Norwin grad Phipps battles for position at Bucknell
Drew Phipps put together a legendary wrestling career at Norwin, setting the program’s all-time wins record (145), clinching two WPIAL championships, and qualifying for states four consecutive years (including a second-place finish in 2016).
His dominant mat work extended beyond Pennsylvania as he was a National High School Coaches Association champion and a Disney Duals national champ.
Phipps’ first year at Bucknell, by contrast, has been an uphill climb. But he’s game.
“During preseason training, we would go on team runs, and I’d be one of the last ones finishing,” Phipps said. “But I got in better shape — I was 210 pounds in the preseason, and now I’m around 184. I’m always doing extra drills on my own outside of regular practice, too. I’m starting to close the gap and score more points. With such great natural competition, you get better.”
Phipps finished his freshman season with a 13-11 record. He had to scratch and claw for every start as the Bison had another talented freshman competing at 184 pounds in Garrett Hoffman. It took Phipps a little while, but he hit his stride later in the year and scored a second-place finish at the Navy Classic.
To succeed at the collegiate level, Phipps realized he had to compete for a full seven minutes.
“At the start, I didn’t understand how hard you have to go at all times,” Phipps said. “In high school, I converted a lot of things easily. In college, technique is so important. And if you let up for one second, the other guy’s scoring on you. I have become a lot more intense and focused as the year has gone on.”
Bucknell coach Dan Wirnsberger has little doubt Phipps will keep climbing in the years to come.
“Drew is a tremendous talent. His high school credentials speak for themselves,” said Wirnsberger, who has been at the helm at Bucknell since 2005 and previously coached at Bloomsburg. “He has a high wrestling IQ, he’s competitive, and he excels in the neutral position. It’s just a matter of everything clicking for him, getting more consistent, and eliminating those 10- or 20-second lapses.”
Wirnsberger noted the challenges presented by having two quality freshmen in the same weight class, with Bucknell ultimately choosing Hoffman to compete in the postseason. But starting or not, Phipps’ character never wavered.
“When a guy ahead of him was injured, Drew had stepped up and won some dual meets. We faced Harvard, and he had a tight, tough match. Drew had to hold off an attack at the last minute, and he did.
“Most guys would have bailed in that situation. But he battled, stayed in there and won, which won the dual meet for us. That shows what he’s capable of accomplishing.”
Phipps, who might move up in weight class next year, is focused on locking in a starting spot.
“I want to earn a consistent spot, whether it’s 184 or higher,” he said. “This time next year, I want to be in the NCAA Tournament.”
David Golebiewski is a freelance writer.