Last Updated: Fri Mar 31, 2023 - 11:05AM
While Franklin Regional wrestling will be invariably linked with Spencer Lee for decades to come, the Panthers have produced many other top college grapplers in recent years. Among those mat standouts is Colton Camacho, who has thrived as part of a resurgence program at the University of Pittsburgh. Camacho is under the microscope in the latest edition of the Westmoreland Alum Q&A.
Camacho quickly established himself as a freshman at Franklin Regional, as he posted a perfect mark of 15-0. A finger injury sidelined him during the postseason, however. Collectively, the Panthers qualified for the WPIAL Class AAA team postseason, defeating Trinity in the first round. However, FR was ousted by North Allegheny in the quarterfinals.
Back to health the next season, Camacho went 35-9 at 120 pounds. In the Class AAA Section 1 tournament, Camacho took first in his weight class, edging Hempfield Area’s Vincent Distefanis 2-1 via tiebreaker. In the WPIAL bracket, Camacho came in third, but failed to place in the PIAA tournament. In the team tournament, the Panthers bested Seneca Valley and Waynesburg Central, but lost to Kiski Area in the semifinals. FR also came up short against North Allegheny in the consolation matchup.
In 2017-18, Camacho improved his record to 40-3. Bumping up to 132 pounds, Camacho took first in the sectional, besting Nick Coy of Penn-Trafford by a 5-2 decision. Those two met again in the WPIAL championship bout, and Camacho again prevailed, this time winning 5-3 in the tiebreaker. Camacho also made a run through the state bracket, reaching the championship match. However, he fell to McDowell’s Jeffrey Boyd via a 5-4 decision. In the team event, the Panthers defeated Moon Area in the preliminary round of the Class AAA bracket, but lost to Seneca Valley in the first round.
As a senior, Camacho dropped down to 126 pounds. In the sectional, he finished as runner up to Kiski Area’s Darren Miller in a 4-3 decision. He rebounded in the WPIAL bracket, though, and redeemed that outcome by edging Miller 4-2 to capture district gold for the second time. The rubber match occurred in the PIAA Class AAA championship, as Miller prevailed via a 6-5 decision. In the team competition, the Panthers notched a preliminary-round victory against Peters Township, but were eliminated by Canon-McMillan in the first round.
After concluding his high school career with a mark of 130-16, Camacho matriculated to the University of Pittsburgh, joining the Panthers at 125 pounds. He redshirted in the 2019-20 campaign while wrestling unattached. In those contests, Camacho went 13-5. Meanwhile, Pitt went 10-4, including 3-2 in the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC). The Panthers placed second in the ACC tournament, but the NCAA Championships were cancelled as a result of COVID.
Camacho earned a starting spot the following year, compiling a record of 5-6. The Panthers went 3-4 overall, including 1-4 in the conference. In the ACC Tournament, Pitt placed fifth. In the NCAA Championships, the Panthers finished 11th, their best showing since 1970.
In 2021-22, Camacho improved to 11-5. The Panthers, meanwhile, went 8-6 overall, including 2-3 in ACC competition. Pitt registered a third-place finish in the ACC Tournament, and placed 24th at the NCAA Championships.
Camacho reached new heights as a redshirt junior this season, as he compiled a record of 18-9, notching four pins, three tech falls, and seven major decisions. Pitt went 10-4 overall, and 4-1 in the ACC. The Panthers placed third in the ACC Tournament, and ranked 24th at the NCAA Championships.
With the 2022-23 season now in the rear view, Colton dedicated time to field questions about his breakthrough season, which former FR grappler he’d love to face, and his drinks of choice before a match.
Q: You established a career high in wins in 2022-23. What have been the biggest factors in your success this season?
A: I just stayed consistent with my training this season. Coach Gavin helps keep my head straight after both wins and losses. I stayed the course and just wrestled my style.
Q: What were the benefits of redshirting and wrestling unattached in your first year?
A: It definitely gave me a year to mature. It was nice to get used to making weight and just experiencing college wrestling. The redshirt season was just as impactful as my other seasons in my development.
Q: How would you describe your style of wrestling?
A: I would say hard-nosed. I try to wrestle nonstop and score through all positions and really just keep the pressure on my opponent throughout every match.
Q: What team and individual goals did you set for this season?
A: We did well as a team, winning the ACC co-dual championship. We really surprised a lot of people. Individually, I wanted to make it to NCAAs, but came up just short, unfortunately.
Q: The Panthers roster includes a multitude of former WPIAL wrestlers. With which teammates did you have a relationship before your time at Pitt?
A: I wrestled with some guys on club teams growing up. It’s fun to have so many WPIAL guys on the team like Nino Bonaccorsi and Micky Phillippi. I never take that for granted.
Q: What led to your decision to attend Pitt?
A: When I took my official visit, it convinced me to come to Pitt. I saw the new coaching staff had something special going on and wanted to be part of rebuilding this program.”
Q: What is your major, and ideal future profession?
A: My major is communications, and I would like to work with Northwestern Mutual in financial services and go from there.
Q: What has been your favorite college course?
A: I had a class last semester called Written Professional Communications that helped a lot with updating my résumé and writing memos and emails in strategic ways. It was all real-world stuff that was really helpful to learn.
Q: You were part of a Franklin Regional program that achieved incredible success over the past decade. What were the key factors in that run?
A: One of the biggest things is having Young Gunz in our wrestling room. It helps us get really good practice partners. We’ve trained with guys like Michael Kemerer and Jason Nolf, and that definitely helps the high school team, too.
Q: What was your fondest high school memory?
A: Definitely state tournament trips and Powerade. I’ll always remember those tournaments.
Q: If you could wrestle anyone, past or present, who would you choose? What would be the outcome?
A: I would have loved to wrestle Spencer Lee at nationals, but that didn’t happen. It would have been a cool moment, especially if it went in my favor.
Q: Do you use water, a sports drink, or something else during a meet?
A: After weigh-ins, I usually drink BODYARMOR and some carbonated water with MiO in it. It tastes like soda, but I try not to chug it.”
Q: Who is your celebrity dream date?
A: That’s a tough one… maybe Selena Gomez.
Q: If you were stranded on an island with one teammate, who would you choose?
A: Tyler Badgett. He’s handy and funny, and we’re close friends. He’d be my guy.