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Rocky Mount, Virginia 24151
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Big Orange tournament field to expand to 24
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Franklin County’s Isaiah Foster celebrates his victory in the finals of his weight class in last year’s Big Orange Classic with Eagles head wrestling coach Emanuel Brown. The field is expanding from 18 teams to 24 for this year’s event, set for Jan. 25-26, 2013. (Staff Photo by Steven Marsh)

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

By STEVEN MARSH - Sports Editor

VINTON -- An additional six teams will stand in the way of Franklin County's pursuit of a 16th Big Orange Classic championship in January of 2013.

The long-standing tournament, the signature, in-season event of high school wrestling in this area, is expanding its field from 18 to 24 teams for its 37th edition, set for Jan. 25-26, 2013 at William Byrd High School.

Rustburg, Parry McCluer, Glenvar, Amherst County, Roanoke Catholic and James River-Buchanan are slated to bring their teams to the tournament this year, William Byrd Athletic Director Crystal Worley said in an email Wednesday.

"Twenty-four teams is about our maximum,' Worley said.

The school plans to use its annex gymnasium to help with the additional tournament bouts due to the expansion of the field, Worley said.

"We discussed expanding the field last spring and we firmed up that decision later in the spring,' Worley said.

"We wanted to provide more student-athletes the opportunity to wrestle in what we consider one of the best wrestling tournaments in Virginia. We have been solicited for years to try and expand (the field), but with our construction here (which is now complete), it was delayed for several years,' Worley said. "We're giving it a shot.'

Plans are for competition to start at 10 a.m. both days with bouts in each round scheduled for the first day to be contested on four mats.

Bouts in Saturday's semifinals and consolation semifinals will be contested on four mats. Bouts in the consolation finals and fifth and sixth place will be on two mats from 4 p.m. to 5: 50 p.m. with the finals on one mat during a two-hour sessions between 7 p.m. and 9 p.m.

FCHS, which last reached the Big Orange winner's circle in 2009, has won a tournament-record 15 team titles and has crowned numerous individual champions since the event's inaugural year of 1976.

Brookville won its first Big Orange championship last year, and Grundy captured back-to-back crowns in 2010 and 2011 to go with its first tournament championship claimed in 2008.

The Eagles won their first team championship in 1984 and at one time they won six crowns in a row.

FCHS mat boss Emanuel Brown said he likes the fact that the tournament is adding six teams to its roster.

"I like larger tournaments because there is more competition,' Brown said in an email Wednesday.

Brown has guided the Eagles to three (2006, 2007 and 2009) three titles. Former head coach Kris Kahila steered FCHS to 12 championships.

FCHS will be engaged in tournament competition each weekend from the first of January until the middle of February.

That slate begins on Jan. 5 with the Spencer Chang Duals in Martinsville, followed by returns to the Virginia Duals in Hampton and the Big Blue in Christiansburg.

The weekend after the Big Orange, the Eagles will attempt to win their 26th consecutive district championship in the last Western Valley District tournament, set for Saturday, Feb. 2. on The Northwest Regionals and the Group AAA state tournament follow that event on Feb. 8-9 and Feb. 15-16.

When Brookville added its name to the tournament's roll call of champions, the Bees became the ninth team to win the title.

FCHS William Fleming (6), Christiansburg (5), William Byrd (3) and Grundy (3) are the only schools that have won multiple team championships.

Besides Brookville, Salem, Cave Spring and Northside each has won team championship to its credit.

From 1976-1988, the Big Orange was held before Christmas. Beginning with the 1990 event, which encompassed the fall of 1989, the tournament has been held after Christmas.

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