David Phillips already has accumulated an impressive wrestling resume, including school records, and the senior from Pewaukee High School is adding to his list nearly every time he competes.
Last season, competing at 145 pounds, Phillips established school marks for single-season victories with 49 and career triumphs with 123 while becoming the first Pirate grappler to reach the 100-win plateau before his senior campaign.
Those accomplishments helped Phillips qualify for the individual state tournament for a second time, where he placed third. His only loss was a 12-2 decision to eventual champion Cole Schmitt, a senior from Belleville/Monticello/New Glarus, in the semifinals. His efforts also helped Coach Ed Kurth's squad to make the state team tournament for the first time in program history.
Phillips is on track to becoming only the second Pewaukee grappler to win four Pirate Invite and four conference crowns (Matt Brown) and joining John Hrabik as the only Pirates to reach Madison three times.
But opponents should be worried even more this season because Phillips, who will compete at 160 pounds this season, is feeling better physically and mentally than he ever has.
"I've put in a lot of time and work, and I feel really good at this weight," Phillips said as the two-time defending Woodland Conference title winners prepared for the Battle of the Bay Invite in Bay Port. "I feel like I'm growing into my body, so I'm feeling a lot stronger.
"I started strong as a freshman, but I was pretty cocky or arrogant," Phillips said of his psychological growth. "But I've learned as I've gotten older and more experienced to be more focused and goal-oriented and I've stuck to that work ethic."
A big part of that regimen—he used a personal trainer from Fitness Together in Delafield this summer--has been a busy and strong off-season tournament schedule in which he's competed throughout the Midwest in Greco-Roman and freestyle events.
"A lot of coaches told me that the more styles you see the better wrestler you'll become," said Phillips, who's getting plenty of recruiting interest, including UW-Platteville. "I get to see lots of new looks and different situations, and that definitely helps a lot."
Kurth is in his ninth season directing the Pirates after a successful five-year stint at Milwaukee Pulaski, where the Rams won team sectional crowns in 1998-99. He said that Phillips deserves credit for maturing on and off the mat.
"All of the things he's accomplished, coming from a kid who I coached at the youth level, where he pretty much stunk it up," Kurth said. "When he was a freshman I felt we could plug him in at 112 and he's give us a .500 season, and then from the first practice on he was hitting all the moves and making the corrections and became Pewaukee's first freshman to qualify for state. He made a couple of mistakes and lost two close matches, so he missed out on state as a sophomore. But he bounced back to finish third at state last season and this year looks lean and strong.",/p>
"David probably does more off-season wrestling than anybody in school history, at least as far back as when I wrestled here," added Kurth, 40. "He's become much more coachable and continued to do the things I've barked and preached at him and made those things stronger and he's turned weaknesses into strengths. All of the tournaments he's been in means I don't have to worry about him being focused or getting nervous. He's pretty low-key but has a good sense of humor and now you can tease him about mistakes that he made in the past. He's matured a lot. But when he's on the mat, that's business."
And Phillips intends to take care of business again this year.
"I'm comfortable on top and I'm working to be more aggressive while on the bottom, but I'm the strongest and like being in a neutral position," Phillips said. "Even though I went to state as a freshman, I feel like maybe my goals were set too low. Then I missed out as a sophomore, so I worked to overcome that last year and my only goal is to win a state championship, which I'm pretty confident that I can compete for this time."