder and did what his coach, Mike Faus, calls “a big-boy roll,” putting Leary on his back and pinning him almost instantly. The result brought New Kent back from a two-point deficit in the final bout, delivering a 36-32 win over the Islanders for the district crown.

“I looked up and saw that the Poquoson crowd was silent,” Rodriguez said. “Then I saw my teammates and family and our fans crowded at the edge of the mat, and it made me so happy.”

Understandably so. The Trojans (18-4, 9-0 district) earned revenge for a similarly exciting 35-33 defeat a year ago to the Islanders amid the same raucous atmosphere and large crowd in Poquoson’s gym.

Poquoson’s victory a year ago snapped New Kent’s district win streak at 47 matches and its Bay Rivers championship string at four. The Trojans’ payback was handing the Islanders (18-1, 8-1) their only dual-match defeat of the season.

Not that Leary and the Islanders have anything to be ashamed of. Leary is a second-year wrestler who has improved quickly to win 19 of 25 matches this season, and he nearly upset the vastly more experienced Rodriguez.

“I think Rodriguez is one of the top three or four wrestlers in the state at heavyweight,” Poquoson coach Eric Decker said. “Will Leary did a great job.

“His bout isn’t what lost it for us.”

It didn’t help Poquoson’s cause that it was without two expected starters, including injured 160-pounder Nick Kramer, whose close-decision loss a year ago was a key to his team’s victory. But this year it was New Kent that got the clutch performances in key close bouts.

The Trojans’ Blake Hohman fell behind 4-1 early to Kyle Poultney at 152 pounds in a bout featuring potential state title contenders. But Hohman worked his way back and took Poultney down in overtime for an 8-6 victory.

James Giffin followed by rallying from an early deficit to defeat Alec Bleeker 6-2 in a 160-pound bout that figured to go either way. Those results, plus crucial pins by Zach Perkins at 126 and junior-varsity call-up Cameron Frizzle at 138 helped the Trojans build a 27-18 lead going into the final five bouts.

Poquoson’s strength in the upper weights came to the fore as Ross Graham (170 pounds) got a technical fall and Riley Howell (195) a pin. When Trent Graham (220) used an escape and reversal to pull out an exciting 3-1 win over Wilson Gregory in a pick-’em match, the Islanders led 32-30 as Rodriguez and Leary walked onto the mat.

Rodriguez salvaged the district title with his big-boy roll.

“This is probably one of the five biggest wins in program history,” Faus said. “I think a lot of people thought New Kent was done after last year.”

O’Brien can be reached by phone at 757-247-4963.

NEW KENT 36, POQUOSON 32

106: Wright (P) won by forfeit; 113: Gray (NK) d. DaRuss 8-2; 120: Moore (P) p. Mitchell 3:42; 126: Perkins (NK) p. Lynch 2:58; 132: Dunagan (P) p. Sanders (NK) 5:57; 138: Frizzle (NK) p. Eastman 0:58; 145: LaPrade (NK) won by forfeit; 152: Hohman (NK) d. Poultney 8-6, OT; 160: Giffin (NK) d. Bleeker 6-2; 170: R. Graham (P) tf. Taylor 15-0; 182: Edmonds (NK) d. Steffens 12-8; 195: Howell (P) p. Elswick 1:00; 220: T. Graham (P) d. Gregory 3-1; 285: Rodriguez (NK) p. Leary 4:55. Records: New Kent 18-4, 9-0 district; Poquoson 18-1, 8-1.