HIGH SCHOOL WRESTLING: Area wrestlers win in national tourney
Derry’s Micky Phillippi and Punxsutawney’s Kaleb Young scored dramatic wins to advance to the quarterfinals of the fifth annual Flo Nationals wrestling tournament Friday at the Kovalchick Convention and Athletic Complex.
For the remaining area stalwarts competing in the colossal college-rules tournament, Day 1 unfortunately proved the end of the road.
[PHOTO: Wrestlers squared off on 12 mats at the fifth annual Flo Nationals tournament at the Kovalchick Convention and Athletic Complex on Friday. (Jamie Empfield/Gazette)]
The following were each knocked off on Day 1 of the rigorous two-day event: Blairsville’s Drew Doak, Derry’s Cole Wano and Stone Kepple, the Kiski School’s Justin Patrick, Ligonier Valley’s Carlos Chavez and Marion Center’s Isaac Stewart.
Phillippi (120 pounds) and Young (138), both sophomores, each advanced to the quarterfinal round of the tournament for the second straight year. Phillippi, a PIAA Class AA champ last season at 113 and a third-place finisher this year at 120, placed sixth at 113 at last season’s tournament. A fifth-place finisher in the Class AAA state tournament this year, Young didn’t place at last year’s tournament after dropping his first two bouts on Day 2.
The championship rounds begin simultaneously today at 5 p.m. The middle school and elementary school tournaments begin at 10 a.m. Sunday.
After blanking his first two opponents by a combined score of 19-0, Phillippi allowed a pair of takedowns in the opening period against his Round of 16 foe, Brandon James, a 132-pound Indiana state champ.
The eighth-seeded Phillippi kept his cool and escaped following each of James’ first-period takedowns to make it 4-2.
Phillippi chose the bottom position and escaped 19 seconds into the second period to cut James’ lead to 4-3 and steal the momentum for good.
Relentlessly pushing the pace, Phillippi picked James’ ankle and secured a takedown along the boundary to take a 5-4 lead just 11 seconds later.
Phillippi repeatedly flattened James and controlled the bulky Indianapolis native for the remainder of the second period to pick up an additional riding-time point.
James chose the neutral position in the third period, and despite penetrating deep on Phillippi’s legs on two occasions, failed to score a third-period takedown and fell, 6-4.
“It feels good,” Phillippi said. “I never gave up. I knew I could take him down, and I knew I could beat him. He really didn’t have much. He had that one sweep and that was it.”
For the second straight year, Phillippi will face Nick Piccininni of Ward-Melville (N.Y.) in the quarterfinals. The second-seeded Piccininni, a junior who became a three-time New York state champ in March, outlasted Phillippi, 5-3, in last year’s quarterfinals.
“That was my goal for today,” Phillippi said. “I just wanted to get through my first three matches so I could move on to him. My ultimate goal is to win the whole thing, but it’s definitely awesome that I’m going to get my rematch.”
Young notched convincing decisions in his first two bouts before nipping McCoy Kent of Modesto (Calif.), 4-2, in a sudden-victory period in the Round of 16.
Young will take on Brookville’s Brock Zacherl in the quarterfinals. Zacherl won the PIAA Class AA title at 138 last month.
“It’s kind of ironic that I have Brock next, especially since he lives like 10 miles down the road,” Young said. “I’ve gone to his birthday parties and stuff. We’re pretty good friends. That just shows how good the wrestling is around here, especially in western Pennsylvania.”
Patrick (120) dropped a 6-0 decision to Council Rock’s Zack Trampe in the Round of 32.
Then, following back-to-back wins in the consolation bracket, Patrick fell to Israel Saavedra of Modesto, 6-2, and was eliminated.
Saavedra, a sophomore and two-time California state champ, placed third at 113 at last year’s tournament.
“I was pretty shocked to see him there,” Patrick said. “He’s ranked in the top 10 in the nation and he beat me last year. I didn’t think he’d get upset, but he did. I mean, you’ve got to beat everyone here, but it was disappointing to see him in that round.”
Patrick, a two-time state medalist at Ligonier Valley as a sophomore and junior and an eighth-place finisher at last year’s tournament, transferred to Kiski this year.
Penn-Trafford’s Devin Austin blanked Doak, 9-0, in the opening round of the 160-pound weight division. Doak trailed 3-0 before attempting a potential five-point maneuver that backfired late in the match.
Doak, the second three-time state medalist in Blairsville history, topped Lowell’s Kanon Dean, 6-4, in a second-round consolation bout. He was then eliminated after getting pinned by Jesse Porter of Shenendehowa (N.Y.) in a third-round consolation match.
Sophomores Wano (113) and Kepple (126), senior Chavez (106) and junior Stewart (145) each went 0-2 on the day.