By Dave Morrison
SUMMERSVILLE – For as long as he can remember, Bryson Phipps has been watching professional wrestling.
Long before football. Long before basketball. Phipps can hardly remember a time when he wasn’t watching the masters of the squared circle complete.
“Probably since I was four or five and I just never let go of it,” Phipps said. “I’ve always wanted to do it.”
Phipps has been attending the Big Time Pro Wrestling Academy in Huntington on summer weekends.
“It’s a great place, there are some great people down there,” Phipps said.
He’s got to work with guys who are out on the road, pro grapplers like Legendary Larry D, Nasty Nate Gnarly and a true legend of the ranks, the Boogie Woogie Man Jimmy Valient.
His dad has made a deal with him, he can pursue a pro wrestling career “after he finishes college.”
And, he already has a nickname picked out.
“I’m Big Money Bryce Phipps,” he said.
This season the junior will be a big man on the Grizzlies lines. Nicholas open the season Friday against Shady Spring, which has become a big game for the two playoff perennials.
Last season Nicholas County won the game 19-13 after a 26-24 victory in 2018. Nicholas, in fact, has won the last four meetings between the teams.
Phipps is the lone returning starter on the offensive line, a line that last year, despite an injury-depleted backfield, paved the way for and offense that accounted for 347 yards of total offense and 261.8 yards rushing per game.
The Grizzlies had 15 different players with a carry and five different players attempted a pass, speaking to the health problems last year at many of the skill positions.
Still, Gene Morris’ squad went 8-2 and advanced to the playoffs for the fourth straight season.
He said he picked up most of his knowledge along the way from his brother, Caden.
“My brother played left tackle her for two years,” Bryson Phipps, a junior, said. “His last year was my freshman year and I really looked up to him. I learned practically everything I know from him and coach (D.J.) Martin.”
Of course there is the special bond her shares with his dad, Bryan, an assistant coach on the football team and the head basketball coach for the Grizzlies.
“he’s always extra hard on me because he wants me to succeed,” Bryson said. “But it’s awesome that he is out here. It is fun to play for him.”
Of course playing for a team that has been a perennial playoff, the postseason is the goal.
Phipps won’t put any numbers on his expectations.
“As long as as we can do our best and we can leave the field every Friday night knowing we played as hard as we can, that’s what I’m looking for,” Phipps said.
The Grizzlies did lose a plethora of talented players from last year’s playoff team. Many pundits feel this is a rebuilding year for the Grizzlies. That Oak Hill had eight touchdowns in a recent scrimmage only solidified that assessment.
Phipps, though, isn’t buying it.
“I feel like some people may be thinking that,” Phipps said. “But I’m out here every day and I have great faith in all our guys and all our coaching staff.”
Phipps, wearing his Nicholas County Grizzlies mask during interviews, said the social distancing due diligence done by all teams, hasn’t been hard.
“It’s not much different than usual,” Phipps said, perhaps suggesting that the players are becoming accustomed to the so-called new normal. “We show up, we always have to wear our mask, the coaches are doing a great making sure we are always safe and distanced when we can be.”
Then, he added, ‘But it’s still football. We still gotta get down and dirty.”
Spoken like a true football player. And professional wrestler.
Just what you’d expect from “Big Money” Bryce Phipps.