St. Francis came into the season with more to celebrate than being the defending Division II Catholic state champions. The Red Raiders are counting their blessings following the transfer of a pair of Section VI champions into their program.
Brothers Hector and Tito Colom are now in Athol Springs after wrestling last season for Dunkirk.
Red Raiders coach Mike Messore said he got a call during the offseason from the brothers’ father, who expressed interest in the quality education offered at St. Francis. It didn’t take much more than a campus tour before the boys were convinced this was a fantastic opportunity. Messore said the brothers have been soaking in their new surroundings.
Hector is a freshman who wrestles at 120 while Tito is a 113-pound junior. Tito is an honor student with a 96 average and Ivy League aspirations.
Last year for Dunkirk, Hector won the Section VI Division II title at 106 and finished fifth in the state. He’s 18-1 so far this season, giving him 88 career wins against 13 losses. NewYorkWrestlingNews.com ranked him as the No. 3 freshman in New York. He’s already defeated three state qualifiers from 2014.
Tito is currently ranked No. 1 in WNY at 113 and sits at No. 5 in the state. He won sectionals a year ago at 113 and placed fourth at the states. At 19-1 this season, he needs three more wins for 100 in his career (97-13).
Messore said the brothers have had an immediate impact, bettering themselves and making those around them better. As year-round wrestlers who embrace a national schedule, they serve as examples of what it takes to compete on a larger scale.
The brothers have quickly become the talk of the Monsignor Martin Association. Both made the all-tournament team at the St. Francis and Fairport Duals. As a team, St. Francis (10-5) is ranked No. 3 among large schools in the WNY Coaches Poll. Its record includes wins over No. 2 Niagara Falls, No. 6 Clarence and No. 9 small school Gowanda. One of their losses was by 41-38 to the No. 1 team in Section V, Fairport.
St. Francis has a talented roster. Jake Braunscheidel (182) and Travis Bittner (120) are the Red Raiders’ senior captains. Braunscheidel was a state runner-up last season and looks to win his weight class for the third time at the All-Catholics. Bittner (12-5 record) has not lost to a Section VI wrestler this season. He was third at the Catholic states.
Junior Jake Duggan (160) was second in WNY a year ago in pins with 31; 41 of his last 44 wins have been by pin. He placed third at the Catholic states a year ago.
There are currently 10 wrestlers representing the Monsignor Martin Association in the Western New York rankings. Among them is senior Richie Jones (182) from St. Joe’s, the league’s only wrestler to win an individual state title as he turned back all challengers at 170. Jones has 126 wins and is on pace to break the St. Joe’s record for wins over four years. The record of 131 has been held by Travis Berube since 2013.
Also at St. Joe’s, seniors Eesaa Abdur-Rahman (160) and Dominic Caruso (120) placed second at the Catholic states a year ago. Junior Garrett Baugher (138), who missed last season, was a 2013 Catholic champion. Senior Derek Penman is 14 wins from 100. Senior Jon Tabor (170/182) is 10-1 while junior Abraham Baker (195) is 9-3.