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Phipps phenomenal on home floor

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By Brian Forbes

Evergreen’s smallest weight took home the biggest prize for the Cougars on Saturday.

Wrestling in his home tournament, Nathan Phipps won the 103-pound weight class and improved to 15-4 this season at the annual Evergreen Invitational.

Behind two major decisions and a pinfall victory in the semifinals, Phipps cruised through his bracket as one of two Cougars that advanced to their respective final in the 14-team tournament.

Phipps scored an 11-1 major decision in his initial match, before pinning Golden’s Conner Marshall in 30 seconds to advance to the final. Facing Jesse Rodriguez of Skyview, Phipps scored a 13-4 major decision for the victory.

Nick Keitlin, who weighed 162 pounds but wrestled in the 171-pound weight class, was Evergreen’s other finalist. Keitlin capped a comeback performance in his semifinal bout against Skyview’s Julian Menchaca with a textbook throw and pin at the 3:28 mark.

“I was kind of waiting for his head to get in the right position to throw it, because I worked on it all week in practice,” Keitlin said.

Keitlin was defeated via an 8-4 decision in the final by Steve Martinez of Dakota Ridge.

The Cougars scored 101 points to tie Ralston Valley for sixth place. Palmer (195 points) sent seven wrestlers to the finals to clinch first place while Dakota Ridge (141.5) was second and Golden (138) placed third.

Prairie View’s three champions were the most from one school. The Thunderhawks scored 135 points to place fourth.

Wes Knoll (145 pounds) and Chad Foutch (160) both placed third for the Cougars.

Knoll was defeated in the semifinals by eventual champion Adam Gurule of Sheridan before gritting out a 4-1 decision over Bear Creek’s Jon Baker in the consolation final.

Against Gurule, Knoll avoided a pin but was unable to get Gurule on his back even with the Sheridan grappler was obviously exhausted. After the match, Gurule needed nearly 15 minutes to get up off the edge of the mat and move around.

“He was tough,” Knoll said. “It was a tough match. I couldn’t really do much to him.”

Rory Finnegan suffered a similar fate, although he had to settle for fifth place in his 189-pound bracket. Finnegan earned a pinfall victory in his first match before losing to eventual champion Vince Delmonico of Bear Creek by a pin in the second period.

Finnegan snatched Delmonico’s leg early on but was unable to bring him down to the mat. That missed opportunity loomed larger as Delmonico regrouped and took control.

“I think I could have done better than that,” Finnegan said afterwards. “That is not at all my best performance. I’m not satisfied with that at all. I need to work harder.”

Finnegan would not have to work in the fifth-place final as Skyview’s T.J. Martinez withdrew due to injury.

Conner O’Neal (112 pounds) also placed fifth.