BLHS wrestling team eagerly awaits addition of triple-crown youth champions

Pictured, from left to right: Corbin Nirschl, BLHS assistant coach and East Kansas Wrestling Club coach Travis Phippen, Thomas Lisher, Conner Ward, coach Eric Akin, Jonny Trowbridge, and Cody Phippen. Nirschl, Trowbridge and Phippen each won state championships in three wrestling styles in 2013. Enlarge photo

June 14, 2013

In as soon as a year, the Basehor-Linwood High School wrestling team might be good enough to give the school considerable national recognition.

This is partly why second-year head coach Tyler Cordts took the job.

Corbin Nirschl, Cody Phippen and Jonny Trowbridge, kids who have spent a majority of their lives on the mat, are almost in high school.

Learn their names because, boy, can they wrestle.

“Once in a lifetime,” Cordts said. “I will never see a crop this good, this talented.”

In the youth state competition this season, each boy won the championship in their respective weight class in each of the three styles: Greco-Roman, freestyle and folkstyle. Officially, that’s nine state championships between three wrestlers in one year.

Nirschl will be a freshman for the Bobcats in the upcoming school year, while the other two will be in the eighth grade. They have scoured the nation in search of the best competition the sport has to offer and have helped Kansas reach new heights in youth wrestling.

Earlier this month at the national tournament in Indianapolis, 98-pound Trowbridge went 4-4 in Greco-Roman and 5-2 in freestyle.

Seventy-seven-pound Phippen went 6-2 and 7-0, respectively, and earned a spot on the all-star team. The Kansas team finished seventh in Greco-Roman and fourth in freestyle, which is the best this state has ever done.

Meanwhile, 100-pound Nirschl will wrestle at Daytona Beach this weekend for the cadet national dual team.

The boys began wrestling early, six to eight years old, and no one could have predicted this type of success.

“They were never natural to the sport,” said BLHS assistant coach Travis Phippen, Cody’s father. “But they were both hard workers and took different paths on how they worked.”

Trowbridge and Phippen actually didn’t win a match their first couple years wrestling. As a former state champion and collegiate All-American himself, Travis trained his son at his program, the East Kansas Wrestling Club. Trowbridge trained under different coaches with different styles, but in the end, both paid off.

“Just because I lost, I didn’t give up,” Cody Phippen said. “I just kept working hard and got better.”

Nirschl’s ascension came more from a change of scenery than anything. He was formerly with the wrestling club at Bonner Springs, but his family thought there was a way to get better results.

“This is the first year we went out to change everything,” said his father, Troy Nirschl.

That meant two-a-day practices, four to five days a week. That meant stiffer competition. That meant switching to Travis Phippen’s club.

Once there, Corbin Nirschl had a size advantage against some of the kids there, but they still made him earn every single point. Troy credits the intense competition for helping his son go from not making state last year to a champion this year.

“It felt like I had accomplished everything I wanted to do,” Corbin Nirschl said. “When I won it, I felt better than I was.”

Travis has a motto at his gym: “Steel sharpens steel.” And for these three, that phrase is almost too perfect. On the mat, they get after each other, and then turn into best friends when the fight is over. And because they are all around the same weight class, they make the perfect workout partners.

As one blade sharpens, the others get a little more dangerous as well.

And in another year, they will all be on the same high school team, pushing each other. Cordts is hoping that his juniors and seniors will be stepping up their game as well, so as not to be outdone by underclassmen.

“We’re going to have a better chance of getting better and winning state as a team,” Trowbridge said of his future high school.

A few years ago, Travis saw something special in his son and his friends, so he endorsed Cordts to coach Basehor-Linwood in preparation for that day. It’s coming and it will certainly be worth watching.

“They’re just unflappable, the three of them,” Cordts said. “They’ve been there. They’ve battled the toughest kids, they’ve been to the toughest tournaments and it’s nothing to them. That’s just another day at the office.”

Stay tuned for a story about the BLHS wrestling team placing third in a 40-team duals tournament in Iowa last week. Coverage to follow on and in the June 20 issue of The Chieftain.

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