Freshman hoping to take his place in Derry wrestling history
HERSHEY — All Derry freshman 106-pounder George Phillippi wanted was to keep his school's streak intact.
He's succeeded in part of his goal.
Phillippi became the 10th consecutive Derry wrestler to earn a medal and the eighth in the last nine years to reach the finals at the PIAA Class AA championships Friday at Giant Center.
Now he aims to become the next Derry wrestler to win a state title. That list includes Mike May (1999), Troy Dolan (2005-2007), Travis Shaffer (2011) and Jimmy Gulibon (2009-12).
Phillippi (41-4) advanced to the PIAA finals, where he will meet South Fayette senior Seth Carr (39-4), whom he defeated, 1-0, in the WPIAL title bout two weeks ago.
The freshman fought off four deep shots by Boiling Springs sophomore Korbin Myers to win, 2-1, in an overtime tiebreaker in the semifinals. Phillippi, who was able to escape in the extra period, kept Myers from escaping for the win.
After the match, tears flowed from his eyes as he raced into the arms of his coach, Mike Weinell.
“This is so awesome. It's my dream,” Phillippi said. “It's what I've been training for my whole life. I can't believe this just happened.
“This means everything to me. I wanted to be in the state finals since I was 6. I dreamt about it. It's finally coming true.”
After the match, Phillippi got a call from one of his role models — Shaffer.
“I grew up watching Troy, Travis and Jimmy win titles,” Phillippi said. “I looked up to them so much. It's awesome to get where they were.”
Before coming to Hershey, Phillippi spent time training with Central Catholic coach Sunny Abe's club, Pitbulls, and he talked to former Mt. Pleasant coach Rob Waller.
The extra work paid off.
Phillippi said he doesn't know how he was able to fend off Myers' first shot.
“Great defense, great practice,” he said. “When you get into those situations, you can't panic. He was deep on the first one. He had a cradle and was so close to getting it.”
Phillippi lost his father, Steven, this summer.
With another tear running down his face, he said: “He probably watched, and he's probably so excited. He pushed me to go to practice, and he made me. I thank him for that.”
Burrell senior Dakota DesLauriers (182) moved one match closer to his first title. A finalist last season, DesLauriers earned a return trip by toppling Saegertown's Dylan Reynolds, 9-1, in the semifinals.
“It's not like the kids aren't good — I'm just showing a dominant style, forcing my will on opponents, who are top level also,” said DesLauriers, who improved to 35-0. “I'm extremely motivated.”
DesLauriers will wrestle Muncy senior Troy Hembury for the gold.
Ligonier Valley senior Josh Patrick (120) endured a rough day, as he dropped a 10-5 decision to returning champion Darian Cruz of Bethlehem Catholic in the semifinals and then lost his first consolation bout, 5-3, in the tiebreaker period of overtime to Benton's Matt Welliver.
He'll wrestle Pen Argyl's Matt Williams for fifth place.
Patrick's brother, Justin, will get another shot at Boiling Springs sophomore Korbin Myers with third place on the line. The junior 113-pounder lost, 3-1, to Myers in the quarterfinals Friday in the consolation bracket and charged his way back with three wins.
Paul Schofield is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at email@example.com.