Lady wrestlers make history, basketball still winning and track sets records

Franklin’s varsity women battle Lady Mustangs at a packed Panther Den Tuesday, Jan. 31. FHS won 59-56.

Dan Finnerty – Sports Writer

Spring sports begin soon at Franklin High School (FHS), but not before athletes wrap up fall-winter sports and prove they have mettle enough to remain competitive. Indoor track, ladies wrestling, and basketball all have standouts this season.

Women’s wrestling participated in its inaugural 3A regional competition Thursday, Jan. 27. At North Henderson, Panther wrestling had three women compete and succeed in moving on to the state tournament for the first time. Seniors Abby Carpenter and Jasmin Valencia made history becoming the first two female regional champions at FHS. On Feb. 3-4, Carpenter, Valencia, and fellow senior Stephanie Oriz will be in Greensboro participating in the North Carolina High School Athletic Association (NCHSAA) 3A State Individual Tournament.

For the unaware, North Carolina is broken down into four classifications for athletics,

Senior Josh Zoellner (#23) takes a shot against Smoky Mountain. The Panthers won 71-49.

with 1A comprising the smallest schools and 4A the largest. This is the first year that women’s wrestling has been officially recognized within the conference structure. Carpenter (126 weight class) has excelled the entire year and now possesses a 31-1 record overall. Valencia (132) is next at 25-4, and Ortiz (120) also qualified at 17-13.

The men will compete in their NCHSAA 3A West Regionals Feb. 10-11 at North Henderson. Currently, one wrestler (senior Nathan Diaz) has qualified with a 29-11 record.

At Senior Night it was announced that Ty Handley has signed on to play football at Western Carolina University following graduation. 

Panther basketball

FHS hosted the Smoky Mountain Mustangs Jan. 31 for Senior Night. Between the varsity games, senior athletes were recognized from all sports, including cheer and dance members. During the presentations, it was announced that senior Ty Handley, who has played football, basketball, and participated in the track program, has signed to attend Western Carolina University on a football scholarship.

Against Smoky Mountain in a packed Panther Den, the FHS varsity girls played an intense, close game with the Lady Mustangs and prevailed in the end, 59-56. The win keeps the Lady Panthers two games behind Pisgah in conference at 9-2 and extends their winning streak to three. The junior varsity (JV) girls easily handled their counterparts, 52-19. On the men’s side, a tight game through the first half became a one-sided affair when the varsity Panthers started hitting their shots in the second frame and won going away, 71-49. The JV boys ran their unbeaten streak to 11 games with a 54-38 victory over the JV Mustangs and are now 16-2 overall and 9-2 in conference.

Last week, the Panthers visited North Henderson on Friday, Jan. 27, to play the Knights who were third in 3A Conference 54 standings at 6-3. While a tight game the entire evening, North Henderson prevailed with a 69-62 victory. However, after the Jan. 31 win against Smoky Mountain, the Panthers are now 10-1 in conference, with West Henderson at 9-1. The next game to determine first place is Feb. 3 at Hendersonville and is the final regular season game for both squads.

On the women’s side, Franklin came in at 7-2 in conference play while the Lady Knights were at 3-6. The Lady Panthers were in control throughout the game, leading 28-17 at halftime and winning 53-37 to remain two games back of Pisgah in conference play. The FHS junior varsity boys won 56-47 and the girls won handily, 42-19.

Indoor track records

The Panthers traveled to Winston-Salem, Jan. 27-28, to participate in the Mondo Elite Track Meet hosted by JDL Fast Track. Coach Matt Harlfinger was quick to point out, “This is one of the most competitive meets in the country this weekend.”

The highlight of the meet for FHS was senior Isaiah Roots winning the 500-meter (m) dash, besting 85 other runners in doing so. Roots was also part of the 4X400m relay team, along with sophomore Matheson Post, and juniors Logan Russo and Elijah Cochran.

Additionally, Cochran placed third in the 300m dash (out of 75) and eighth in the 500m. Russo placed seventh in the 1000m (out of 70). On the girl’s side, sophomore Laura Covarrubias placed seventh out of 70 runners in the 1000m.

“We had several personal records that will improve our standings in the state rankings,” said Harlfinger.