JOHNSTOWN — The disappointment from a semifinal-round loss and third-place finish at last year’s tournament melted away for Derry’s Micky Phillippi following Saturday’s PIAA Southwest Class AA Regional wrestling championships.
The top-seeded Phillippi (120 pounds), a PIAA champ at 113 last season, coasted past Forest Hills’ Triston Law, 8-2, to capture his first regional title at the Cambria County War Memorial Arena.
Blairsville’s Drew Doak (152) and Scott Thompson (182) and United’s Tyler Oliver (195) each placed second.
Derry’s Stone Kepple (126) placed fourth in his first career regional appearance and will join Phillippi, Doak, Thompson and Oliver at the PIAA championships, which begin Thursday at Hershey’s Giant Center.
Marion Center’s Brandon Heberling (138) and Isaac Stewart (145) and United’s Seth McLendon each placed sixth.
Phillippi (38-4), the seventh-ranked 120-pounder in the country, according to Intermatwrestle.com, surrendered his fourth takedown of the season early in the first period against Law to fall behind 2-0.
Phillippi, however, quickly escaped, regained his footing and scored a takedown of his own with two seconds to go in the period to take a 3-2 lead. In the second period, Phillippi notched an escape and a late takedown to stretch his lead to 6-2. Phillippi then essentially took an insurmountable lead by taking Law down for a third time 48 seconds into the third period.
“I wasn’t happy at all last year,” said Phillippi, a two-time section and WPIAL champ who got pinned in the semifinals at regionals last year by former Ligonier Valley wrestler Justin Patrick. “This is awesome (and) this is what I wanted. I’m glad because now I have something to add that I can say I did in my life.”
A three-time runner-up in the event, Doak (34-4), the third-ranked 152-pounder in Class AA and the No. 2 seed, dropped a controversial 3-2 decision to Burrell’s Steve Edwards.
Edwards, the top-ranked 152-pounder in the state, controlled a feisty Doak for a 30-second ultimate rideout to secure the win.
“It’s a little disappointing that I’ve never came out of the War Memorial with a gold medal but you can go to the big dance and still come out with a gold there,” Doak said. “No one remembers what happens at regionals, and what not.
“It’s all comes down to what happens at the Giant Center on Saturday afternoon.”
Thompson (36-2) scored his sixth straight postseason pin in the semifinals before dropping a 7-3 decision to Valley’s Terrell Fields. Thompson, who placed third in the tournament his junior year, lost to Fields for just the second time in seven high school bouts.
“The big goal was to get to states for the third time, and I did that, so that’s a big plus,” Thompson said. “But because of all that, the pressure just wasn’t there. It would have been nice to get a win and get the top seed at states, but if you want to win the show you’ve got to beat everyone, so I’m fine with it.”
Oliver (31-4) thumped Burrell’s Robert Scherer, 17-1, in the semifinals.
In the finals, however, Oliver surrendered a takedown at the buzzer in the second period against Hydman’s James Bennett and eventually lost, 3-2.
Oliver dropped three straight matches of Day 2 of last year’s tournament to place sixth.
“It took a lot of hard work,” Oliver, a District 6 champ, said. “(Former United standout) Jesse Garshnick has helped me a lot. I’ve been working with him this whole time and throughout the summer, and he’s just helped me tremendously.”
Heberling (33-6), a senior who got pinned in the semifinals by Kittanning’s Jason Nolf, dropped a controversial 6-4 decision in overtime to Jeannette’s Gio Vonne Sanders in the fifth-place consolation bout.
Kepple (34-12) beat three-time District 6 runner-up Joe Davis, of Cambria Heights, 4-0, in the consolation semifinals to punch his first ticket to the state tournament. Kepple, a third-place WPIAL finisher, fell 10-0 to Central Cambria’s Tom Opdenhoff in the consolation finals.
Stewart (29-7), a junior, fell to Beth-Center’s Tony Welsh, 7-2, in the fifth-place consolation match.
“Things can change at any point in time here, but the kids both did very well,” said Marion Center coach Chris Stewart. “They both had great seasons. It obviously stinks that they’re not going to states, especially for Brandon, because he’s a senior. Isaac has one more shot, but it’s just bad for Brandon.”
McLendon (33-7) dropped a 2-1 decision in overtime to Yough’s Tom Sever in the fifth-place consolation bout.
West Shamokin’s Brenden Glover (33-6) got eliminated when he lost 5-1 to West Greene’s Dalton Wildman in the consolation quarterfinals.