Powerade wrestling notebook: Norwin’s Phipps chasing title at 106 pounds
By: Doug Gulasy
Saturday, December 30, 2017 | 12:13 AM
The annual Powerade Christmas Tournament holds the reputation as one of the most challenging high school wrestling competitions in the country. The first day of competition Friday at Canon-McMillan more than lived up to its billing, with close matches and upsets each providing highlights.
WPIAL wrestlers more than held their own, with 23 advancing to the semifinals, which will begin Saturday morning.
“I'm honored to be in it, but it's only the beginning,” said Norwin sophomore Kurt Phipps, the top seed at 106 pounds, after beating Latrobe's Brady Sherback in the quarterfinals.
“I've got two more. I plan on showing what I can do, just like I did tonight.”
Belle Vernon had three wrestlers advance to the semifinals. Albert Gallatin, Canon-McMillan, Hempfield, Kiski Area, Seneca Valley and Waynesburg each sent two wrestlers through to the semifinals.
Wyoming Seminary has the most semifinalists, with five.
Enjoying the atmosphere
Norwin didn't compete at the 2016 Powerade tournament, so Friday marked Phipps' first experience with the competition, which brought in 52 teams from nine different states.
“It's awesome,” Phipps said. “It's pretty packed here, so it's not fun sitting around, but once you get on the mat it feels great. This is where WPIALs was last year, so it reminds me so much of it, and it feels great to be back out here.”
The No. 1 seed at 106 pounds, Phipps won four matches to advance to the semifinals.
“It's all a number, but it's an honor they consider me to be that,” Phipps said of the top seed. “I plan on showing them I deserve to be there.”
The most decorated wrestler at Powerade, Jefferson-Morgan's Gavin Teasdale, eased his way into the semifinals to keep alive his opportunity to become the seventh competitor to win four titles at the tournament.
Teasdale won one match by fall and three by technical fall to advance to the 126-pound semifinal, where he'll meet Cole Rhone of Benton.
With two wins Saturday, Teasdale would join a list of four-time Powerade champs that includes North Allegheny's Ty Moore (1986-89), Franklin Regional's Nico Megaludis (2007-10), Derry's Jimmy Gulibon (2008-11) and Latrobe's Luke Pletcher (2012-15).
“It's a big accomplishment,” said Teasdale, a Penn State recruit who's now 133-0 in his Jefferson-Morgan career. “All my hard work paid off.”
The WPIAL's four No. 1 seeds at Powerade — Phipps, Teasdale, Seneca Valley's Louis Newell and Waynesburg's Kyle Homet — all advanced to the semifinals, along with the other 10 top-ranked wrestlers.
But underdogs had their day, too, on the first day of the tournament: five unseeded wrestlers made it through to the semifinals.
Perhaps no wrestler played David better than Seneca Valley freshman Alejandro Herrera-Rondon, who upset the No. 4 and 5 seeds at 106 pounds to advance to the semifinals, where he'll face Phipps.
“I think the atmosphere is giving me this hype and this motivation that I've never really had before,” he said. “I definitely love this tournament.”
Of his success Friday, Herrera-Rondon said: “I think it's mostly because I have the determination to do my best. And I've been eating a lot. I've not been cutting weight. I'm feeling energized.”
Still a long day
When Kiski Area competed in Powerade for the first time in 2015, Cavaliers coach Chris Heater had his wrestlers meet at the school at 4 a.m. for weigh-ins — making for an extraordinarily long day.
The Cavaliers now stay in a hotel close to Canon-McMillan, but more than 12 hours of competition still has its way of draining people.
“It feels like we wrestled for two days today,” Heater said. “It's been a long day from the time we got up ‘till now, with the level of competition that's here and the teams that are here.”
Wyoming Seminary leads the Powerade standings after Day 1 with 160 points. Lake Highland Prep, Fla. (140), Erie Prep (111), Parkersburg South, W.Va. (106) and Reynolds (94) round out the top five. Belle Vernon is sixth with 90.5 points, and Kiski Area is seventh with 87.