For the first time in 40 years, the Fishburne Military School wrestling team captured its conference championship, winning the Virginia Independent Conference title last weekend.
After three close second-place finishes in Coach Terry Waters’ previous seasons at the school, the Caissons emerged victorious.
The Caissons now move on to Friday and Saturday’s VISSA Tournament to be held at The Meadow Event Park in Doswell.
“I told them (the wrestlers) to focus; I was tired of coming in second,” Waters said. “If we wrestle the way we did at the conference, I expect to be right there — if we pull it all together.”
The Caissons will be taking 10 wrestlers (out of 14 possible weight classes) to states, after crowning eight conference champions and picking up two third-place medals.
Fishburne is deep, with a total of 26 wrestlers on the team this season, but very young, with just three seniors on the squad.
One of the newcomers is freshman Jeff Billings, who won the 113-pound championship at conference with a second-round pin over a wrestler from Hargrave Military Academy.
From Stuarts Draft, Billings was attracted to FMS for the academics and the wrestling program.
“It was awesome,” Billings said, after winning the conference tournament in his weight class.
Waters expects that Billings should be one of the contenders at states and is hopeful of qualifying for the Prep Nationals. Billings expects that a top four finish would accomplish that goal.
“It’s been a blessing to wrestle under Coach Waters,” Billings said. “He’s one of the best coaches around — he has taken us to a lot of tough tournaments.”
Like Billings, sophomore Cadlee Jarvis was attracted to Fishburne to work on his academics and to wrestle. Both he and Billings have learned under Waters at various clinics and camps.
Last season, Jarvis was a standout at Wilson Memorial, living in Augusta County.
Both Jarvis and Billings are five-day students at FMS, going home for the weekends but staying at the school during the week to experience the discipline of the military environment.
Like Billings, Jarvis pinned a wrestler from Hargrave in the second round. Being in the lower weight classes, they are training partners.
His goal? It’s definitely a state championship in the 120-pound class. His favorite move? A low single takedown. Jarvis hopes to go to West Point after graduating.
One of the senior leaders is Brennan McBride, from Coatesville, Pa., who finished third in the state competition a year ago and is in his second season at Fishburne Military School.
“It’s exciting,” McBride said. “It’s been a great experience. My teammates have been training hard and winning the conference was a big accomplishment.”
At the conference tournament, McBride toughed out a 9-2 decision over a wrestler from Roanoke Catholic. He has been in the sport of wrestling for 13 years.
McBride hopes to enlist in the Marine Corps after graduation.
The Caissons finished 14-1 this season and were also the V.I.C. regular season champions.
“We’ve overcome a lot of adversity this season,” Waters said. The FMS mentor is now in his 41st season of coaching after recently completing a successful stint at Fort Defiance prior to coming to Fishburne.
“I think we’ve improved each week, the wrestlers have good attitudes and they come to work every day,” Waters said.