Wildcat roars in two sports

Millard West junior Harrison Phillips is considered a strong Division I football prospect at defensive end. The returning Class A 220-pound champion also has a strong passion for wrestling. His coach, Scott Townsley, said he believed Phillips could go far in Division I wrestling if he chose to.

For 12 months a year, Harrison Phillips is in football mode. Football is what the Millard West junior eats, breathes and lives.

But there is a sliver left for wrestling. And the time the 6-foot-3, 246-pound Phillips spends on the mat is no joke.

The returning Class A 220-pound champion is unbeaten and ranked first in the heavyweight division of the state's biggest class entering the two-day Metro Conference Tournament at Omaha North. Saturday's finals are slated for 2 p.m.

Phillips is no typical heavyweight.

“He's usually giving up 20, 30 pounds,” Millard West coach Scott Townsley said. “His speed and agility are probably his two major attributes. And he hates to lose. It drives him nuts.”

Case in point: During his sophomore season, Omaha North's James Jones beat Phillips twice. Townsley said Phillips went to work, watched the film and got better.

The result was an overtime win in the state final.

“I don't even think he knows it,” Townsley said of Phillips' potential.

He's considered a strong Division I football prospect at defensive end. Phillips garnered his first offer last week from South Dakota State. Plenty more should follow as he does the camp tour this summer.

Nebraska is definitely in that mix.

“I'm not going to flat out say that if Nebraska offers I'm going to commit,” Phillips said. “But at the same time, it would be hard to turn down.”

He's also hearing from Iowa, Iowa State, Wisconsin, Northwestern, Northern Illinois, Duke and Yale.

Phillips was in San Antonio earlier this month for the Army All-American combine for juniors, a weekend he called an “eye-opening experience.”

While his admitted first love is the gridiron, wrestling has been a part of Phillips since he was 4 years old. For most of his earlier wrestling days, the sport came easy.

“I was just bigger than everyone,” Phillips said. “And then high school came, when I was wrestling the starting linebackers and fullbacks for a lot of these schools.”

And his daily battles in the wrestling room jumped a couple of levels. One of his training partners as a freshman was another Millard West all-state defensive lineman, heavyweight Brandon Yost, a state champion in 2011 and third-place finisher the year prior.

“We'd go just full bore in the room,” Phillips said. “I believe that's when I first stepped into my shoes.”

That kind of training mentality hasn't changed.

“We throw everything we have at him,” Townsley said. “If we had a kitchen sink, we'd throw that at him, too.”

Although football undoubtedly will be what Phillips pursues at the next level, Townsley believes he could reach some of the higher Division I levels in wrestling if that were his first priority. Townsley took Phillips to a national tournament last summer, where a finals matchup against a state runner-up from Kansas loomed in the finals.

Phillips won 15-3.

“He just walked through it,” Townsley said.

Both wrestler and coach don't expect that to be the case this weekend, though. Millard South's Freeman Coleman, a heavyweight semifinalist a season ago, is back in the Patriot lineup after missing the first month of the season.

Phillips knows the task ahead of him. He calls Coleman a “specimen of an athlete.”

“He's a man,” Townsley adds. “He's a tough, tough wrestler. He might be the best heavyweight in the state. Hopefully they can meet in the finals and Harrison can come out on top.”

Contact the writer:

402-850-0781, nickrubek@gmail.com

Commenting is limited to Omaha World-Herald subscribers. To sign up, click here.

If you're already a subscriber and need to activate your access or log in, click here.

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Please keep it clean, turn off CAPS LOCK and don't threaten anyone. Be truthful, nice and proactive. And share with us - we love to hear eyewitness accounts.

You must be a digital subscriber to view this article.