HERSHEY — Norwin sophomore 195-pounder Drew Phipps doubled his efforts to improve his conditioning after he returned to wrestling following an injury recovery period that kept him sidelined for most of December and January.
Phipps, who suffered a torn ligament in his left ankle, needed every bit of that extra training to win his first-round bout Thursday at the PIAA Class AAA individual championships at Giant Center.
With a reversal in one half of the tiebreaker period of overtime and a rideout in the other, Phipps (24-1) topped Liberty senior Orlando Miller, 3-1, to advance to the quarterfinals. He'll meet Boyertown senior Jordan Wertz (48-3) in the next round, which begins at 1:30 p.m. Friday.
“I felt like I was ready,” Phipps said of the PIAA grind. “A few little mistakes led to that overtime, but I felt my conditioning was good.”
A season ago, Phipps lost his first-round bout and went 1-1 in the consolation bracket. He now needs just one more win to guarantee himself a spot on the medal stand.
“My main goal is to get on the podium, but I know I can get first, so that's what I'm shooting for,” he said.
The victory helped re-establish some of the confidence that was shaken after a 3-1 overtime loss to Montour senior Cole Macek in the WPIAL individual finals last weekend.
“I keep it in the back of my mind,” Phipps said of the loss. “I used it as motivation for the whole week of practice. But now that I'm here, it's time to forget about it for a while.”
In Class AA, South Allegheny junior 220-pounder Seth Hitchens and Yough junior 220-pounder Tom Sever made first-day exits from the tournament after losing back-to-back matches.
Bill West is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @BWest_Trib.
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