Freshmen Worthing, Phipps pull off impressive wins
It's not uncommon for a freshman wrestler to perform and even win titles in the lightweights at the WPIAL/PIAA Class AAA Southwest Regional tournament.
But for the kids in the upper weight classes, it's not that easy.
Kiski Area's Tyler Worthing (170 pounds) and Norwin's Drew Phipps (182) aren't wrestling their age.
“They look like seniors,” Norwin coach Todd Schuchert said. “Drew's maturity is pretty impressive. They both look polished.”
Phipps (34-5) rolled into the semifinals with a 5-1 victory against Canon-McMillan senior Steve LaFrance, the only Big Mac to fall in the quarterfinals Friday at Norwin. Phipps, seeded third, will face No. 2 Alex DeCiantis of North Allegheny in the semifinals that begin at noon.
“The season has gone alright so far,” Phipps said. “The goal is to qualify for states. I have a couple tough matches on Saturday.
“The only matches I've lost this season were to highly ranked wrestlers. I see myself at the same level as all these kids. I have the same chance of advancing like all of them.”
Phipps and Worthing, who are close friends, were two-time Junior Olympic champions. So wrestling top competition is nothing new for them.
Worthing (31-9) moved on with a 5-2 victory against Butler junior Ryan Hannon. He'll face two-time WPIAL and PIAA champion Cody Wiercioch of Canon-McMillan in the semifinals.
“It's a tough thing to do wrestling at the higher weights,” Worthing said. “But when you have a wrestling partner like Matt McCutcheon, best in the country, it doesn't get any better than that. I'm pretty excited. I have a great opportunity on Saturday.”
Worthing said he's learned a lot from McCutcheon, so he was prepared to face bigger and older guys.
McCutcheon, a returning WPIAL and PIAA champion, was in the same boat as Phipps and Worthing when he was a freshman. He qualified for the states by finishing third.
“The toughest part is being able to hand fight with the bigger guys and staying in good shape while you're hand fighting them,” McCutcheon said. “You have to get used to wrestling at this level.”
Kiski Area coach Chuck Tursky said Worthing is wrestling tough.
“We've asked him to go up to 195, 182 and now he's at 170,” Tursky said. “He's really picked it up a notch against the older guys.”
There will be two freshmen in the 106-pound semifinals. No. 1 Luke Pletcher of Latrobe and No. 2 Gage Curry of North Hills.
Pletcher (35-2), seeded No. 1 and ranked No. 1 in the state, while face No. 4 Tyler Kenney (25-8) of Connellsville, while No. 2 Curry (33-2) tangles with Canon-McMillan junior Brendan Price (36-6), who is seeded third.
The biggest upset of the night came when Hempfield senior Dom Nania pinned second seed Kellan Stout of Mt. Lebanon at 170. Nania (29-8) caught Stout with what he called his “cement move.”
“He kind of walked into it,” Nania said. “I'm known for my big moves, and that was the game plan when the brackets came out. It was how I wanted the match to go.”
Nania caught Stout in a front headlock and then elevated over on his back.
“It's a big chance move,” Nania said. “I'm looking forward to my next match.”
Nania will face Chartiers Valley junior Tyler Wilps in the semifinals.
A couple other highly seeded wrestlers avoided upsets.
• No. 3 Central Catholic senior Justin Alexander needed overtime to edge Latrobe's Jake Shaffer, 3-1, at 138.
• No. 1 Greensburg Salem senior Tyler Reinhart used an escape in overtime to beat Fox Chapel sophomore Tyler Heasley, 5-4, at 152.
• No. 1 Kiski Area junior Shane Kuhn was called for an illegal slam with five seconds left in his match, a 3-2 win at 285, and was fortunate that Gateway senior Jaymar Parrish was told to finish the match by his coach, assistant Bob Ladick.
Canon-McMillan advanced nine wrestlers to the semifinals, North Allegheny has five and Kisk Area, Central Catholic, North Hills and Franklin Regional four each.