Nicholas County rising senior, Bryson Phipps, is not your normal three-sport athlete. Truth is, he may be the only one of his kind.
Sure, Phipps is a standout on the football field as well as the basketball court for the Grizzlies, but his third sport might be considered by some a bit unorthodox.
When he is not blocking defenders or grabbing rebounds, Phipps is body slamming competitors inside the professional wrestling ring.
“On the week of my 16th birthday, I reached out to Freddie Cornell in Huntington, the promoter of Big Time Pro Wrestling,” Phipps said. “I asked if I could come and train with them and he agreed. That was where it started. That group couldn’t have been any nicer to me. I was a 16-year old kid and they could have brushed me off to the side. They brought me in like a family.”
While professional wrestling may seem odd to some, Phipps may have been destined to compete inside the squared circle all along.
“I have been watching professional wrestling since I was little. My grandpa, Scotty Phipps, was a wrestler for a while too,” Phipps said. “My dad grew up watching and knowing about wrestling. My mom actually likes it more than my dad does. I have always loved Randy “Macho Man” Savage and I just recently found out that my grandpa wrestled against him. They were in Bluefield before (Savage) made it big.”
“That is one of his passions and I admire him because he is doing something that is sorta outside the box as most people would say,” Nicholas County head football coach Gene Morris said. “That is what he likes to do and you should encourage people to go after their dreams. He enjoys it and has great family support.”
Phipps did give amateur wrestling a try, but it was not to his liking.
“When I was seven or eight years old, I tried amateur wrestling for about half of a season and I just hated it. I just couldn’t do it,” Phipps said, laughing. “There just wasn’t enough personality in it for me. That is what I like about professional wrestling.”
Sporting his high school letterman jacket, his in ring persona is Bryce Phipps.
“My character is an extension of me. It is a guy that loves sports, loves to compete and is always ready to get after them,” Phipps said.
Although he is a well conditioned athlete, Phipps quickly found out that professional wrestling was much more demanding than most people are aware.
“It is more like basketball where it is non-stop, but you can come out in basketball,” Phipps explained. “When you are in the ring, there are no timeouts and you have to keep going. I feel like that part has been more physically challenging than any sport I have ever done.”
Phipps has recorded three wins so far including his first match held at New Birth Church in Barboursville.
“It was such a fun night. I thought I was nervous for my first football, but you have no idea,” Phipps said. “People are right there and you better not make mistakes. I won the match on a surprise small-package roll-up. It was like 40-some seconds out there, so that was easier on me.”
While Phipps hopes wrestling is part of his life for quite some time, his main focus right now has to do with the the gridiron.
Starting for what will be his third season in a row, Phipps has had a wild ride at the left tackle position.
During his sophomore season he was the new kid on the block. However, he did have four experienced seniors on the line to show him the ropes, per se.
“That year we had one four-year starter, a three-year starter and a pair of two-year starters,” Phipps said. “We were very good and they just carried me through that entire year. All of those guys were great and they taught me so much.”
“We had to kinda force him into things just because we didn’t have a whole lot of numbers,” Morris said. “He was our only guy coming back with experience his junior year and now he is our only senior lineman. We rely on him for communication. He is an intelligent, humble young man that understands the game and understands what has to be done.”
“He keeps things calm out there and gives those new guys some confidence. He answers any questions in the huddle that needed answering,” Morris went on to say. “He does a great job with leadership and that is the big thing with him. All he wants to do is get better and help us win. He is a competitor.”
After a playoff run his first year as a starter, last year was marked by some frustration and a year of growing. Now Phipps feels the Grizzlies are ready to make a return to the postseason.
“We are going to surprise some people this year. We have an incredible running back in Kaleb Clark who really improved last year. Our offensive line has spent even more time together this summer building even more chemistry. I think we are going to dominate,” Phipps said. “We are looking to make a playoff run this year. Our core group was still learning last year, but most of those guys are back this year.”
While Phipps looks to enjoy every moment of his senior season, he does have a solid eye to the future.
“We will see where wrestling takes me, but school is always first. I want to make a good living and be a good person. If it takes me there, I will go,” Phipps said. “Right now I am kinda looking at Marshall University because it is close to where we train for wrestling. That way I can keep it all together. Both my parents went to Marshall and my aunt went to Marshall. It is a great place and a nice campus.”