Stanwood wrestler Mason Phillips takes down visiting training partner Lucas Byrd of Akron, Ohio during a training session on Aug. 15, 2017, in Stanwood. (Ian Terry / The Herald)

Stanwood wrestler Mason Phillips takes down visiting training partner Lucas Byrd of Akron, Ohio during a training session on Aug. 15, 2017, in Stanwood. (Ian Terry / The Herald)

Part 3 of local wrestling series: Phillips in his own words

By Mason Phillips

Special to The Herald

If you would’ve told me last summer that I would be representing the United States and wrestling at the Cadet World Championships this September in Greco-Roman, I probably would’ve laughed at you and said, “Absolutely not.”

After all, last summer I decided I didn’t want to ever wrestle Greco again. I only wanted to do freestyle, which is the style of wrestling that everyone else in the world does except the United States, and the style that is done in international competition.

How can you compete at such a high level in such a specific style when you don’t even wrestle Greco anymore?

Well, plans change.

Last summer, before the Cadet Nationals in Fargo, North Dakota, a few days before the Greco part of the tournament, my coaches convinced me to give it one last shot. I wasn’t aware at the time that I would finish the tournament that week being crowned the national champion, and go on to repeat this year as a Greco-Roman Junior national champion and make a Cadet World Team in Greco.

Following last year’s nationals, I was not fully ready to jump back into Greco, but knew I probably shouldn’t sit it out considering what I had just won. It wasn’t until I watched the Greco-Roman tournament at the Summer Olympics from my living room that summer that I decided what my next was.

After watching the medal matches, something about it set a flame in me. I wanted to be one of them. I wanted to compete on the world stage against the best wrestlers in the world while representing my country.

Although the next Olympics weren’t for four more years, I was still eligible for the Cadet World Team Trials. The Trials were about nine months away at the time. I knew if I wanted to be a world champion the next summer, I needed to get started right away.

I continued working that offseason and into the high school season. Although I wasn’t wrestling Greco during the high school season, I still studied film and watched lots of international Greco wrestling, specifically Eastern Europeans, as that is the dominant region in the world today for Greco.

When the high school season was coming to an end, I needed a plan to take my wrestling to the next level. I was in contact with Coach Harry Lester from Ohio, who himself was a two-time world bronze medalist and a 2012 Olympian in Greco-Roman wrestling for the United States. There was no better person for me to go learn from than him.

I loved his style of Greco wrestling and he was a similar weight for competition. As soon as the high school season ended in February, I switched to online school, packed my bags and flew to Akron, Ohio to live and train with Coach Lester until the World Team Trials. I trained under him and his coaching staff and practiced with high-level kids for the next four months.

I learned how to be more of a Greco-specific wrestler, not just someone who only knows you can’t touch the legs. I worked techniques I had never been comfortable hitting, and they’ve become go-to moves for me. I really took that next step in my training while I was in Ohio.

Soon the trials came around and I was able to win the tournament and make the World Team in dominant fashion. I had taken that next step and I had raised the bar for myself. I now had the chance to compete for the United States.

But that was only one of my goals coming out to Ohio. I also wanted a world title, and for me, I knew winning the U.S. Trials wasn’t going to be enough.

I needed to take my wrestling to new heights.

In the two months since the trials, I’ve traveled back and forth between the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and Akron to train with Coach Lester. I’m now two weeks from competing, and sharpening my skills in Akron before I head to Athens, Greece, for Cadet Worlds.

Athens will be quite the adventure for me, as the farthest I’ve been out of the country is about 15 minutes into Canada. I have three to four days planned out after the tournament to go explore the city and see what it is like on the other side of the world. I’m excited to learn about a new culture and meet new people from around the world.

For me, whatever happens in Greece, it’s more than just a wrestling tournament. It’s not only an opportunity to represent my friends, family, town, and state, but my entire country. Something I’ve been dreaming of my entire life.

This tournament is only one step in a long journey to my ultimate goal of being an Olympic champion. Win or lose in Greece, I will learn and grow from this incredible experience to compete against the best wrestlers in the world. I’m incredibly thankful and honored to have this opportunity that not many kids get. Hopefully I can cross one of my goals off the list by the end.


RELATED: Area wrestling coaches scout Stanwood’s Phillips

Talk to us

More in Sports

Marysville Pilchuck’s Christian Van Natta lifts the ball in the air to celebrate a turnover during the game against Marysville Getchell on Friday, Sept. 16, 2022 in Marysville, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Prep football roundup for Friday, Sept. 29

Prep football roundup for Friday, Sept. 29: (Note for coaches/scorekeepers: To report… Continue reading

Monroe’s Mason Davis (1) celebrates with Trent Bublitz (11) after Bublitz’s touchdown reception against Edmonds-Woodway on Friday, Oct. 14, 2022, at Edmonds School District Stadium in Edmonds, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Reader poll: Make your picks for Week 6 prep football games

Do you think you can beat the experts in our weekly high… Continue reading

Who’s that frog? A local high school tennis player, that’s who

Arlington tennis player Robbie Balderas worked as AquaSox mascot Webbly this season, and the busy junior also runs a landscaping business.

Mountlake Terrace’s Zaveon Jones is pulled to the ground by a diving Nicholas Mouser of Monroe on Friday, Sept. 29, 2023, at Monroe High School in Monroe, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Swarming Monroe defense keys win over Terrace in Wesco 3A South showdown

The Bearcats slow down the Hawks’ potent ground game, and quarterback Blake Springer tosses three TDs in a 35-10 victory.

Arlington players lift the Stilly Cup in the air after beating Stanwood on Friday, Sept. 29, 2023 in Stanwood, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Arlington reclaims Stilly Cup after short hiatus, routs Stanwood 42-7

Leyton Martin registers 277 yards, 4 TDs as Eagles notch fifth straight game with at least six TDs.

Fall prep sports roundup.
Prep results for Saturday, Sept. 30

Prep results for Saturday, Sept. 30: (Note for coaches/scorekeepers: To report results… Continue reading

Marysville Pilchuck’s Dominik Kendrick (9) runs with the ball during a football game between Marysville Pilchuck and Stanwood at Marysville Pilchuck High School in Marysville, Washington on Friday, Sept. 8, 2023. Marysville Pilchuck takes the win, 36-7. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
Marysville Pilchuck proud of 4-0 start, but has loftier goals

The Tomahawks aren’t listening to the outside noise, including a No. 1 WIAA RPI ranking, as a tough stretch lies ahead.

Houston Astros relief pitcher Hector Neris (50) gestures to Seattle Mariners' Julio Rodríguez (44) after striking Rodríguez out to end the sixth inning of a baseball game Wednesday, Sept. 27, 2023, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Lindsey Wasson)
MLB investigating Astros pitcher’s alleged use of homophobic slur

The incident occurred during a heated exchange between Houston’s Hector Neris and M’s star Julio Rodriguez on Wednesday night.

Prep roundup for Friday, Sept. 29

Prep roundup for Friday, Sept. 29: (Note for coaches/scorekeepers: To report results… Continue reading

Most Read