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Best in the state
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WCMS wrestler Kieven Franco claimed the state championship Saturday. Franco is pictured with WCMS coach Ben Matheney.

Wrestling seems to run in the Franco family.

Kieven Franco claimed the girls state championship in the middle school division Saturday, a medal that will go onto the family’s growing collection. Kieven’s older sister is Allison Franco, who was a TSSAA medalists for the third time two weeks ago.

Kieven was one of three WCMS wrestlers who brought back medals over the weekend. Daniel Wright finished third, while AJ Johnson brought back a sixth-place medal. It was part of a banner day where Warren County had 10 wrestlers qualify, helping the team finish 23rd out of over 100 teams at the event.

“To have a state champion back-to-back years really goes to show what is being done within the wrestling programs,” said coach Ben Matheney. “Youth, middle school and high school in Warren County are working together. We are not only competing with the powerhouse programs, in many cases we’re beating them."

“I’m extremely happy for our kids for what they achieved and how it helps inspire the rest of the team,” Matheney said.

Wright was a champion last year and nearly claimed back-to-back titles. Wright’s lone loss came to the eventual state champion. 

Kieven was able to go the distance, with a local cheering section there to lend support at the end. 

“Kieven is a very positive young woman and as competitive as anyone I have coached,” said Matheney. “She obviously looks up to her sister and aspired this year to achieve what Allison has. With her success, she is in the position to inspire many other young girls to achieve the same thing.”

The future of the WCMS wrestling team looks extremely healthy. Kieven is the only state qualifier who will be moving to the next level. Wright and Johnson will be back, as will fellow state qualifiers Isaac Jones, Zerek Keel, Brylee Newby, Elexia Byars, Brayden McKinley, Trystan Shone and Adain Overall. 

Matheney doesn’t see the program slowing down anytime soon, not with the added benefit of the AAU team restocking the talent at a high rate now.

“Being such a young team, I feel extremely confident with what these young men and women can accomplish next year,” said Matheney. “Looking past next year, I believe our program will only continue to build in success. Coach Dave Holcombe is doing great things with our youth.

“What is most exciting to know is the continued success these young people will have thanks the great coaching at WCHS with Matt Turner and his staff.”