Dan Finnerty – Sports Writer
Franklin High School’s (FHS) Abby Carpenter has already notched her name in Panther lore as the first female wrestler to win “Athlete of the Month” and as part of the first varsity class participating in a conference-recognized wrestling program. In September, she will depart with her very successful high school record (34-3) behind her and attempt to make her mark at Bluefield State University (BSU) in West Virginia.
BSU recently became the 13th full-time member of the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association (CIAA) and is starting a brand-new women’s wrestling program. BSU is small, made up of around 1,250 students. Carpenter visited the school and appreciated its campus, location, and atmosphere. Some of the CIAA schools against which Bluefield wrestling will compete include: Bowie State, Elizabeth City State, Fayetteville State, Saint Augustine, and Winston-Salem State.
On Friday, March 1, Carpenter and her family joined many others in the Panther Den to sign her Letter of Intent (LOI) with BSU. Numerous faculty and students gave testimonials to her athletic drive and leadership qualities.
Bekah Brooks, who coaches volleyball and basketball, reminisced about interacting with Carpenter the past few years.
“I had the joy of coaching Abby in volleyball and basketball for many years. When I think about Abby, I think of one word: warrior,” said Brooks. “This is a dream and she has made an impact at Franklin High School and made an impact for female athletes across the state.”
Vice Principal Blair King talked about his son starting wrestling this year and that he liked to watch Carpenter wrestle.
“[My son] saw at practice how hard this young lady worked. He wanted to be successful like her,” said King.
King also shared how Carpenter hurt her shoulder in this year’s state tournament match, yet she kept wrestling. He noted that after taking a loss due to injury, Carpenter felt she had “let everybody down.” King told her at the signing, “You displayed so much heart and we couldn’t be prouder of you.”
Head Wrestling Coach Coley Tyler commented.
“You left everything out there and that’s all anybody can ever do,” said Coach Tyler. “You can’t fail if that’s how you pursue life.” He also reminded attendees, “The amount of growth and success she has had in such a short amount of time … Abby’s been wrestling for little over a year. And that is absolutely amazing to now go to the college level and commit herself solely to one sport.”
Carpenter thanked her family and all those who had helped her achieve success in wrestling the past couple years.
“Logan Mack went above and beyond to put me where I am today,” she said. “My teammates gave me constant support. Without wrestling, I don’t know where I’d be.”
Later, Carpenter also talked about her anticipated college experience.
“It’s very exciting to make it official. It’s [Bluefield State] a small school, so I can focus on my education,” she said.
Explaining how she ended up choosing BSU, Carpenter said, “Over the summer I went to a big wrestling tournament and she (new BSU wrestling coach, Brooke Richards) saw me and contacted me. Then I went to a camp there and she provided a tour of the campus.”
After her FHS wrestling season was over, Carpenter again visited Bluefield with her mother before deciding to accept the offer to attend.