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High School Wrestling: St. Francis welcomes in Southtowns-heavy field for tourney

Jake Braunscheidel, a sophomore who will wrestle at 160 pounds, is one of many top returning wrestlers for St. Francis, which will host the Southtowns Duals this weekend. (Photo courtesy of Ron Larson)

Southtowns high school wrestling will be well represented inside the gymnasium at St. Francis on Friday and Saturday, Dec. 7-8.

Hamburg, Frontier, Lake Shore, Eden and the host team will be among the 10-team field at the two-day tournament appropriately named the Southtowns Duals, which highlights many of this area’s top wrestlers and some of the finest in all of Western New York.

In addition to featuring ECIC Division II champion Lake Shore, ECIC III champion Eden and Monsignor Martin champion St. Francis, the tournament will bring in Orchard Park and Gowanda, which add to the Southtowns theme, and Grand Island, Lew-Port and perennial-power Roy-Hart.

“For all of the tournaments that we travel to during the season, it’s kind of nice to have something in our own backyard,” St. Francis head coach Mike Messore said. “We don’t have to travel too far to find some good competitive wrestling.”

The tournament, which began in 2005 as the St. Francis Duals, is a combination of the Red Raiders host competition and another tournament that involved teams like Lake Shore, Eden and Gowanda. The last four years, the tournament has gone to a two-day format.

After a few seasons of not participating in the tournament, Frontier, which was chomping at the bit to get back in, will return for the 2012 event, joining its fellow neighborhood schools. Messore said many of the schools scrimmage against and practice among each other and built good relationships.

“This is the best representation of Southtowns schools we’ve ever had,” Messore said. “Our schools all work together. The kids and coaches all know each other. We’ve developed friendly rivalries.”

The two days is also a chance for the host squad to show off an up-and-coming group returning most of its wrestlers from last season. St. Francis lost only two seniors from its starting lineup, which last season featured five freshmen.

The Red Raiders will be led by tri-captains Mike Muffoletto, a senior at 152 pounds who placed sixth at the CSHA state tournament; Mike Miller, a junior at 132 pounds who is a two-time All-Catholic champion and took fifth at the CSHA state tournament; and Sam Carroccia, a senior at 220 pounds who was a 30-match winner last year.

“From top to bottom, we have experienced wrestlers coming back,” Messore noted.

Messore would like to see St. Francis return to the level of success the wrestling program enjoyed in the early- and mid-2000s when the Red Raiders were a fixture in the Western New York Top 10.

“We want to take the next step to getting the program back to what it used to be,” Messore said. “We have the kids to do it.”

The Red Raiders will take the first step toward that Friday defending their own mats as the tournament begins the first four of 10 rounds at 3 p.m. The action begins the next day at 9 a.m. and continues until the final round of competition at 5:45 p.m.

Young Frontier squad shows off new depth; Russo ties career win mark vs. Lancaster rival

Underclassmen-laden Frontier showed its youth in an opening-season loss to Western New York power Lancaster but shortly after, also exhibited its up-and-coming talent and strength in numbers over the weekend at the Orchard Park Junior Varsity Tournament. The largest team they have had in recent memory, the Falcons followed up being outdone by Lancaster 61-9 on Nov. 28 with six first-place finishes and another seven second places from the youngsters competing three days later in Orchard Park.

Not lost in falling to Lancaster was Rocco Russo’s school-record tying 135th win, which happened to be over Steve Michel in a rematch of last year’s sectional final. Russo, who won a close sectional match to take the title, repeated his success with a 2-0 win over Michel at 132 pounds. The junior went into Frontier’s Dec. 5 match against Clarence with a chance to break Nick Bannister’s school record for career wins.

Also winning against Lancaster were senior Evan Johnston, 4-3, at 126 pounds and first-year varsity eighth grader Jacob Dickey, 5-4, at 106 pounds. Johnston and Russo are captaining this year’s squad along with senior Joe Nowak and junior Seth Jones. Thirteen out of the 23 wrestlers competing in Orchard Park wound up placing. Earning weight class titles were Jacob Dickey at 106, Paul Hendra (120), Andrew Heppner (126), Julian Delgado (138), Joe Aronica (145) and Adam Gibson (285).
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