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She’s not stressing over state

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She’s not stressing over state

East Union’s Sarah Philips poses with her medals following the Napa Valley Classic last weekend. Philips won the 103-pound weight class, while Wheeler was fifth at 114s.

Photo contributed/


POSTED January 16, 2013 12:13 a.m.

Her trophy case includes two national championships, a victory in what’s regarded as one the largest high school girls wrestling tournament in the world, and a state …

Oh.

With Saturday’s championship at the Napa Valley Classic, East Union’s Sarah Philips has conquered virtually every mountaintop on wrestling’s horizon, except the CIF State Tournament.

The senior is aware of the void on her resume and the ever-increasing pressure – and sets of eye balls – that follow her into every weigh-in and match. 

For many wrestlers with her clout, girl or boy, the stakes are ridiculously high; the margin for error ridiculously slim. It’s either state title or bust.

Philips gets all of that.

She simply doesn’t care. She’s adopted a near-sighted approach for her senior season.

“Honestly, she doesn’t feel that way,” East Union coach Andrew Reindel said. “She wants it, but right now it’s her senior and she’s trying to wrestle and have fun.

“She’s trying to keep the pressure off of herself – and it is working. She’s winning. Sure, she wants a state title and she knows she can do it. But the pressure of having to do it, she’s not putting that on herself.”

Instead, Philips and teammate Mariah Wheeler will stay in the moment. And for now, the focus is a Valley Oak League duel against Manteca today at home (varsity begins at 6 p.m.) and the Enochs Girls Tournament on Saturday in Modesto.

“I put the most pressure on myself and I’m trying not to do that this year,” said Philips, who surpassed the 100-win plateau earlier this season. “It’s working. It seems like I’m having more fun.”

Philips is 25-0 with an attacking style that knows no prejudice. She’s beating boys and girls, many by pin-fall.  In Napa, Philips went 4-0 and was named Most Outstanding Lightweight, an honor voted on by the coaches.

After receiving a first-round bye, she defeated Enochs’ Jenae Rivas (major decision), Middleton’s Maria Castaldo (fall), Lynbrook’s Sheila Metz (decision) and Lindhurst’s Kylie Taylor (major decision) in the final.

The tournament is touted as the largest girls-only high school event in the world, dwarfing the California state tournament, which places a 24 wrestler cap on its weight classes.

“I was excited and a little surprised,” Philips said of the coaches’ award, “but I know I wrestled extremely well in the final.”

Wheeler finished fifth in perhaps the toughest weight class of them all. Her 114-pound bracket featured 49 wrestlers;  461 competed across 14 classes. She went 5-2, and the two that beat her, Federal Way’s Arian Carpio and Isabella Fernandez of Live Oak-Morgan Hill, finished first and third, respectively.

“It’s not the state tournament, but there are more girls at that tournament than at state. The brackets are bigger. There were two schools from Washington, so people were coming from all over,” Reindel said.

 “If you’re a girl wrestler, if you’re anything in this sport, you’re going to wrestle that tournament. It was the best of the best. To win that award – at that tournament – was huge. It’s not a fluke.”

There’s a reason why Philips is so fluid and strong on the mat: it’s Wheeler, who has succeeded in the shadow of her teammate.

Wheeler and Philips tangle and twist, push and bend each other every day in practice.

“Mariah doesn’t get the recognition that Sarah’s gotten,” Reindel said. “She hasn’t won the big tournament, but she’s always placing. The two of them battle it out in the room every day and make each other better. … They get after it.”

Reindel believes he’s got two of the best girl wrestlers in the area, each with the ability to navigate wrestling’s rough, often unforgiving postseason.

Then again, no one in that room is looking that far down the road. Certainly not Philips, who finished sixth at state last year.

“She doesn’t feel like she has to win it in order to make her accomplishments any greater than they already are,” Reindel said.

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