HS WRESTLING: PIAA CHAMPIONSHIPS -- Derry freshman Phillippi bring home gold
HERSHEY — Outside of his small circle of friends, family and coaches, few envisioned Derry’s Micky Phillippi capturing a PIAA Class AA wrestling title as a freshman.
Phillippi, a third-place finisher at the Southwest Regional tournament, didn’t need any extra support to seal a genuine Cinderella story. Truth be told, the 113-pounder looked like a senior in a freshman’s skin the entire three-day tournament.
With the lights of the Giant Center shining bright, Phillippi capped a brilliant three-day performance and became just the second wrestler in area history to claim a state title as a freshman with a breathtaking 1-0 win over South Fayette senior Seth Carr in Saturday afternoon’s finals.
Phillippi also nipped Carr, 1-0, in the WPIAL finals on Feb. 23.
In addition, Ligonier Valley brothers Justin (113) and Joshua Patrick (120) each matched feats of last season, placing fourth and fifth, respectively. Blairsville’s Drew Doak also took seventh for the second straight year.
Phillippi (42-4) became just the second wrestler in Derry history to win a state title as a freshman.
Jimmy Gulibon accomplished the feat for the Trojans in 2008-09 before winning three more titles to become the 10th wrestler in state history to claim four gold medals.
Phillippi admitted that former Derry state champs Gulibon, Travis Shaffer, Troy Dolan and Mike May all served as his role models and paved his path to a gold medal.
“I looked up to them my whole life,” Phillippi said. “My dad would always tell me stories about watching them wrestle and how good they were. Just knowing how good they were really made me want to be good, too. Watching Jimmy, Travis and Troy … I can remember watching Troy when I was so little on TV and saying to myself, ‘I want to be like him some day.’ That’s all I wanted to be my whole life and finally it came true.”
Still riding the momentum of his win over Carr at WPIALs, Phillippi escaped 12 seconds into the second period to break a 0-0 tie and score the match’s lone point.
After staving off a double-leg takedown attempt from Carr late in the second period, Phillippi assumed the top position in the third period and went to work on riding the explosive senior.
A master in top control, Phillippi countered every maneuver Carr attempted from the bottom in the third period. Frustrated but not fatigued, Carr squirmed toward the boundary with 20 seconds to go, but never got there and watched the clock run out with his face on the mat.
Phillippi outscored his four opponents at the state meet 18-2. One of the two points he allowed was due to an illegal full-nelson hold.
“We were the only ones who thought he’d win,” Derry coach Mike Weinell said. “He didn’t come in like Jimmy came in here … with all the credentials and state titles from (Junior Olympics). Micky placed fourth last year at states so he was kind of flying under the radar. He was flying under the radar and he wanted to make a mark, and he did it with a smile on his face the whole entire time.”
Phillippi dedicated the tournament to his late father Steve Phillippi, who passed away in June. He had this to say about wrestling in his name: “He never really saw me at the state level, and I wanted to show him. He was always so proud of everything I did and now I’ve got the ultimate goal so far, which is winning a state title.”
In the third- and fourth-place consolation bout, junior Justin Patrick (37-6) lost for the second time in the tournament to Boiling Springs’ Korbin Myers, this time dropping a 4-2 decision.
Myers defeated Patrick 3-1 in the quarterfinals on Friday.
Patrick, a Southwest Regional runner-up who handed Phillippi two of his four losses this season, including a loss by fall in the semifinals at regionals, nobly credited Phillippi for wrestling a better tournament.
“I’m glad for him,” Patrick said. “Obviously I wanted to be up there, but he wrestled a really tough tournament. Anyone can win this tournament. He wrestled really tough and really smart, and that’s why he deserved to win it.”
A Southwest Regional champion, senior Joshua Patrick (30-2) pinned Penn Argyl’s Matt Williams in 2:03 in the fifth- and sixth-place consolation match.
Patrick, a three-time state placewinner and four-time state qualifier, signed a national letter of intent to wrestle at Rutgers University next season.
Sophomore Doak (39-4), a Southwest Regional runner-up, edged Southern Columbia’s Blake Marks, 3-2, in the seventh- and eighth-place consolation bout.
Doak, who won his second consecutive District 6 title, became the first wrestler in Blairsville history to medal in his freshman and sophomore campaigns. Doak also became the first Blairsville sophomore to reach 80 career wins.