HIGH SCHOOL WRESTLING: Derry's Phillippi rolls along at PIAA championships
HERSHEY — Micky Phillippi did as expected and easily handled his preliminary-round opponent on Day 1 of the PIAA Class AA Wrestling Championships on Thursday at the Giant Center.
Unfortunately for fellow Derry sophomore Stone Kepple, Thursday was the end of an otherwise stellar season.
Phillippi, the top seed at 120 pounds, won 9-0 to advance to this morning’s quarterfinals. Kepple (126), a fourth-place finisher at the Southwest Regional tournament, dropped his first two career state-tournament matches and was eliminated.
The top eight finishers in each weight division earn medals.
Phillippi (38-4), a Southwest Regional tournament champ and the country’s seventh-ranked 120-pounder, gained three takedowns on Hamburg’s Sean Stanish.
“I’m feeling great. I’m just trying to take it one match at a time and not look past anyone because you can go down at any time here,” said Phillippi, who will face Bethlehem Catholic’s Joey Gould in the quarterfinals.
Phillippi won the state title at 113 last year after placing third at regionals. Regardless of the attention he’s received since last year’s gold-medal performance, Phillippi said he still feels like an underdog.
“I really don’t feel any different,” Phillippi said. “I’m really excited just walking in the arena, but I don’t really feel any different. I’m not worried about expectations. I’m just trying to stay comfortable, calm and relaxed and go out and wrestle when I have to.”
Kepple (34-14) dropped an 11-5 decision to Kane’s Cody Blankenship, a Northwest Regional tournament champ. He then lost to Valley’s Patrick Dewitt, 4-1, in a first-round consolation bout.
Kepple, who placed second in the Section 2-AA tournament and fourth in the WPIAL and regional tournaments, said countless practice sessions with Phillippi and Derry 113-pounder Cole Wano enabled him to make so much improvement this year.
“We’re all right around the same weight and we all helped each other this year,” said Kepple, who suffered three of his seven postseason losses to Dewitt. “Mick is like our dad. He’s always there for us and always helps us out a lot and trains us. We drill with each other all the time and we all definitely helped each other improve a lot from the beginning of the year.”
• Kittanning senior and two-time state champ Jason Nolf, the country’s second-ranked 145-pounder, according to Intermatwrestle.com, pinned Bethlehem Catholic’s Mason Angstadt.
Nolf (41-0), who suffered his only career loss to four-time high school state champ Ryan Diehl of Trinity in the state semifinals in 2012, will wrestle in the quarterfinals for the fourth straight year. Nolf needed just 3:20 to flatten Angstadt. He has won each of his 10 postseason bouts by fall.
• Punxsutawney’s Kaleb Young (138) advanced to the quarterfinals in the Class AAA tournament for the second consecutive season. Teammate Joel Bowers (132) dropped his first two bouts and was eliminated.
Young (30-1), a two-time District 9 champ and a Northwest Regional tournament runner-up, blanked Easton’s James Saylor, a Northeast Regional tournament runner-up, 13-0. Young, who dropped back-to-back bouts on Day 2 of last year’s state tournament, will tangle with Cumberland Valley’s Patrick Duggan, a Southcentral Regional champ, in the quarterfinals.
A three-time district champ and a regional runner-up, Bowers (28-4) dropped a 5-3 decision to Bensalem’s Tommy Stokes. Bowers then got eliminated by falling to Big Spring’s Greg Warner, 4-1, in a first-round consolation match.