St. Joe’s captured its second straight Monsignor Martin All-Catholic Wrestling Championship on Sunday.
The main reason was depth, not a term that usually comes to mind when thinking about high school wrestling.
Every wrestler that entered Sunday’s tournament at St. Francis High School earned points for his respective school, as opposed to scoring in regular season dual matches where you earn points through how you win in each weight class.
The mere fact that St. Joe’s had 25 wrestlers across all 15 weight classes helped the Marauders outscore St. Francis, which only had 20 wrestlers and no 220- or 285-pounders, by a score of 315-311 for their fifth All-Catholic title in the last seven years. Canisius came in third place with 136.5 points, followed by St. Mary’s of Lancaster with 56 and Gow with 20.
“We only have three seniors, so we’re not supposed to be good,” St. Joe’s coach Pete Kennedy said. “We kept telling them all year that if you stay on the team, we’re going to have a chance to win at the end of the year because everybody counts in tournament scoring.”
St. Joe’s had lost to St. Francis, 41-31, just last Wednesday in a dual meet that gave the Red Raiders their fifth straight regular season Monsignor Martin title. The Red Raiders won eight weight classes that day but only won six on Sunday. St. Joe’s led with eight wins while St. Mary’s had one.
“We know that everybody scores that enters the tournament, and St. Joe’s had 25 guys and we had 20,” St. Francis coach Mike Messore said. “So we had to wrestle perfect and steal a few matches. And really, in the finals, they won a couple of close matches against us that if they would’ve gone the other way obviously the points would’ve gone to us. Any one of those would’ve been the difference. Their guys really came up big in the finals and won the close ones that made the difference in the score.”
Nick Martone of St. Joe’s earned Most Outstanding Wrestler honors by beating St. Francis’ Jake Duggan by decision, 7-6, at 170 pounds. Kennedy and Messore both said that could be a finals rematch at next weekend’s Catholic High School Athletic Association Championships.
Domenic Kershner of St. Joe’s got the finals started in dramatic fashion by scoring two points in the final 10 seconds of the third period to tie the score and another two in overtime for a 9-7 decision at 99 pounds.
Also winning for St. Joe’s was Caleb Long at 145, Garrett House at 152, Ty Slaugenhoupt at 160, Abraham Baker at 195, Freddie Nixon at 220 and Eric Wilde at 285.
Standout brothers Tito and Hector Colom both won by fall for the Red Raiders at 120 and 132, respectively. Tito was named the regular season’s Most Outstanding Wrestler. Hector won aggregate pin with two in 40 seconds and the fastest pin of eight seconds.
Rounding out the St. Francis winners were Matt Heywood at 106, John Ciolek at 113, Dominik Thomas at 126 and Mike Gruttolori at 182. Will Story pinned his St. Mary’s teammate Jake Fay to win at 138.
The top five boys from each weight class qualified for the Catholic State Championships on Long Island Feb. 13 and 14. If a Western New York participant comes in first place there, then he will qualify for the New York State Public High School Athletic Association Championships in Albany on Feb. 26 and 27.
Tito Colom is the only returning Western New York participant, but Messore thinks that there’s a better opportunity this year to send more Catholic school kids than in years past.
“I think we’ve been really building and instead of having a wave and going down,” Messore said, “we’re continuing to ascend and level the playing field.”