H.S. WRESTLING: Local wrestlers face top competitors
Derry freshman Micky Phillippi and Ligonier Valley junior Justin Patrick brewed a healthy rivalry in the postseason.
Although Phillippi got the last laugh by capturing the PIAA Class AA title at 113 pounds, Patrick handed the Trojan two of his four losses on the year, including a fall in the semifinals at the Southwest Regional tournament.
The duo once again seemed destined to meet in the third- and fourth-place consolation bout at one of the most prestigious high school wrestling tournaments in the country, the fourth annual Flo Nationals wrestling tournament Saturday at the Kovalchick Convention and Athletic Complex.
However, each wrestler dropped matches to state champions in consolation-round bouts, resulting in Phillippi landing in the fifth- and sixth-place match and Patrick ending up in the seventh- and eighth-place bout.
Phillippi dropped an 11-2 major decision to Oklahoma state champion Markus Simmons to place sixth, and Patrick lost a 5-0 decision to Illinois state champion Kyle Akins to take eighth.
Patrick’s older brother, senior Joshua Patrick (126), advanced to the quarterfinals before losing to the eventual champ, Hempfield’s Sam Krivus, who’s also a PIAA Class AAA titlist. Patrick lost in his first consolation-round bout and was eliminated.
Joshua Patrick, who has already signed a national letter of intent to wrestle at Rutgers University next season, became the first wrestler in Ligonier Valley history to qualify for four straight state tournaments and to place in three in March.
Phillippi, the No. 11 seed in a bracket of nearly 100 competitors, won three straight matches Friday before losing a 5-3 decision to top-seeded New York state champion Nick Piccininni, the eventual runner-up, in the quarterfinals.
Phillippi then earned two straight decision wins in the consolation bracket, including a 2-0 win over Akins in the consolation quarterfinals.
But Cathedral Prep’s Jake Gromacki promptly halted Phillippi’s momentum when he jumped out to a 5-0 lead and then pinned the freshman in the second period in the consolation semifinals.
Of the five matches Phillippi wrestled Saturday, three were against state titlists.
“I feel like I could have been seeded higher. That could have been me,” Phillippi said of Piccininni. “I let a stupid takedown go in that match that I shouldn’t have. I just didn’t wrestle the best I could. I work a lot harder, I feel like.”
The No. 14 seed, Patrick, a three-time state qualifier and a fourth-place state placewinner the last two seasons, surrendered a last-second takedown and got nipped by California state champ Israel Saavedra, 6-5, in the consolation quarterfinals. Saavedra, a freshman, went on to place third.
In the seventh- and eighth-place consolation match, Patrick lost for the second time in as many days to Akins. Akins beat Patrick, 7-2, in a first-round match Friday.
“Coming into this my goal was to place and try to get my name out there nationally,” Patrick said. “There were obviously Division I coaches here watching. I’m glad I wrestled through the losers’ bracket to the medal rounds, but I’m kind of disappointed that I gave up a takedown in the last second to the kid who took third in the consolation quarterfinals. That was a tough loss, but aside from that, I was pretty much satisfied.”