Necessary Toughness: Three-Sport Star Colton Kells Leads Fairport to First-Ever County Title
No matter what time of year it is, you’ll find Fairport’s Colton Kells immersed in a contact sport . . . (or two, or even three).
“Colton is always passionately doing something athletic,” said head wrestling coach Michael Kohl. “He loves sports, especially those of a physical nature. He just loves to lift and work out and especially to compete.”
An All-State linebacker this fall on the gridiron, Kells also suits up for the school’s rugby team in the spring. And of course, the senior is a standout on the mat where he is currently ranked third in New York after an undefeated start to the 2012-13 campaign.
Courtesy of Colton Kells
Kells said that to “stay sharp”, he does some work in all three sports year round. And for good measure, he adds some additional exercise to his regimen through his work at a local greenhouse, doing things like moving the plants, and through his summer job which involved lifting furniture.
Of all his endeavors, Kells didn’t hesitate when asked what he found most physically demanding.
“Wrestling is definitely the most intense,” he said. “There are four quarters of football and 80 minutes of rugby but the six minutes in a wrestling match are the toughest.”
So far in his senior season, Kells hasn’t had to wrestle the full six minutes very often. Only eight of his first 38 matches went the distance.
However, last weekend, he was on the mat even longer than three periods in a contest that was significant for a number of reasons.
In the title bout of the Monroe County championships, Kells took on Spencerport’s Collin Pittman, a wrestler he defeated several times last year and 5-1 earlier this season. After knotting the score late in the third period on a stalling point, the Fairport grappler got the 5-3 victory on a takedown in overtime.
“Colton stayed focused throughout the match and kept hustling,” Kohl said. “He was rewarded for his hustle and ultimately found a way to win.”
“[Pittman] has improved a lot over the past year,” Kells added. “You can see each of our matches gets closer and closer if you look at the scores. In [overtime], he shot in, I sprawled and I ended up on top after we scrambled for a little bit. It was a very physical match; the closest one we’ve had so far.”
It didn’t just mean a championship for Kells. It also was the 100th victory of his career.
“Once I realized I was getting close [to 100 wins], I started keeping track,” he said. “I knew going into the weekend that the finals could be my 100th win and I thought it would be cool to get it there.”
Hitting the century mark wasn’t the only reason the weekend was special, however. Kells was an important contributor to his team’s first-ever county championship, breaking the hold that Spencerport had on the title for more than 20 years.
“It meant a lot and it was great to do our senior year,” Kells said. “We’ve been together for years, working hard together. We felt pretty confident coming in that we could win but you never know what will happen with a lot of tough teams there.”
“It was very exciting for us,” Kohl added. “It was a compilation of a lot of hard work and I know the boys take a lot of pride in the way they performed and that they were the first to win the county for our school.”
New achievements have been piling up for the Red Raiders. A year ago, Josh Lackey, now a freshman at North Carolina State, became Fairport’s first individual state champion when he put together an unbeaten campaign to capture the 220-pound crown in Albany. Lackey said in an interview last summer that he hoped his showing would lead to more future championships for Fairport.
“Watching him win was actually a great inspiration for me,” Kells said. “We worked out most of last year. We were drill partners; we lifted together. Josh was great to work with. He never lets up. He never stops pushing forward. It was amazing to see him win the title and it inspired me.”
The truth is, Kells wasn’t too far from joining Lackey on the medal stand last year. After dropping a number of matches to All-State wrestler Jesse Kozub as a sophomore and early in his junior campaign, Kells broke through and defeated the Brockport wrestler at the county tournament in 2012, a win that gave him a boost going into the latter stages of the season.
“Jesse had placed in the state the previous year and I knew after beating him that I could go with anyone. It gave me a lot of confidence.”
“I thought that was the turning point last season for Colton,” Kohl said. “I think he realized that he could wrestle with the elite kids. He realized that there wasn’t a question of whether he was capable or not, it was all about how he performed.”
He performed well enough in his first trip to state tournament to win a pair of matches and come within one victory of making the podium.
And after he was finished competing, Kells took the floor at the Times Union Center to help Lackey warm up and prepare for his finals bout with Max Antone of Niagara Wheatfield.
It’s a place Kells hopes to visit again on February 23, 2013. And the two-time captain is doing all the right things to get there, according to his coach.
“He’s not a flashy kid – he does everything the old fashioned way, through hard work and determination. He’s extremely disciplined and does all the extra things. Kids like him, when you ask them to jump, they ask how high? If you asked him to run through a wall, he would. He has that determined look in his eye this year and very high expectations for himself.”
Those expectations for success at the highest levels in New York won’t end in February.
“A couple days after states, I’ll be back in rugby,” he said. “We made it to the state finals the last two years and won once. Hopefully we can get back there again and win.”
After all, every season is sports season for Kells. Pity the obstacles in his way.