Luke Pletcher edges Micky Phillippi before losing in semifinals
It was a match neither Luke Pletcher nor Micky Phillippi really wanted to wrestle, but they had to.
The close friends from Westmoreland County battled in the 2019 NCAA Division I Wrestling Championship quarterfinals Friday afternoon at PPG Paints Arena for the right to become an All-American and a spot in the semifinals in the second session of the day.
Pletcher, an Ohio State junior and Latrobe graduate, used a late first-period takedown to defeat Phillippi, a redshirt freshman at Pitt and Derry graduate, 3-1, to advance to the 133-pound semifinals.
Pletcher faced No. 1 seed Daton Fix of Oklahoma State and fell 4-2. Fix got a takedown in the first period and held off a late charge from Pletcher.
Pletcher and Phillippi embraced after their hard-fought quarterfinal bout. Phillippi had won the previous two meetings, including a 2-1 victory in the semifinals of the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational on Dec. 1.
But this time is was Pletcher who dictated the match.
Pletcher used an ankle pick, which surprised Phillippi, and quickly lifted it. The two went to the edge of the mat, where Phillippi almost squirmed loose, but when Pletcher grabbed both legs, he was awarded the takedown.
“I would much rather wrestle one of the other seven guys,” Pletcher said. “But we’re here and since we both want to win national titles, he was in my way and I was in his way. Eventually we would have had to meet.”
Pletcher and Phillippi have met on the mat and in the practice countless number of times since before eighth grade. They know each other’s moves and tendencies, and it’s hard to score because they are so technically sound.
Phillippi is more of a defensive wrestler who relies on his riding ability and setting the tone of the match. So it was important for Pletcher to set the tone.
“Almost any time you wrestle someone who is good on top and a scrambler, they want to keep it close, ride you on top and then get away,” Pletcher said. “Micky’s defense is really freaking good. It’s hard to score on him.
“Even when I tripped him straight back, he was rolling and I didn’t think they’d give two until I caught the other leg. That’s his style, and he’s really good at it.”
Phillippi was disappointed in the loss, but now he’s rooting for Pletcher the rest of the way.
Phillippi dropped a 4-3 blood-round decision to Penn State freshman Roman Bravo-Young.
He lost a gut-wrenching decision after giving up two second-period takedowns.
“I wanted to get as high as I could on the podium,” Phillippi said. “I just didn’t get to my offense. I will learn from this, and I’ll come back stronger next year.”
Paul Schofield is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Paul by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .