Norwin's Phipps rebounds from controversial loss at PIAA tournament
HERSHEY — It seems every year a controversial call costs a wrestler a win at the PIAA Class AAA wrestling championships. Just ask Kurtis Phipps, the latest victim.
Norwin coach Brandon Miller and Phipps felt the talented freshman should have been awarded more points in his 6-4 quarterfinal-round loss to Nazareth freshman Andrew Cerniglia at 106 pounds Friday at Giant Center.
"I felt he had a reversal at the end of the first period and two nearfall points in the second period," Miller said. "The official said he didn't have a full two-count, and I thought he did. He told me he had a one-and-one half and one-and-three quarters swipes, but not two. I disagree."
After the loss Phipps ran off arena floor to regroup. And regroup he did, coming back in the consolation round for a 3-1 victory over Pottsville sophomore Nick Onea to stay in contention for a medal.
"I felt I could have had more points, but it was my mistake to let it up to the ref," Phipps said. "I made some major mistakes to give him points.
"I still have three years left to get the gold. Now I just want to climb up the podium."
Phipps said he will learn from his mistakes, and bouncing back to win in the consolation round will boost his confidence.
He wasn't the only WPIAL wrestler to lose under questionable circumstances. Belle Vernon junior Zach Hartman dropped a 4-3 decision to Pennridge junior Josh Stillings at 160 when he gave up a late reversal after the official called a stalemate with 14 seconds left.
The officials had no bearing in stopping the pursuit for state titles by Franklin Regional senior Spencer Lee, Hempfield senior Jarod Verkleeren and Penn-Trafford senior Cam Coy.
Lee (34-0) rolled to a 15-0 technical fall win over Harry S. Truman sophomore Gunnar Fuss. Lee, who is going after his fourth PIAA title, accumulated 10 nearfall points in the 126-pound match. He'll face Bethlehem Catholic sophomore Ryan Anderson (29-3) in the semifinals, which start at 9 a.m. Saturday.
The finals are slated for 7 p.m.
Kiski Area junior Noah Levett (40-7) will face returning runner-up Evan DeSanto of Exeter Township in the other semifinal. Lee pinned Levett last week and earned a technical fall over DeSanto in the 2016 final.
Verkleeren (28-1) beat Bald Eagle freshman Gage McClenahan, 18-5, in his 145-pound match.
Verkleeren did what he planned. He got physical with the freshman.
He'll face Nazareth senior Brock Wilson (39-6) in the semifinals.
"He broke that kid," Hempfield coach Vince DeAugustine said. "He wrestled well. He seems to be wrestling with a chip on his shoulder after not being able to wrestle last year."
Verkleeren, who attended Belle Vernon, was not permitted to compete or wrestle-off at a higher weight after weighing in too heavy at the 2016 PIAA team championships.
Coy (36-0) quickly pounced on General McLane senior Owen Watkins, locked in a cradle and pinned him in 1:11.
Coy, who is pursuing his third PIAA title, faces North Penn senior Colin Shannon (39-4) in the 152-pound semifinals.
Belle Vernon (Brock Godzin at 152 and Billy Korber at 220) and Kiski Area (Levett and Isaac Reid at 285) each had two wrestlers advance to the semifinals.
The WPIAL had 17 wrestlers advance to the semifinals, including Albert Gallatin junior Tim Wallace at 170 and Laurel Highlands junior Ian Edenfield at 220. Edenfield is the first LH wrestler to earn a state medal.
There also are 17 wrestlers from the WPIAL who will earn medals in the consolation round, including Hempfield senior Vincent Distefanis (120) and junior Luke Kemerer (138), Greensburg Salem senior Alex Shaw (170) and Penn-Trafford senior Matt McGillick (182).
Distefanis, Shaw, McGillick and Kiski Area's Joey Blumer fell in the quarterfinals.
All but Blumer and Hartman won in the blood round.
Paul Schofield is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @Schofield_Trib.