Having a former teammate go to the Air Force Academy helped. Having that former teammate still on the roster won’t hurt either.
Cody Phippen became the fifth wrestler in three years from Platte County to sign a Division I scholarship when he inked with Air Force. The school and Platte County Booster Club honored him and fellow seniors Austin Kincaid (wrestling, Missouri Valley) and Lauren Walker (rowing, Kansas State) during a fall signing ceremony Wednesday, Nov. 8 at Platte County High School.
Casey Jumps — a 2017 Platte County graduate — signed with Air Force last year and recently competed in his first tournament for the Falcons. Phippen started his conversations with the program while coaches were recruiting Jumps.
“I liked it a lot,” Phippen said of his visits to the academy. “It’s going to be a lot better going up there with someone I know as opposed to having nobody I know at all. It will help a lot because he’ll be experienced there by the time I get in there.”
A transfer from Basehor-Linwood (Kan.), Phippen reached the state final in each of his first three seasons. The last two came with Platte County, winning Class 3 Missouri State Wrestling Championships titles at 106 pounds as a sophomore and 113 as a junior.
Phippen hasn’t lost vs. a Missouri opponent in two seasons, compiling a 95-5 record. With another state title this year, he would become just the fifth three-time state champion in Platte County’s illustrious history.
“Just keep working as hard as I always have and then take it to the academy and see how it works up there — get better and hopefully do big things,” said Phippen, who will likely spend next year at a prep school in an effort to receive full acceptance into the academy. “I
Phippen was one of four state champions on the 2016 Platte County team, which finished second to Neosho in the final Class 3 standings. Five from that lineup have since signed Division scholarships — Matthew Schmitt (West Virginia), Ethan Karsten (Missouri), Johnny Blankenship (Nebraska) and Phippen and Jumps (Air Force), although Karsten is no longer at Missouri.
Platte County finished fifth as a team last year.
Kincaid also scored state points for each of the past two state teams. He surprised with a sixth-place finish at 120 as a sophomore as a first-time qualifier, but he went 1-2 and crashed out of the 126 bracket last year after a first round win.
Despite the setback, Kincaid said Missouri Valley continued to show interest in him, and after a visit, he committed without exploring any more options.
“I went on a visit and just loved it — didn’t want to go on another visit,” said Kincaid, who enters the season with a 62-58 career record. “It felt like the one.”
There were two wrestling signees and two Division I products at the ceremony.
A standout volleyball and basketball player, Walker plans to take on a new challenge at Kansas State. The rowing program recruits athletes, redshirts them during a training season and develops a team from the best performers.
This fall, Walker visited the team facilities and witnessed an on-water practice, which upped her excitement level for the challenge.
“I think it’s pretty cool because everyone being recruited has no experience so we all start at the same base line of not knowing,” said Walker, who explored options for collegiate volleyball but ultimately took the chance on a Division I opportunity. “We learn the skill, and we get better. I’m very excited to see how far I can push my limits.”
Walker started for two years as a middle hitter for Platte County’s volleyball program, helping the Pirates to 22 wins this past season. She led them in total blocks (49) and ranked second on the team in kills (198) as a senior. As a junior, she also topped the Pirates in blocks (27) and ranked fourth in kills.
Last season, Walker started much of the year as a forward for Platte County’s basketball team, which recorded a second straight winning season. She scored 6.0 points per game and led the Pirates with 7.5 rebounds per game.
Platte County won its first postseason game since 2011, losing in the Class 4 District 15 semifinals. Walker will be one of six players back this season with significant starting experience.