Westmoreland high school wrestling notebook: Norwin’s Phipps ready for final run

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Tuesday, March 3, 2020 | 8:58 PM


Kurtis Phipps has checked off everything on his bucket list for wrestling except for one thing: being a Pennsylvania state champion.

The Norwin senior gets one more chance to achieve that this weekend at the PIAA wrestling championships at Giant Center in Hershey.

Phipps (36-1, 148-10 in his career) captured his fourth WPIAL title Saturday, becoming the 30th wrestler in WPIAL history to do so.

He did it by avenging his only loss of the season, pinning Franklin Regional sophomore Finn Solomon. He then defeated Waynesburg freshman Rocco Welsh in the 126-pound final. He was named the tournament’s Outstanding Wrestler.

The two-time PIAA runner-up received the top seed in Class AAA for this week’s tournament, and Phipps is ready to get the job done.

“I’m excited to get another week of training,” Phipps said about preparing for the state tournament. “I’m excited to get back to Hershey. I’m going to let it all out there. I can’t promise anything, but I know I’m going to wrestle six minutes every single time and try to win.”

Phipps is a three-time PIAA placewinner: seventh at 106 in 2017, second at 106 in ’18 and second at 120 in ’19.

He fell to Seneca Valley freshman Alejandro Herrera-Rondon, 1-0, in ultimate tiebreaker in 2018. After injuring his foot in last season’s semifinals, Phipps lost a 9-5 decision to Nazareth senior Sean Pierson.

Phipps said the losses in the finals hurt.

“It was very hard every year,” Phipps said. “Last year, I feel I didn’t get a fair shot at it because of the injury.

“It’s fire, and I’ve been working all year. I’m excited, and I’m going to put it all out there this time.”

Phipps opens the tournament Thursday against the winner of the pigtail-round match between Bethlehem Catholic freshman Andrew Harmon (20-16) and New Oxford senior Lance Beckner (26-16).

Other top wrestlers in the weight class include: Council Rock South senior Kyle Waterman (35-7), Northampton freshman Dagen Condomitti (31-8), Bellefonte sophomore Jude Swisher (36-3), Central Dauphin junior Josh Miller (39-5), Council Rock North senior Luke Luceme (27-3) and Welsh (37-7).

Looking to repeat

Frazier senior Thayne Lawrence, North Hills senior Sam Hillegas and Seneca Valley junior Herrera-Rondon are looking to become three-time PIAA champions.

Lawrence finished third in 2017 (138 pounds) and first ’18 (152) and ’19 (160).

Hillegas was the 113 champion in ’17 and was first at 126 in ’18. He placed third at 132 in ’19.

Herrera-Rondon was the 106 champion in ’18 and the 113 winner in ’19.

Looking for their second titles are Franklin Regional junior Carter Dibert (106 pounds, 2019) and Canon-McMillan senior Gerrit Nijenhuis (170, 2019).

Injury costly

Latrobe freshman Nathan Roth was 40 seconds away from earning a trip to the state tournament, but a separated shoulder cost him.

Roth was leading Connellsville freshman Jace Ross, 10-4, but ran out of injury time after hurting the shoulder during the match.

He was forced to take his third injury time, which resulted in the default.

Junior high state champs

Pine-Richland’s Vaughn Spencer, brother of Cole, and Frazier’s Rune Lawrence, brother of Thayne, were the only WPIAL wrestlers to win junior high state titles.

Spencer won the 132-pound class, and Lawrence, a two-time WPIAL champion, won at 157.

Lawrence finished an incredible season, allowing only one takedown, which came in the semifinals.

Placing second were: Latrobe’s Luke Willochell (82), Canon-McMillan’s Andrew Binni (92), Thomas Jefferson’s Maddox Shaw (97), Trinity’s Bode Morgan (132) and Penn-Trafford’s Joe Enick (252).

There were 36 wrestlers from the WPIAL who finished in the top eight.

Placing third were Canon-McMillan’s Tanner Mizenko (77), Burrell’s Cooper Hornack (102), Trinity’s Blake Reihner (112) and Burgettstown’s Joe Baronick (272).

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

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