MARK LEFFINGWELL / Daily Camera
BROOMFIELD — Phil Downing’s philosophy to success on the mat is simple.
“I don’t show them any respect, because they are not my friend,” said Downing, who became Colorado’s 17th four-time state champion last month at the Pepsi Center.
“When I get on the mat, sometimes I do stuff that is stupid — like my semis match — but I just get caught up in the moment. I just get real mad easily.”
What his critics see is the kid who stood over Glenwood Springs’ Justin Barham and taunted him after pinning him in the state semifinals, costing Broomfield a team point.
The boos rained down.
“I don’t really care about those boos, they can say whatever they want,” Downing said. “I know I’m way better than them.”
One night later, Downing beat Pueblo County’s Keenan Willits 11-2 and when he arrived at the podium the respect of the Colorado wrestling crowd was much different than the night before. They understood what Downing had achieved and gave the Broomfield senior a standing ovation.
“That brought a big smile to face and it really made me feel good, and I knew that I was supposed to be there because of all the work I put in,” he said. “And I just thought about that while I was up on the podium.”
Downing, who will continue his wrestling career for the the new NCAA Division II National Champions at Notre Dame College in Euclid, Ohio, was an easy choice for the 2014 BoCoPreps.com Wrestler of the Year.
He has had more than a month to let his accomplishment set in and even though he is still “a little shocked,” his mind has already begun to focus on the next step of his wrestling career. Nothing would be better than a national championship, and with the Falcons, he’s going to have a good shot.
“I’m moving on now and I know I’m going to have to work even harder to get that national title now,” said Downing, who will be joined on that Notre Dame team by Omaha’s JaVaughn Perkins, a four-time Nebraska state champion who was a multiple time winner at Centaurus’ Top of the Rockies tournament.
Downing’s confidence has always been somewhat misconstrued as the workings of an overblown ego. He knows what he wants and he goes out and gets it.
When he won his first title at 119 pounds in 2011, Downing knew then and there that he was going to win four titles.
“A lot of people dislike me because I’m the best and I’m a little cocky, but I don’t think I’m that cocky,” Downing said. “As soon as I won as a freshman I knew I was going to be in the running for four. I just had to keep working hard and stay on task so that I could achieve that goal and I did it.”
When all was said and done, Downing numbers will leave a legacy in the state of Colorado that will be hard to match. Sure, some of the other 16 four-time champions finished with more glamourous records than Downing’s 146-10. But not a lot of those guys went with their teams to Ohio every year to wrestle in the nation’s premier high school tournament, The Ironman.
Downing lost only two in-state matches at Broomfield, with the last coming in December of his sophomore year.
Still, with all the numbers and the accolades, one moment will forever stand out to the Eagles standout.
“Winning that fourth title and having my hand raised was just a big relief off my shoulders,” Downing said. “There was a lot of stress taken away. I feel like when I wrestle now, I can wrestle way harder than I could in season just because of the stress.”
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