---- — METHUEN — His time has finally come.
For nearly a decade, members of the wrestling community have heard about Methuen freshman Darius Franklin.
“He might be the best wrestler in the family,” was a common refrain about Franklin.
If true, that would make Franklin one of the best wrestlers the region has ever seen because his older brother, Isaiah Williams, was a two-time undefeated New England champion for Haverhill High. Another brother, Parris, also wrestled for the Hillies.
Franklin began wrestling in the second grade with the Haverhill Youth program and then, after the family moved, switched to the Methuen Youth Program. Throughout is time in elementary and middle school, he’s worked out and trained at The Barn in Danville, N.H.
When healthy, Franklin was nearly unbeatable. As a fifth and seventh grader, he won the sectional, state and New England tournament. Injuries to his wrist and elbow sidelined him as a sixth and eighth grader.
Healthy again, Franklin is currently 18-0 with 13 pins as a 160-pounder and has already won two tournaments. He’s had few close matches. Methuen coach Bill James has been impressed, although he adds that Franklin has some work to do to become an elite wrestler.
“He’s obviously off to a good start,” said James. “He’s got a great mat presence ... he’s aggressive, he’s pretty strong and, when he gets in trouble, he scrambles really well.
“He needs to work on his technique a little more, and his moves in different situations.”
Franklin doesn’t disagree, noting that he works on technique first and then strives to improve his strength, and says that his best attributes are “my speed and agility.”
When he needs advice, in addition to his coaches, Franklin sometimes gets it from older brother Isaiah, who is on an extended break from Missouri Baptist, which he attends with Parris.
“He’s worked with me a couple of times (recently) and he helped give me advice at the Framingham tournament,” said Franklin.
Looking ahead, Franklin would like to be as successful as his older brothers, in his own way.
“I want to accomplish what they’ve done, but I want to choose my own path,” he said. “I want to create my own legacy.”
Thus far, he’s off to a good start.
Second-year Pinkerton coach Dave Rhoads has set in motion a plan to hold a 12-team “Border War” dual meet tournament Jan. 17, 2015 in Pinkerton, bringing together six top teams from Massachusetts and six from New Hampshire. It’s a great idea and interested teams are encouraged to contact Rhoads. However, schedules can be somewhat constricting so it may take a year or two before an elite field can be assemblesd.
Martin comes back
Greater Lawrence junior Angel Martin, who was a receiver and then quarterback for the football team in the fall, is back on the mat after taking a year off and is starting to make some noise. Despite being bumped up more than a weight to 195, he had a pin against Central Catholic last week to improve to 5-2.
The Reggies have struggled a bit, but first-year coach Adam Porro is encouraged by a strong sophomore class that he hopes he can keep together for the next two years.
Sanborn down to one
With the graduation of state champion Jonathan Scheidegger, who is wrestling at Sacred Heart, Sanborn is down to one wrestler, Tristan Leek, representing the school. Leek, a 145-pound senior, works out at Exeter High School and is accompanied to tournaments by his father. He has been wrestling extremely well all season.
Leek is currently 15-2 with his only losses coming to the 2013 state champion from Vermont and Nolan Viens, a fifth-place finisher at last year’s New England Tournament, and he was mighty impressive while placing first at the Chelmsford Tournament last Saturday.
Prep school kudos
Congratulations to Phillips Academy and Brooks, both of which beat perennial power Northfield Mount Hermon Saturday in a multi-team meet at Northfield. Brooks also defeated a strong Exeter club and is now 11-1 on the year, which is why it has moved up to No. 3 in this week’s Fab 5. No. 2 North Andover’s second loss, incidentally, was by its “B” team Saturday while most of the starters were at the Cumberland Tournament.
Finding his weight
Pelham junior Matt Koch was wrestling up a weight class last year and had a tough time of it. At 126 pounds this year, he has the best record on the team, 12-4 as of late last week.
“He’s found a weight where he’s comfortable and he’s looked really good,” said Pelham coach Bob Riddinger.
Pelham, incidentally, will host its annual tournament this Saturday.