Franklin High starts wrestling club

Published 3:35 pm Thursday, March 13, 2014

FRANKLIN—For 16-year-old Bennie Jones, being a part of Franklin’s new wrestling club gives him a chance to spend more time with the friends he developed over the wrestling season, but it’s also a lot more.

Jordan Johnson, 8, left, and Julius McKeller, 4, wrestle in the new club. -- CAIN MADDEN | TIDEWATER NEWS

Jordan Johnson, 8, left, and Julius McKeller, 4, wrestle in the new club. — CAIN MADDEN | TIDEWATER NEWS

“I feel like wrestling could be a big thing for me later on in life, when I got to college,” he said. “And, it’ll also help me out in my career.”

Jones got started wrestling four years ago, and it has been with him since then.

“My oldest brother Nathan, he took me to one of his practices and let me spar with one of the captains,” he said. “I just got into wrestling after that. I love the sport.”

Daniel “Bull” Johnson, Franklin High School wrestling head coach, and club sponsor, said this is equal parts to help build a wrestling tradition in the area, and also to give the students an outlet to keep them off the streets.

“I just hope I do get support from the Franklin and Southampton community,” he said. “We’re going to have an educational aspect as well. We are looking into having classrooms so we can do tutoring besides wrestling, which will help with SOL scores. We’ll also work with kids who have discipline problems.”

Of building a tradition, he said that getting children started in wrestling earlier helps a lot.

“At states, where my ninth-graders have two months of experience on the mat, other school’s ninth-graders have five to six years in wrestling,” he said. “We just want to stay competitive with other schools.”

To encourage more participation in the club, he’s hosting a Parents’ Day on Monday, March 24 at 6 p.m. in the Charles Street Gym.

The club is an AAU-certified club, so with the $10 membership card, children will be insured. Johnson said the club would also be participating in tournaments. Recently, they went to one at Bethel High School, and on Saturday, March 22, they will be participating in the Nansemond River tournament.

“People can look for us to do fundraisers this summer to go to tournaments and also to buy uniforms,” he said.

Cheyenne Banks, 18, encouraged people to give wrestling a try.

“It is honestly really fun, and it is really challenging, but in a good way,” she said. “It helps you grow as a person, and it is just really good to learn and try something new.”

Banks also said that other girls shouldn’t be afraid to look into it.

“I know it looks really intimidating, but it is honestly really fun,” she said. “I know it might seem more fun to do other things, but wrestling is just really empowering, and it is really good for you.”

Banks herself gave it a chance after seeing the sport live.

“I saw a wrestling match a few years ago at our school against our rival, Southampton,” she said. “I just thought it looked really fun.”

Since then, she’s stuck with it, and is glad for the opportunity to continue wrestling in the club.

“It means that I can keep doing what I like to do, and I can keep being with the people that I like to work with,” she said. “I really love working with my team, they are some of the best people I know.

“I love how physical the sport is. It is really good to ease any kind of frustrations I have, and it is really fun.”

Johnnie McKeller, one of the assistant coaches, said it was a good sport for people to express themselves.

“A lot of it is physical, but there is a mental piece to it too,” he said. “The sport teaches a lot of life lessons because you have to be patient. You have to be patient on both the wrestling mat and in life, or you will not be as successful as you want to be.

“I think this is a place where we can help foster the sport in the community. I also think we have an outlet to do a lot more to help out.”

It’s also just a lot of fun, said Jones.

“I just love the people I wrestle with,” he said. “I love my coaches, and I just love wrestling itself most of all.

“I would tell people to come out if you want to have fun. It’s a great sport for teamwork too, stay cooperative, and stay respective of others.”