Norwin's Phipps places 4th at PIAA Class AAA finals
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HERSHEY — Norwin sophomore 195-pounder Drew Phipps took his weight class' eventual title winner, Governor Mifflin junior Jan Johnson, to overtime in the semifinals of the PIAA Class AAA individual championships Saturday morning at Giant Center.
If not for a last-second stalling call in the third period, Phipps might have ended up at the top of the podium instead of Johnson.
Rather than go home with gold — or even silver — Phipps (26-3) left Hershey as a fourth-place finisher.
In the medal match Saturday night, he dropped a 3-2 decision to DuBois senior Tom Sleigh, the weight class' pre-tournament favorite. Before that, Phipps exited the winner's bracket with a 3-1 overtime loss to Johnson and won a WPIAL finals rematch with Montour senior Cole Macek in the consolation semifinals.
“Definitely a state title next year is my sole goal,” said Phipps, who went 1-2 at the state tournament as a freshman. “I'm not looking to just place.”
Against Johnson (44-1), Phipps appeared on his way to a berth in the PIAA finals as he led 1-0 late in the third period of their semifinal bout. But with just 4 seconds left on the clock and Phipps maintaining control of Johnson by clinging to an ankle, officials called stalling and gave Johnson a point to tie the match.
Johnson then scored a match-deciding takedown with 23 seconds left in overtime.
“I knew that he's pretty good on his feet, so in that particular match, I was looking to beat him on the mat, which I feel like I did,” Phipps said. “So that (stalling) call, I didn't agree with it. ... I really don't know what they expected from me — I wasn't just going to cut him free. I had to stay with him, and I was crawling up on his leg.”
Upset by the outcome, Phipps found some solace when he turned his attention to his first consolation match, which pitted him against Macek (35-3), who won 3-1 in overtime when the two met as unbeatens in the WPIAL title bout March 1.
In the rematch, Phipps prevailed 3-1 in overtime.
“I finally got some payback on him,” Phipps said. “I just took more shots this time, and it seemed to pay off.”
Sleigh (37-1), who placed third at 170 a season ago and entered the 2014 tournament with a 32-0 record, humbled Phipps more than any of the Norwin sophomore's previous tournament opponents.
“He was by far the best kid on top that I've wrestled,” Phipps said. “The whole year, getting out from bottom has been my best thing. But with him on top, I couldn't escape. I almost had a takedown, but somehow his hip switched, and he got the takedown.”
Rather than rest for a few weeks, Phipps, who missed part of December and January with a left ankle injury, plans to jump right into freestyle wrestling season.
“I'll wrestle pretty much the whole offseason to get ready for next year,” said Phipps, who suffered a torn ligament and bone damage. “My ankle, it's pretty much better now, anyway.”
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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