Norwin’s Phipps keeps PIAA title hopes alive following comeback win
Friday, March 8, 2019 | 8:06 PM
HERSHEY — What a difference a couple years made for Norwin junior Kurtis Phipps.
Two years ago at the PIAA Class AAA wrestling championships, he would have lost if he fell behind early in a match.
Phipps was starring at a three-point deficit midway through the second period in his 120-pound quarterfinal match Friday at the Giant Center.
But instead of giving up, Phipps (36-2) kept battling and rallied in the third period, secured the winning takedown with 26 seconds left to defeat Stroudsburg senior Cameron Enriquez, 6-5, and advance to the semifinals at 9 a.m. Saturday. Phipps defeated Enriquez, 6-5, in December to win the Powerade title.
Phipps kept pushing the action against Enriquez. He got an escape before the end of the second period to cut the deficit to 5-3, and then escaped early in the third period to make it 5-4.
“He’s good,” Phipps said of Enriquez. “I kept missing things and gave him some angles, and he got a couple takedowns.
“But I got those escapes and reversal, which helped me at the end. My freshman year, I lost a 6-4 match here. This was similar and I didn’t keep my head. I felt I was tiring him out and got to my stuff and finally got the lead.”
He’ll face Council Rock South senior Shane Hanson-Ashworth (41-8) in the semifinals.
“It’s amazing to be in the semifinals,” Phipps said. “I’m back on the podium again.”
It was another great day for Franklin Regional as all three Panthers wrestlers advanced to the semifinals.
Sophomore Carter Dibert (39-2) gave up a four-point move 20 seconds into his match, but rallied to defeat Cedar Cliff sophomore Aiden Lewis, 7-6, at 106. Dibert defeated Lewis at the Powerade tournament, 13-2.
He’ll face Connellsville sophomore Mason Prinkey (35-6) in the semifinals. Prinkey stunned Easton freshman Braxton Appello with a pin in overtime.
Franklin Regional freshman Finn Solomon (39-7) continued his roll at 113 pounds, as he defeated West Chester Henderson sophomore Sam McMonagle, 5-1.
He gets a familiar foe in the semifinals, Hempfield senior Kyle Burkholder (32-7), who blanked Cumberland Valley junior Benn Monn, 4-0.
And FR senior Colton Camacho (39-3) delivered another dominating performance, roughing up Carlisle junior Rafeal Portilla, 10-1. His semifinal opponent at 126 is Canon-McMillan senior Kenny Hayman (41-11).
The Big Mac captain defeated Council Rock South senior Braden Ricchini, 5-4.
“It’s pretty neat that all the wrestlers get WPIAL kids,” Franklin Regional coach Matt Lebe said. “I feel our guys are good and work hard. They’ve put themselves in position. The message is wrestle, score points and have fun. They’re certainly having a lot of fun.”
Dibert said he got a little out of position on his first move, but he never quit working.
“I just kept calm and battled back,” Dibert said. “I trusted my training. I stuck to the level of my training and wrestled my match.”
Other Westmoreland County wrestlers to advance to the Class AAA semifinals were Kiski Area seniors Darren Miller (126) and Cam Connor (152), Latrobe junior Gabe Willochell (132) and Hempfield sophomore heavyweight Isaiah Vance.
Miller (43-2) handed Altoona sophomore Matt Sarbo his first loss for the tournament, a 10-0 whitewashing, and Connor (48-2) pinned Carlisle sophomore Colton Zimmerman.
Willochell (35-4) defeated Nazareth sophomore Drew Clearie, 5-1, by using two first-period takedowns and controlling the match with a tough top ride. He’ll face Bethlehem Catholic junior Kenny Herrmann (29-8).
“I’m happy, but I need one more win to get into the finals,” Willochell said. “That’s the goal. I just try to wrestle my style.”
Vance (34-4) jumped out to a 5-0 lead against Lower Dauphin senior Kyler Wuestner and held on for a 6-4 victory. He’ll face top seed Kawaun DeBoe (38-0) in the semifinals. DeBoe pinned Vance in the state tournament a year ago.
“I’ve already done better than what I did last year; now I just have to keep going as long as I keep my head up,” Vance said. “My plan for the next match is to wrestle smart and try to score that first takedown. I was able to get that first takedown, which was a huge help.”
Hempfield sophomore Ty Linsenbigler (138), Kiski Area juniors Jack Blumer (160) and Nick Delp (170), Belle Vernon senior Scott Joll (182) and Norwin junior Ryan Weinzen (220) all lost quarterfinal matches.
The WPIAL advanced 17 wrestlers to the semifinals, and a total of 30 have earned medals.
Paul Schofield is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Paul by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .