Here’s what a collection of area wrestling experts (in alphabetical order) had to say about Stanwood rising senior Mason Phillips, who will represent the United States at the Cadet World Championships in Athens, Greece from Sept. 3-10.
“Mason has definitely risen to a level we don’t see very often at the high school level. He’s a great natural athlete and has great balance and quickness. He has all the tools, and he’s a great competitor. His road to state championships have not been easy — there’s a lot of good guys at his weight class. The kids he’s beaten on the national level are all very good, and he’s a great attacker, which I appreciate.”
—Brent Barnes, Lake Stevens wrestling coach and USA Wrestling Junior/Cadet Women’s coach
“Mason gets a lot of leverage because he’s longer than guys at his weight. He’s got longer arms and is taller, and physically that is his big advantage. The kid has obviously put his time in. Mentally, he wants to win and he has a chip on his shoulder. He has the ability to be the best guy out of our state, ever.”
—Burke Barnes, Founder and former coach at Pin City Wrestling Club and 4-time Mat Classic champion at Lake Stevens
“I think the biggest thing that Mason’s accomplished in getting international experience is making a team and being totally relevant nationally. We’re from Washington, and even being a Fargo champ, kids he’s beaten are still ranked over him. It’s a lack of respect for the Northwest, and it’s huge for Mason and for Washington. They can’t take that from him, and it shows all the work that he’s done.
—Andy Cook, Grays Harbor College women’s wrestling coach, and Phillips’ former club coach at Vandit Academy
“I’ve gotten to know Mason a little bit, and he’s just a super-respectful kid who does everything he needs to do. He has goals beyond what most kids dream about, and he’s doing all the right things to make them come true. He eats, sleeps and breathes wrestling. You couldn’t ask for more of a kid, and it’s good to see.”
—Jonny Gilbertson, Arlington wrestling coach
“Jeremy Nygard is as good a wrestler as I’ve ever put out, and two years ago, when he hit the state finals against Mason, Mason took everything he had from him. That impressed me to no end. He has gotten coaching that none of these kids around here have ever gotten, and he’s also paid a price that none of the other kids are willing to pay. He has it all going for him — talent, intelligence, the backing of his family and fantastic coaching. He is as slick as anyone I’ve ever seen, and that goes beyond just this area. I’ve seen wrestling at every level, and he is as slick with his innate abilities as you’ll see anywhere. His senses, his reactions, the perfection of his moves…he just has a very assured posture on the mat. It’s just not something I’ve ever seen in my room. This is another level.”
—Rick Iversen, Everett girls wrestling coach and inductee in two wrestling halls of fame
“He’s got God’s gift of body awareness and athleticism. You can’t coach it and you can’t teach it. He just has a little more of it than the others. He’s the best wrestler I’ve ever coached.”
—Ray Mather, Phillips’ coach at Stanwood High School
“I’ve seen Mason on film and in person, and what jumps out the most is how fluid he is. He has an answer for every opponent’s attack, and every time he attacks, if something is being countered his transitions to another attack are so smooth it’s unbelievable. He’s very impressive transitioning from move to move.”
—Justin Springer, Pin City Wrestling club coach, former Monroe wrestling coach, former USA Washington wrestling coach and 1993 Cadet World Team member