Eblen kicks off ‘Headlock on Hunger’ campaign

By: Bob Berghaus

ASHEVILLE – Two of the more recognizable names in wrestling were at Kimmel Arena on Wednesday to help launch a national program that will help provide meals for those who don’t get enough to eat.

“Headlock for Hunger,” an initiative by Eblen Charities, was announced during a luncheon on Wednesday that included the Southern Conference, which is partnering with “Headlock on Hunger” on a local and regional level. The SoCon wrestling tournament will be held at Kimmel on March 7.

Helping spread the word were Jim Ross, a longtime wrestling announcer best known for his work with World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE), and Lee Roy Smith, executive director of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame and a former college coach and world-class wrestler.

“I don’t believe there should be any hungry children,” said Ross, who now works for Fox Sports. “I think our federal government does a swell job of talking about obesity but they don’t talk enough about feeding hungry kids.”

Ross told a story of how he learned early the importance of helping those in need. His grandmother owned a grocery store in Oklahoma and those who didn’t have enough money were given a ticket that allowed them to pay her back at a later time if they found sufficient funds.

“I’ve had a fortunate and great career, bigger than my wildest dreams and I want to be able to give back,” he said. Smith, who won a silver medal at the 1983 World Championships and later had a successful coaching career at Arizona State, has a friendship with Eblen executive director Bill Murdock, who serves on a board at the wrestling hall of fame.

“I’ve been encouraging Bill to get involved with wrestling on a national level for a long time,” Smith said.

“This is a work in progress, were just getting started on this campaign. It’s great to have the Southern (Conference tournament) here in Asheville. The conference has been an emerging conference for a number of years. Several of the programs have upped their commitment by hiring the coaches they have and they’re doing very well and having success at the NCAA level.”

Locally, high school teams and youth wrestling programs will be encouraged to collect food and monetary donations that can then be handed over to Headlock on Hunger during the SoCon wrestling tournament, which will be held in conjunction with the league’s men’s and women’s basketball tournaments.

Eblen is involved in two other similar ventures: the Arby’s/Eblen Joyfull Home for the Holidays and the Ingles/Eblen Food for Thought programs.  “This makes our food outreach stronger,” Murdock said.

Headlock on Hunger will work with high school, youth and college programs throughout the country to collect food and raise money for their respective communities.

“Jim, Lee Roy and I have been talking about the Headlock on Hunger program for some time and we thought it would be a great fit to involve the Southern Conference,” Murdock said.

Others that are part of the program include Arby’s, Ingles Markets, Pepsi, the Heath Shuler Foundation, JR’s Family Bar-B-Q (owned by Ross), the Brumit Restaurant Group and the Asheville Buncombe Regional Sports Commission.