ROCKY MOUNT — After a nine-year hiatus the Johnny Price Memorial returned to Franklin County High School on Saturday.
The dual team wrestling tournament, which began in 2009, is a fundraiser for the Eagles’ wrestling program and is held to honor longtime Franklin County High School supporter Johnny Price, who died in 2006.
Price also had four sons who were part of the Eagles’ wrestling program, including 1989 Group AAA state champion J.J. Price.
After a two-year run, the tournament was discontinued after the 2010 event, but Franklin County wrestling coach Justin Smith approached the Price family last year about possibly resurrecting the tourney.
“Coach Smith wanted to bring tradition back and get things back to the way they were here, but only if it was under dad’s name,” tournament director Chris Price said. “My mom and dad were the school’s biggest supporters and the school jumped on board.”
The Eagles won eight regional titles on the mat in a stretch between 1989-2001, but none since.
“We want to be back to being one of the top four or five and this is a good way to get there,” Price said.
The current Franklin County roster was just excited about the chance to compete without having to get on a bus to travel elsewhere.
“Having it here this year made me so excited, but our team was really excited because it pushed us. No one wants to lose a home match,” said Franklin County junior Brian Richards. “I hope we have more of them in the future.”
Through word of mouth and sending out letters, Price and tournament officials were able to bring 10 teams in for Saturday’s return event at FCHS.
“To get 10 teams for the first event is phenomenal,” Price said.
After the afternoon’s pool play, Cave Spring and James River advanced to Saturday evening’s championship match. The battle of Knights, though, turned out to be one-sided, as Cave Spring dominated in a 64-18 victory.
“We always like dual meets because it bonds the team and all the guys know they’ll get five matches when they come here,” Cave Spring assistant coach Chris Nininiger said.
Heavyweight Levi Walker led James River and was named the tournament’s most outstanding wrestler. Walker was 5-0 with four pins, including his win in the final against Cave Spring.
“I thought the team did amazing. We just fell a little short in the finals,” Walker said. “We just got to go back and work hard so we can compete with them at that level.”
Lord Botetourt defeated Blacksburg 40-33 in the third-place match.
Christiansburg won the previous two Johnny Price Memorials, but was unable to attend this year due to previous commitments. Smith, however, says he has already been in contact with the Blue Demons and is hopeful the local powerhouse will return next year.
“We want to turn this into a two-day tournament with a 10-match guarantee,” Smith said. “Dad was always about what was good for the kids and a dual tournament like this is the best way to help the kids.”