Wrestling: Fallen Manteno coach honored with success

Updated: February 20, 2012 10:45PM

This wrestling season has been payback time for Anthony Franc and Bryan Curran.

Franc is a senior standout at Manteno and Curran is the Panthers’ head coach after taking that job under the saddest circumstances imaginable. An assistant to Cory Blanchette last season, Curran was promoted when Blanchette died after being struck by a car while jogging in rural Kankakee County on Nov. 1.

The Panthers have honored Blanchette’s memory by putting together one of their best seasons ever. They won their second straight regional title – and the second in program history – and will face Class 1A top-ranked Wilmington in a team sectional at Coal City on Tuesday. At last weekend’s individual state tournament in Champaign, Manteno had two placers for the first time with Franc taking third in 1A at 152 pounds and fellow senior Schuyler Lindsay finishing sixth at 132.

Franc was glad to finish what he started under Blanchette.

“He was a happy-go-lucky guy,” Franc said. “If you got to know him, he would do anything for you. He would do anything for anyone, any time of the day or night.”

Curran liked his old role, but felt an obligation to take the head coaching job and continue Blanchette’s work.

“He made you feel like you were his best friend,” Curran said. “It’s a very hard loss for everybody [including] his wife Alisa and [four] kids. She’s such a strong woman. We’re just trying to give them as much support as possible and kept them involved as well.”

Franc and Lindsay were the Panthers’ first placers since Ross George became the school’s initial state champ in 2007. “It was a long journey,” Franc said. “I came down here [to Champaign] the last three years and didn’t do quite as well. I just kept striving and working hard. ... It means more than anything to step on that [awards] podium now.”

That’s especially true given all that the Panthers have gone through in the past few months.

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