By Michael Smith
The Air Force wrestling team is on the rise and associate coach Joe Johnston said he feels good about his team’s chances of getting its first All-American wrestler since 2003 next season.
This year, the Falcons did not have anyone finish in the top eight of their weight division to claim All-American honors, but the team has taken steps forward in becoming a better program in recent years.
Two of those wrestlers came from Platte County High School in Missouri. Sophomore Cody Phippen was a three-time state champion and one-time runner-up for the Pirates and was able to do something no one else had ever done in the Air Force program. He was the first Falcon to reach the semifinals of his bracket in the Big 12 Tournament as he competed in the 125-pound weight class.
In that tournament, Phippen beat the No. 2, 4, and 7 seeds while being unseeded.
Phippen took fifth but did not end up being selected to the NCAA Tournament. This season, Phippen finished seventh after going 2-2 in the Big 12 Tournament at 125.
Air Force senior Casey Jumps, who is also a Platte County grad, finished his college career as a team co-captain. He did not get to wrestle much for the Falcons but garnered a lot of valuable experience as captain of the team and a leader in squadron 24.’
In high school, he was a two-time state medalist and a state champion as a senior. In his first three years at Air Force, he totaled 28 wins.
So, what has the experience at Air Force Academy been like for these two Platte County graduates? I asked the Pirate duo about it:
Q: Why did you choose to wrestle at Air force Academy?
Phippen: “It’s a really great opportunity to set you up for life. You get to serve in the Air Force after you graduate and you get to wrestle in the Big 12, as well. Everything has been following the right path for me here.”