Norwin’s Phipps claims 4th WPIAL wrestling title; North Hills’ Hillegas denied

Saturday, February 29, 2020 | 9:05 PM

Kurtis Phipps showed the WPIAL wrestling committee what he thought of their seeding.

The Norwin senior proved this weekend at the WPIAL championships/PIAA Southwest Regional at Canon-McMillan that he is the best in Class AAA at 126 pounds.

Phipps, seeded third after losing to Franklin Regional sophomore Finn Solomon in the Section 1 finals last week, was on a revenge tour.

Phipps pinned Solomon in the semifinals and then defeated Waynesburg super freshman Rocco Welsh in the finals, 3-1, to claim his fourth WPIAL title.

He becomes the 30th wrestler to join an elite group that includes Franklin Regional’s Spencer Lee, Frazier’s Thayne Lawrence, Kittanning’s Jason Nolf, Derry’s Micky Phillippi and Shaler’s Troy Letters.

North Hills senior Sam Hillegas also was trying to join Phipps as a four-time champion, but he was denied, losing to Waynesburg junior Wyatt Henson, 4-3, at 138.

Phipps (35-1) set an aggressive tone against Solomon, getting a quick takedown and then pinning him with a move called the “assassin.”

Against Welsh, Phipps built a 3-0 lead in the second period with an escape and a takedown. Welsh’s point came in the third period when Phipps was penalized for stalling twice.

It got interesting in the final seconds when Welsh pushed back and almost got Phipps in a defensive pin situation, but time ran out.

“I saw a lot of people upset with my seeding, but I figured I had two weeks left to show I’m the best,” Phipps said. “We focused a lot this week on how to wrestle Finn. He’s scrappy and hard to score on, so I tried to push the pace and get on him, and it worked out.”

Norwin coach Vince DeAugustine said so much time was devoted to beating Solomon that they need to work on how to attack Welsh better.

“Rocco is really good,” Phipps said. “I hope we keep it going and meet him next week.

“It’s awesome to be a four-time champion. I would have never expected it. Every year since my freshman year, it just kept on building.”

Phipps is a two-time PIAA runner-up, losing to Seneca Valley junior Alejandro Herrera-Rondon, 1-0, in 2018, and Nazareth’s Sean Pierson, 9-5, last year.

Phipps, who received the Outstanding Wrestler award, is looking to become Norwin’s first state champion in wrestling.

“I’m excited to get another week of training, and I’m excited to return to Hershey,” Phipps said. “I’m going to put it all out there. I’m not promising anything, but I know I’m going to wrestle six minutes every single time.”

Henson used two takedowns, the second with a minute left, to defeat Hillegas.

He was one of three Waynesburg champions. The others were freshman Mac Church (106) and junior Luca Augustine (160).

Winning their second titles were Seneca Valley’s Dylan Chappell (120), a sophomore, and Herrera-Rondon (132), Canon-McMillan senior Gerrit Nijenhuis (182) and Mt. Lebanon senior Luke Stout (195).

Hempfield had two champions — juniors Ty Linsenbigler (145) and heavyweight Isaac Vance.

Linsenbigler edged Franklin Regional senior Mason Spears, 2-0, and Vance blanked Greensburg Salem sophomore Bill McChesney, 1-0.

“It’s been a long time coming,” Linsenbigler said. “It’s hard to score against Mason because we know each other well. I used a shrug, a move I usually don’t use, to get the takedown.”

Vance said he was pleased to get the win and said it’s fun to compete against McChesney.

“I have things to work this week before states,” Vance said. “I’m excited to win a title.”

Franklin Regional junior Carter Dibert, the returning 106-pound state champion, won his first WPIAL title by defeating West Allegheny freshman Nico Taddy, 7-2.

“It feels really good,” Dibert said. “Now I have to do the same thing next week. The WPIAL is like a stepping stone. It’s great I got the win this week, now I have to do it again next week.”

Belle Vernon sophomore Cole Weightman capped a good tournament when he handed Greensburg Salem senior John Meyers his first loss of the season, 10-2, in the 220-pound final.

Both Weightman and Meyers are formerly from Monessen.

Latrobe, Kiski Area and Greensburg are each had two finalists who were beaten.

Vincent Kilkeary (106) and Gabe Willochell (132) were the Wildcats’ runners-up. Kilkeary was pinned by Church and Willochell fell to Herrera-Rondon, 4-2.

Kilkeary was leading 1-0 heading into the third period with Church in the bottom position. Kilkeary, who stunned No. 1 seed Ty Watters of West Allegheny, 12-6, in the semifinals, got too high and Church reversed him and pinned him.

“I tried to ride him and wear him down,” Kilkeary said. “But he arched back, and I thought I could chin him back, and he caught me. I should have let him go. I’ll learn from that.”

Kiski Area’s Sammy Starr (152) and Blumer (160) dropped heartbreakers. Starr gave up a reversal with a second left and fell to Pine-Richland junior Cole Spencer, 2-1, at 152. Blumer fell to Augustine, 3-2, in ultimate tiebreaker.

The Stout brothers — Mac and Luke — each won titles. Mac Stout, a sophomore 170-pounder, edged Hampton senior Tyler Kocak, 3-1, in overtime, and Luke Stout downed Bethel Park senior Luke Montgomery, 12-7, at 195.

Nijenhuis defeated Peters Township junior Donovan McMillon, 8-2, in the 182-pound final.

Paul Schofield is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Paul by email at or via Twitter .

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