Wrestling fans were treated to a day of competition, laughs and a look at the future during Saturday’s alumni fundraising event at Benjamin Russell.
Seven bouts took place on the mat, including two featuring wrestlers who hadn’t taken the mat for quite some time and one featuring a pair of youngsters.
“I did not plan that (youth match) but they gave me a good idea that they should be a part of it,” BRHS coach Michael Ransaw said. “Maybe we can start off next year with the youth and display some of their talents. They gave us a good little match. Our coaches with our youth program are great men and they’re teaching our young boys the right way.”
After several close matches, it was the youngsters who treated the audience to the first pin of the day. Cannon Gregg racked up the points against Russell Goree before taking him down via fall midway through the second period.
The only other pin of the day featured Jy Harvey, a 2018 graduate, who battled with Tom Goree. The two went scoreless through the first period before Harvey started to find his groove and eventually started to grab some points. He then pinned Goree with 28 seconds remaining in the third period.
One of the most anticipated matches was Daniel Bland versus Jordan Slaughter. The two are similar in age — Bland is a 2016 graduate and Slaughter graduated in 2017 — and both were very competitive during their time at Benjamin Russell. However, Bland had a leg up as he is currently wrestling for Limestone College.
“I’m No. 9 in the country right now for Division II heavyweight, but Coach told me to keep it close so that’s what I did,” Bland said with a laugh.
He still ended up getting the victory, 4-2.
Harvey competed in another match but fell to Nick Thompson, a 2015 graduate, 9-7, and Deon Maxwell (2014) dominated Brooks Parker (2018), 16-7. Connor Burke (2018) faced one of the oldest competitors of the day as he took on Griffin Pritchard, a 1999 graduate. Announcer Sean Bland had the crowd laughing as he asked Pritchard, then Burke, if they needed oxygen. Burke won, 5-2, and later earned a 4-3 victory over classmate Isaiah Holloway.
“The whole thing turned out very well,” Ransaw said. “We had a great turnout and it just shows that people are ready for that tradition to be back here. Benjamin Russell is known for their wrestling program, and it touched my heart to see some of them who came back and supported us.”
Bland said, “It feels good to be back here at Benjamin Russell and back on the mat where I first started. Benjamin Russell has always been a top program, and I feel like they’re really carrying on the tradition of our wrestling. Coach Ransaw has always done a good job with the team so as long as they stay focused and as long as coach Ransaw is their leader, they should be state champions.”
The current varsity team, which kicks off its season this weekend at the Gulf Coast Clash in Mobile, was in attendance and Ransaw said he hopes the Wildcats learned something from seeing all those former wrestlers return to BRHS.
“I think the thing they got out of it is to come back and give back to your community,” Ransaw said. “The big thing is giving back to the place that gave you everything and I’m hoping if they didn’t get anything else out of this, they got that.”