Norwin’s Phipps takes silver at PIAA wrestling
By: Nathan Smith
Monday, March 12, 2018 | 11:00 PM
Kurtis Phipps' journey to a state wrestling title fell one win short.
The Norwin sophomore lost in the finals of the PIAA Class AAA wrestling championships Saturday at the Giant Center in Hershey. Phipps fell to Seneca Valley's Alejandro Herrera-Rondon, 1-0, in an ultimate rideout.
“I think Kurtis did very well,” Norwin coach Brandon Miller said. “He came out in the opening rounds and dominated his way to the finals. Unfortunately, he faced a tough opponent he saw a few times before, and it didn't go his way.
“It is not how we saw the year ending. But there is nothing wrong with being a sophomore state runner-up. I know Kurtis is disappointed, and this will be more fuel for the fire for him.”
Neither wrestler was able to score a point in the overtime period, but Herrera-Rondon (46-8) scored in the ultimate tiebreaker period.
Phipps also faced Herrera-Rondon in the finals of the WPIAL tournament and scored a 1-0 win on a penalty point.
“They were basically wrestling for a coin flip,” Miller said. “We came out aggressive. But when a kid is not wrestling back towards Kurtis, it is hard to get our offense going. Seneca Valley put together a game plan, and they executed it.”
Prior to the finals, Phipps dominated the talent from across the state. He opened the tournament with a pair of falls over Emmaus' Peyton Brown and Coatsville's Brennan McBride. In the semifinals, he topped Cumberland Valley's Ben Monn, 4-1.
It was the first loss of the season for Phipps after winning his first 39 matches. Norwin has never produced a state champion wrestler.
“The first couple of days is going to sting for him,” Miller said. “But I expect him to come out and work tremendously hard on what he needs to do to get better. We will come back and do what we need to get Kurtis back to the finals.”
For Miller, it was an overall strong showing for the program this season. The Knights sent six wrestlers to the WPIAL tournament despite being a younger team with a few injuries at the end of the season.
There will be good building blocks for success returning next season as four WPIAL qualifiers return. In addition to Phipps, the team is set to return 120-pound sophomore Frankie Gill (20-14), 126-pound freshman John Altieri (22-13) and 152-pound Bryce Long (24-15).
“We had a couple kids not in the lineup at the end of the year due to injuries,” Miller said. “I expect those two kids to step up, as well. I really expect great things to happen. We will have some kids coming up from the junior high team to mesh with our returning guys.”
But the team will say good-bye to three senior wrestlers this season — Jason Miller (29-10), AJ Detore (21-13) and Jack Driscoll (5-11). While they were fierce competitors, Miller praised them for the leadership qualities they showed.
“Those guys came out and showed the younger kids what it is to be leaders,” Miller said. “You never want to see seniors graduate. But I am excited to see them develop as young men and what their futures hold.”
Nathan Smith is a freelance writer.