HIGH SCHOOL WRESTLING: Phillippi, Young earn medals at Flo Nationals tourney
April 06, 2014 1:30 AM
by DUSTIN FILLOY

They both strive for perfection each time they grace the mat, but Derry’s Micky Phillippi and Punxsutawney’s Kaleb Young didn’t hang their heads about merely nabbing medals at the Flo Nationals wrestling tournament Saturday.

Although Phillippi and Young each fell to state champs in the quarterfinals, they both bounced back to place fifth and seventh, respectively, wrapping up the fifth installment of the grueling two-day college-rules tournament at the Kovalchick Convention and Athletic Complex.

The top eight finishers garnered Flo Nationals All-America status.

In their first appearances in the tournament last year, Phillippi (120 pounds) and Young (138) did not place.

Phillippi, who bested three state champs and a state runner-up in the tournament, won the PIAA Class AA title at 113 last year before placing at 120 this year.

Young qualified for his second straight PIAA Class AAA tournament this year and took fifth.

Also, three-time NCAA Division I wrestling champ and Penn State senior Ed Ruth defeated three-time University of Pittsburgh All-American, Matt Wilps, 10-2, in a professional match which took place during the championship rounds.

After dropping a controversial 3-2 decision to eventual champ and second-seeded Nick Piccinnini (New York) in the quarterfinals, Phillippi notched back-to-back wins over nationally ranked opponents in the consolation bracket.

Phillippi first blanked Illinois state champ Kyle Akins, 5-0, in a seventh-round consolation bout. He then nipped PIAA runner-up Todd Lane, 2-1, in the consolation quarterfinals.

Phillippi’s momentum was briefly halted in the consolation semifinals when he dropped a 9-4 decision to Indiana state champ Chad Red.

But the Derry sophomore regained his bearings and used a reversal in sudden victory to outlast New Jersey state champ Luis Gonzalez, 7-5, in a dramatic fifth-place consolation bout.

“I feel like I have the most heart, or at least I try to tell myself that,” Phillippi said. “Honestly, I want it so much it’s unbelievable. I can’t believe I let him (Gonzalez) finish any of those shots because I know my defense is solid and I just need to stick to my defense and I just wasn’t there.

“I was a little bit sloppy in some of those matches and you can’t be that way at a tournament like this where everyone is tough. There are no slouches here.”

Phillippi lost to Piccinnini, a three-time New York state champ, for the second straight year in the quarterfinals. In the finals, Piccinnini thumped the country’s top-ranked 120-pounder Luke Pletcher, of Latrobe, 10-2.

“The best thing about this tournament is the competition. That’s why I come … to get better. You’ve got to have matches like that to get better,” Phillippi said.

Young dropped a 5-1 decision to friend, PIAA champ and eventual tournament champ Brock Zacherl, of Brookville, in the quarterfinals.

Minutes later, Young defeated another fellow District 9 standout, Mifflin County’s Hayden Hidlay, 5-2, in a seventh-round consolation bout.

Young then lost to Michigan state champ Myles Amine, 5-3, in the consolation quarterfinals. The Punxsutawney sophomore responded, though, and used a reversal and two takedowns to topple Louie DePrez (New York), 7-2, in the seventh-place consolation match.

Young, who lost two straight bouts on Day 2 of last year’s tournament and left without a medal, expressed satisfaction with his improvement.

“It feels pretty good,” said Young, the younger brother of Mercyhurst wrestler Kody Young. “It feels better knowing that I’m constantly improving and making gains. I credit it to long hours spent with the Strittmatter’s (Jody and John). They push us to our potential and try to get us to be the best we can be.”

Derry’s Cole Wano (113) and Stone Kepple (126), Blairsville’s Drew Doak (160), Marion Center’s Isaac Stewart (145), Ligonier Valley’s Carlos Chavez and The Kiski School’s Justin Patrick (120) were each eliminated on Day 1 of the tournament.

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