WPIAL Class AAA wrestling seeding creates controversy

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Tuesday, February 25, 2020 | 8:23 PM


Twitter was abuzz Monday when the WPIAL wrestling committee released the seedings for the Class AAA individual tournament, which begins Friday at Canon-McMillan.

Drawing the most chatter was the WPIAL’s decision to seed three-time WPIAL Class AAA champion, Norwin senior Kurtis Phipps, third behind Waynesburg freshman Rocco Welsh and Franklin Regional sophomore Finn Solomon at 126 pounds.

Phipps dropped a controversial 2-0 sudden victory decision to Solomon in the Section 1 finals. It was the only loss of the season for Phipps (32-1).

According to WPIAL wrestling committee chairman Frank Vulcano Jr., the wrestling committee discussed the 126-pound seeding for more than an hour.

He said a lot of things were discussed, including going against protocol and seeding a section runner-up higher than a section champion. The committee actually took a secret ballot vote, and the decision was to slot Phipps third.

“There was a good discussion,” Vulcano said. “Some committee members wanted to seed Phipps No. 1, but others didn’t want to change the current process.

“It was a good debate. It’s been a while since we’ve had a dicussion like that. There is always a discussion about a weight class.”

Phipps had beaten both Welsh and Solomon this season. He defeated Welsh, 3-0, in the Powerade semifinals, and he recorded a defensive pin against Solomon (27-5) in the Westmoreland County Coaches’ Association finals.

Welsh (34-6) defeated Solomon, 5-1, in the quarterfinals at Powerade.

“I was surprised,” Norwin coach Vince DeAugustine said. “If you look at the total body of work, Kurtis is the only one to beat both of them. Hopefully this lights a fire in Kurtis.”

Phipps is a two-time PIAA runner-up as well as a three-time WPIAL champion. He won the Powerade title three times.

“I’m not as upset as other people,” Phipps said. “Wrestling Finn is tough because we train together at the same club.

“I just have to do a better job the next time we meet. Finn is very good at what he does.”

Phipps is more of an offensive wrestler, while Solomon is good at denying points. Solomon is a returning PIAA runner-up.

When Phipps pinned Solomon at the county tournament, he did it by stacking Solomon on his shoulders for a defensive fall. It was a scoreless match when the win occurred.

When Seneca Valley junior Alejandro Herrera-Rondon defeated Phipps in the 2018 state finals, he did by holding Phipps scoreless.

Welsh earned his losses, two each, in the Ironman, Powerade and Beast of the East tournaments.

“If I’m going to lose, I’d rather lose in the section tournament,” Phipps said. “I still have a chance to win WPIAL and PIAA titles. That’s my motivation.”

Wrestling begins at 5 p.m. Friday with first-round and quarterfinal-round action. It resumes at 10 a.m. Saturday with the second round of consolations. The semifinals are scheduled for 11:30 a.m. and the finals at 5 p.m.

North Hills senior Sam Hillegas, like Phipps, is trying to become a four-time champion, joining Frazier senior Thayne Lawrence, who became a four-time winner in Class AA on Feb. 15.

Other returning champions include Herrera-Rondon (113), sophomore Dylan Chappell (106) and junior Antonio Amelio (145) of Seneca Valley, Kiski Area senior Jack Blumer (160), Canon-McMillan senior Gerrit Nijenhuis (170) and Mt. Lebanon senior Luke Stout (182). Blumer is looking to become a three-time champion.

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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