Broncos wrestling looking to double state participants

Published 3:14 pm Thursday, January 8, 2015

Khiry Reese puts Xavier Freeman in an armlock during wrestling practice. Freeman, who was a senior last year, was helping out during his break. -- Cain Madden | Tidewater News

Khiry Reese puts Xavier Freeman in an armlock during wrestling practice. Freeman, who was a senior last year, was helping out during his break. — Cain Madden | Tidewater News

With the team’s meet on its home mat coming up this weekend, the Franklin High School Broncos wrestling program is poised to strike against the field of Eastern 1A teams. Head Coach Daniel “Bull” Johnson said the Broncos are as strong in numbers and athleticism as ever.

The Broncos will be ready to leave it all on the mat this Saturday, starting at 9:30 a.m. in Franklin High School, where the team will host nine 1A schools.

“It is going good,” Johnson said of the team’s start. “The numbers are better than they have been in a long time — I think at worst we’ll field 12 of the 14 slots. This offseason, we’ve been drilling more moves and getting them in better condition as wrestlers. I think we’re more athletic than we’ve ever been, and as long as we make sure the dedication and ethics remain high, we have great potential.”

One of the things that has benefited the Broncos has been the AAU-certified wrestling club that was started during the offseason.

“We had 40 kids in the AAU program, and that’s kindergarten all the way to seniors,” he said. “That’s helped us out a lot at getting our kids more experienced in wrestling.”

Johnson said a lot of the credit goes to assistant coach Johnnie McKeller, who put in a lot of work during the offseason and so far this year. McKeller said it’s been a great ride working with the children on wrestling.

“I’m very proud of the guys and girls, not only for what they’ve done on the mat, but also off of it in the classroom,” McKeller said. “We’ve come leaps and bounds from where we were at the beginning of the season. We’ve taken a group, where some of them had never wrestled, and we’ve gotten them to where they can be competitive. That’s a good feeling.”

So far, the team is 3-2 on the season, having competed in one team tournament and another individual tournament.

The team meet was the Landcaster Duals on Dec. 20, where they finished with a 3-2 record, good for third place of 10 teams. Johnson said that seven of the schools there competed in larger divisions than Franklin, so it was good for his wrestlers to go up against that type of athlete.

“It was mostly 3A programs and above, which is good competition — exactly what our kids need,” he said.

Several Franklin athletes also medaled, which included three gold winners, Stefone Pearson, 170-pound class; Khiry Reese, 182-pound class; and Jack Sykes, 195-pound class. Gerrell Porter, in the 138-pound class, took home a silver medal, while Deonte Jefferson, 120, and Tyrique Warren, 285, bronzed.

The second was the Mathews Invitational, which was on Jan. 3. Jack Sykes came in first; Stefone Pearson second; Larry Blow, 220-pound class, third; and Khiry Reese took fourth.

“I think we are going to have a great season,” Johnson said. “I hope people will come out and support them. It’s good for them to know that the community is behind them.”

Numbers to Know

4 – There are four eighth-graders on the squad this year. While they do not get to wrestle often in the meets that Franklin High School competes in, head coach “Bull” Johnson said it’s good for them and the program to have interested eighth-graders. “The JV kids get some time in the tri and quad meets, but starting now means they’ll be more ready for next year. They get to go up against the varsity wrestlers in our practices with the way we rotate, and that gets them good experience.”

7 – Last year, the Broncos sent two wrestlers to the state tournament. This year, Johnson hopes to send seven of them. Stefone Pearson and Khiry Reese both went last year, and this year the coach wants to see them return, along with fellow captains Jack Sykes, Cameron Seddon and several others. “Our guys have more experience this year,” Johnson said. “Cameron took a couple of years off, but he’s put in a lot of work this off season and I think he’s deserving. Jack only lost one match last year, and he’s eager this year.”

13 –Total participants. With 160-pound class captain Cameron Seddon hurt, the Broncos are fielding 12 of the 14 weight classes. However, when comes back, the team should have competitors in all but one of the classes, Coach Johnson said. The team will field a wrestler in all but the lightest weight class, the 106-pound slot. Last year, the team only filled nine of the 14 weight classes

Cast of Characters

Jack Sykes



Senior Jack Sykes is looking for nothing but No. 1 as a 195-pounder. Last year, he only lost one match, and so far this year, he’s 10-0 with two gold medals. “I’ve just got to grind harder,” Sykes said about building up for a run at this year’s state tournament. “Hard work pays off, and I’ve got to do whatever it takes to be No. 1.” He’s always liked wrestling, and his friends eventually convinced him to join the school’s program. Coach Johnson said Sykes’ style is aggressive, and his matches typically don’t last that long. However, Sykes said he’s got to work on his endurance for the matches that do go long. As far as his attacking style — “It’s from playing football,” said the fullback, who likes to run through tackles.

Stefone Pearson



Last year, Stefone Pearson made the state tournament in his first year wrestling, and he ended up with a tournament record of 2-3 and a seventh-place finish. “It made me realize what level I need to be at before states,” Pearson said of last year’s appearance. “I’ve been working a lot on my cardio, my take-downs and the basic fundamentals of wrestling.” Now a junior captain, the 17-year-old has trimmed away 50 pounds and is in a more natural weight class for him, 170. “I want to be a state champion, and nothing else,” Pearson said. Some of his friends convinced him to join the wrestling program last year. “Now, I love it. I like that it’s just you against another person. If something goes wrong, you only have yourself to blame.”

Khiry Reese



Senior Khiry Reese said he’s coming down a few notches from his weight last year, so he’ll be back at ground zero as far as knowing the wrestlers he’ll be facing. Last year, he was in the 195 weight class — down about 20 pounds on opponents — and he came in eighth place. Though he was honored to make the tournament, placing so low wasn’t his goal. This year, in a more natural weight class at 182, he’s setting his sights on first place. “It just means I have to fight harder,” he said. Reese said he’s always learning and working to get better. “I’ve been working on my stances — where to meet my opponent and learning when and when not to take a strike. I like to play it as it comes, adapt to my opponent.”


Home matches are in bold.
Dec. 20 Lancaster Duals (3-2, six medals)
Jan. 3 Mathews Invitational (four medals)
Jan. 10 MBM Duals (9:30 a.m.)
Jan. 15 Northumberland/Nandua (6 p.m.)
Jan. 17 Southampton, Norfolk Christian, Northampton East (9 a.m.)
Jan. 24 Mathews Duals (10 a.m.)
Jan. 28 Northampton/Arcadia (5:30 p.m.)
Jan. 29 Cumberland/Lakeland (5 p.m.)
Feb. 5 Conference 41 tournament at Northampton (5 p.m.)
Feb. 13 Region 1A East at Parry McCluer (TBA)
Feb. 20 State Tournament at Salem Civic Center (TBA)