HIGH SCHOOL WRESTLING: Derry's Phillippi bounces back
HERSHEY — A wave of sorrow came over Derry’s Micky Phillippi as the parade of champions began on the final day of the 77th annual PIAA Class AA wrestling tournament Saturday at the Giant Center.
Phillippi realized that one sub-par performance cost him a chance to fulfill his goal of becoming a four-time state champ.
But just as quickly as the disappointment washed over him, the sophomore and returning state champ relinquished any ill feelings of his performance in the grueling three-day event, doing so by avenging the very loss that knocked him from title contention.
Phillippi capped a rousing comeback and avenged the upset loss he suffered in the Friday’s quarterfinal round by edging Bethlehem Catholic’s Joey Gould, 3-2, to claim the bronze medal in the 120-pound division.
An emotional Phillippi said that the Giant Center’s annual montage that highlighted the week’s tournament put him in the proper mindset to exact revenge on Gould.
“Watching that parade, I was just thinking, I really wish I was out there, because that was my goal in the end,” said Phillippi, a state champ at 113 last year who fell to Gould, 3-1, in this year’s quarterfinals. “But then, as soon as that video came on, in the back of my head I was just saying, ‘Let’s go. Let’s go and let’s leave it all out there and see what happens.’
“That video really got me going. Wrestling’s awesome. I love highlight videos. They get me every time.”
The lanky and awkward Gould used a dump to surprise Phillippi (42-5) and score a takedown, the only one he allowed in the tournament, just 11 seconds into the match.
Gould won the second-period coin toss and deferred to Phillippi, who escaped 10 seconds in to make it 2-1.
Waiting patiently for an opportunity to penetrate Gould’s defense, Phillippi picked the precise moment, and with 15 seconds left in the period, grounded Gould with a double-leg takedown along the boundary to take a 3-2 lead.
A feisty Gould chose the bottom position in the third period, but like he did in last year’s state finals against South Fayette’s Seth Carr, Phillippi used the many tools in his arsenal and rode the Bethlehem Catholic sophomore for the duration of the period to stamp the win.
“He came out doing his weird stuff and he went right for the dump and he caught me off guard, but I got up. I wasn’t going to let him turn me again,” Phillippi said. “But when you get taken down, you can’t get down on yourself. As soon as he took me down, I was thinking, let’s get out and get our own takedown, and that’s all I was thinking the whole time.
“I knew I had to ride him in the third, and if he got out, I was just going to work for a takedown. You just always have to be ready for anything.”
Phillippi, who is 9-1 in two state tournaments and has outscored his opponents a combined 45-10, expressed obvious disappointment in regard to his loss against Gould on Friday, but admitted that revenge felt redeeming.
“I feel great. I’m not satisfied at all, and I know what I’ve got to do, if, for instance, I can get like (Jason) Nolf out there where no one stands a chance. That’s who I want to be,” said Phillippi, a Southwest Regional tournament champ who only suffered losses to Pennsylvania state medalists this year.
For just the second time since the 2003-04 season, Derry failed to produce at least one state champ. Troy Dolan started the run for the Trojans by capturing three straight gold medals, the first in the 2004-05 season. Jimmy Gulibon won four straight titles beginning in 2008-09, and Travis Shaffer won a title in 2010-11.
Fourth-year Derry coach Mike Weinell expressed bittersweet feelings when asked about the Trojans’ string of champs ending, ultimately pointing out this his team has plenty to look forward to in the 2014-15 season.
“The streak of state champs broke, but we didn’t break our tradition of bringing great competitors here to Hershey,” Weinell said. “We’ve still come here and got at least one medal the last 10 years. That streaked stayed intact ... so this was a different type of championship for us this year, and it was one that didn’t break our tradition.”