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Boredom motivates Philippus

By JAMAL THALJI

© St. Petersburg Times, published February 16, 2001


HUDSON -- Robb Philippus is bored.

Bored with winning. Bored with dominating. Bored with greatness.

But that boredom has only made Hudson's star 215-pounder, Pasco County's top wrestler, all the more dangerous.

"I'm definitely bored with the lack of challenges," Philippus said. "It really gets repetitive not having any challenges in my weight class. It's hard to practice in my weight class, too. If I can't get better in practice, and when I compete, how am I supposed to maintain my skill level?

"It's kind of frustrating. That's why I can't wait to go to college."

College can wait. Right now Philippus is busy etching out one of the greatest prep careers in county history.

His 47-1 record and Class 2A, District 9 title are just the latest highlights of a career 146-19 record. He is six pins shy of 100 for his career and enters today's Class 2A, Region 3 tournament at Countryside as a virtual lock to advance to state. The senior is just eight wins shy of a second state title.

Yet, as he always does, Philippus seethes with discontentment.

The wins have come too easily. Save for that one loss, a wake-up call for which Philippus is grateful, he has faced virtually no competition. Often he allows opponents out of holds just to keep the match going into the third quarter.

That only thing that has kept Philippus from sleepwalking through the season is his own raging desire for perfection. That, and the knowledge he will face the toughest test of his sterling career at the state tournament.

Philippus is the Class A defending champion, but Hudson was elevated to Class 2A this season. Plant City's Philip Marshall is the defending Class 3A champ, but his school was dropped to 2A.

"That's when the toughest will succeed," Philippus said.

Philippus believes that Class 2A has the toughest 215-pound field in the state. Thus, he'll finally face some competition and validate the title he doesn't feel worthy of.

"I didn't think my state title was official," he said. "I didn't think I earned it; I don't think it would mean anything if I don't defend it, if I didn't go out there and represent and win it again."

In the meantime, Philippus is motivated by frustration. That isn't a surprise, and according to coach Dana Bentley, neither is his senior's meteoric improvement from an impressive junior year.

"He's just a better wrestler than ever," the coach said. "He's more confident, stronger, in better shape. Last year coaches would ask me beforehand to make sure (former state champion) Pat Rieli doesn't hurt their kids.

"This year, it's Robb they're worried about."

But what are they complaining about? The only thing harder than wrestling Philippus is being Philippus.

"Chasing perfection is one of my downfalls," he said. "Perfection is never attainable, but what if I stop trying to attain it?"

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