Thank you for being one of our most loyal readers. Please consider supporting community journalism by subscribing to The Wilson Times.
Fike Hall of Fame
This is the seventh in a series of profiles on members of the 2017 induction class of the Fike High Athletic Hall of Fame that will be enshrined Oct. 21 in a ceremony at the school.
Richie Pridgen will go down in the Fike High record book as the longest tenured varsity football head coach in school history and one of just three men, along with Henry Trevathan and Paul Marklin, to lead Fike to a state championship game in football.
Pridgen, who led the Golden Demons for 14 seasons from 1995 to 2008, presided over four conference-championship seasons and his Fike teams claimed five Wilson County Championships. Pridgen’s 2002 Demons reached the North Carolina High School Athletic Association 3-A championship game in a season in which they started 0-4. Fike turned it around and won nine straight before falling 34-0 to Winston-Salem Carver in the school’s first state title game appearance since 1969.
Pridgen was a four-time 3-A Big Eight Conference Coach of the Year and served as wrestling coach at Fike from 1997 to 2002.
But the record book won’t show that in addition to years of service and outstanding leadership, as a physical education teacher as well as wrestling and football coach, Pridgen transcended those roles on a winter night in 2000. During a wrestling match at C.B. Aycock, one of Pridgen’s wrestlers pinned Golden Falcons junior Justin Moore in the 189-pound match. Moore, who had no history of medical problems, became unresponsive and stopped breathing. Pridgen, who had taught CPR courses in the past, immediately administered CPR to the stricken teenager and was able to resuscitate him until medical personnel arrived.
“Coach Pridgen literally saved the boy’s life,” Susan Shafer, a parent of a Fike wrestler, told The Wilson Times. “He went beyond the call of duty.”
Pridgen often went beyond the call of duty at his adopted school. A 1975 graduate of South Edgecombe, Pridgen obtained his degree from East Carolina University, where he met his future wife, Terry, a Fike graduate.
He also began his career as a powerlifter, which culminated in winning the World Drug-Free Powerlifting Federation championship at 242 pounds in France in 1990.
Pridgen started his coaching and teaching careers at SouthWest Edgecombe High in 1980 before coming to Fike for a three-year stint as assistant football coach, wrestling coach and strength coach. After an eight-year stint at Salisbury High, Pridgen returned to Fike.
He “retired” in 2009 but then returned as a part-time teacher and assistant coach first at Northern Nash and then at Hunt, possibly becoming the first Fike High Athletic Hall of Famer to work for the school’s archrival.
But Pridgen will always be a part of Fike High for not only his coaching records but his example every day as a leader.