Derry freshman captures WPIAL wrestling championship
In the Derry wrestling practice room hang the singlets of the program's four PIAA champions.
Like many young Trojans, George Phillippi has glanced up at those clothing items in admiration.
His time to earn a spot on that wall remains a couple of weeks away. But the freshman 113-pounder added a bit more to his lore Saturday night at Chartiers Valley High School.
Phillippi became a WPIAL Class AA individual champion in his tournament debut as he edged South Fayette senior Seth Carr, 1-0, in the finals. His victory also earned him a favorite slot in the PIAA Southwest Regional tournament, which begins Friday at the Cambria County War Memorial in Johnstown.
“I was nervous because I saw him wrestle all day,” said Phillippi, who scored the deciding point with 45 seconds left in the third period. “But I haven't been held down all year. Well, one time. … But I feel like bottom is my position.”
Phillippi, the No. 1 seed, pinned his way into the championship bout. But Carr, a returning WPIAL and regional place-winner, pushed Phillippi like few previous opponents.
The freshman actually expected Carr to receive the tournament's top seed.
“He's ranked high in the state, and he's a senior,” Phillippi said. “He's so explosive, so I thought he might score, and then I'd have to come back.”
Derry coach Mike Weinell applauded the freshman for his composure.
“We weren't sure what to expect because this is his first big-pressure tournament,” Weinell said. “That's probably the best I've seen him manage a match.”
Weinell's biggest critique of his burgeoning star: Phillippi needed to create more offense while on top, the position the coach considers the freshman's best.
“We'd like to see him get his legs in more, turn him and try to score some points,” Weinell said. “But he rode him out and got out, so he did the job.”
With an improvement here and there, Phillippi soon might have more in common with recent graduates and PIAA champions Travis Shaffer and Jimmy Gulibon.
“I want to end up like Jimmy and Trav,” Phillippi said. “I look up to them.”
Southmoreland freshman heavyweight Jacob Beistel came close to a golden debut, but a pinfall loss to Burrell's Al Beattie in the finals sent him home with silver.
Just before the match, Beistel noted the rarity of his situation, Southmoreland coach Ryan Shaw said.
“I think the moment struck him,” Shaw said. “I'm glad, because it's two weeks before the big one (the PIAA tournament), and he knows what this stage is like now.”
Another WPIAL tournament ended in heartbreak for Southmoreland sophomore 106-pounder Austin Griffiths. Able to beat Burgettstown's Austin McDermitt multiple times during the regular season, Griffiths lost in the finals, 9-1.
“He has had a target on his back all year, and it's tough to stay on top for every match,” Shaw said. “You're going to have a bad one now and then. The thing now is mentally, we have to get him back.”
Seven advanced to the regional tournament for Mt. Pleasant: Mike Novak (120), Austin Mears (145), Ethan Charlesworth (152), Austin Piper (170), Justin Overly (182), Eli Holt (182) and Josh Lind (220). Only South Fayette had more top-seven place-winners, with eight.
Others regional qualifiers included Yough's Cody Charles (113), Teddy Charletta (126), Gary Fallecker (170), Lucas Richardson (182) and Tom Sever (220), as well as Southmoreland wrestlers Evan Myers (120) and Dakota Datz (195).