From canceled sports, proms and graduations, high school seniors have been facing tough times due to the COVID-19 crisis. Despite the uncertain times, the Franklin High School fishing team can find solace in potentially still having an opportunity at capturing a national championship.
Austin Wadzinski, Jacob Whitehurst, Parker Grefrath and Nathan Welch – four senior members of the Franklin Fishing Team – have still got their fingers crossed to compete.
On March 14, both two-man teams were preparing to practice for the West Tennessee High School Bass Fishing Division Championship to be held the following Saturday, but the tournament was canceled due to state “shelter at home” directives from Gov. Bill Lee. Since then, the event has been rescheduled three times, but still not completed.
The Bassmaster High School National Championship event has also endured rescheduling. It features the top 300 high school teams from the United States, Canada and even teams from Europe and Africa. The event – originally set for June – and is now currently rescheduled for October. It could conflict with college plans for the Rebel fishing team members, but they are still hopeful.
The team of Wadzinski and Whitehurst is currently ranked fourth in the Tennessee Western High School bass fishing division and a likely qualifier for the national championship event. Grefrath and Welch also have a chance of qualifying. If either team qualifies, it would be the third time in four years that Franklin will be represented in the national championship event.
All four will continue to fish competitively beyond high school.
Wadzinski plans to be a member of the University of Tennessee fishing team where his older brother also fished. Whitehurst plans to fish at the University of Tennessee-Martin, Grefrath plans to fish weekend Fishing League Worldwide events while attending the University of Memphis and Nathan Welch plans to team up with his older brother to fish numerous amateur tournament trails throughout Middle Tennessee.
The Franklin team featured 14 members this season who competed in several tournaments beginning in the fall and continuing into the early spring.
The team is sponsored by local recording artist Chris Janson and Bass Pro Shops. Numerous local companies have also supported the team in previous seasons.