A  groundbreaking ceremony for the Tyler Phipps Wrestling Center was held on Saturday, October 21. The new 9,000-square-foot facility will house York University’s men's and women’s wrestling programs.

The center is named in honor of Tyler Phipps ‘08, a former Panther wrestler, who died tragically in 2015 from injuries suffered in a hunting accident.

“Tyler made a quick and strong impression on people on campus, not just the wrestling team,” Jared Stark, vice president for advancement, told the audience. “He was faithful, he was diligent, he was kind, he was strong,” Stark added, drawing from his own memories of Phipps and also sharing the remarks of Dr. Samuel Smith, president of York University, who could not be in attendance due to illness.

Russ Dudrey, one of Phipps’ coaches, shared a story about the time Tyler helped him build a deck for an ailing friend. Dudrey also led the audience in a prayer.

“He always had a smile,” Greg Smith, another one of Phipps’ coaches, recalled about Tyler. During Smith’s tenure as a coach, Phipps qualified for the NAIA championship two years in a row.

Phipps’ youngest brother told the audience that sometimes there was a different meaning to that smile. That smile often meant that Phipps was going to wrestle him, he joked.

“He was a bear,” Ryan Kromer, Phipps’ wrestling practice partner and roommate, told the News-Times, referring to Phipp’ wrestling style. “He was physically encompassing with his long arms.” Kromer drove from Wichita, KS to be at the event.

In addition to family and friends, current YU wrestlers also attended the event. Many were excited about the new facility.

“Having everyone on the mat at the same time will make us feel like a team again,” said Jamie Watts, a junior from Oklahoma City, Okla. Currently, the whole men’s team cannot fit in the wrestling facility at the same time. Instead, they have to split up the team for practice.

In addition to having more space, the new center, which is scheduled to be ready this spring, will also have a men’s and women’s locker rooms.
The women’s team which began in 2018 is smaller than the men’s team, but it is growing. According to Jeff Albers, head coach of the men’s and women’s wrestling teams, thanks to the new facility they are hoping to eventually expand the size of the women’s team to 30. Now it is closer to 20.

Gracie Goldsmith-Ding, a senior from Ione, Calif. said that even with a small women's team right now the mats can feel “crammed.” Although she won’t get to enjoy the new facility since she is graduating in the spring, she is excited about what it will mean for the future of the program.
It is fitting that this center will be named after Phipps, who was in part responsible for the York wrestling team coming together in its early days, according to coaches Smith and Dudrey, and had an impact on the program’s early success. The men’s team began in 2004.

One of Phipps’ brothers told the audience that it worked the other way too. Wrestling at York had a big impact on Phipps’ life. Two of Phipps’ best friends, for instance, were YU wrestlers.

Thanks were shared all around during the speeches. Phipps’ father thanked the university and the York wrestling community. Stark, meanwhile, thanked the Phipps family on behalf of the university.

“When he was on the team, there was a facility of limited space. The tight space was inadequate for the athletes. To create a new facility, they needed a hero. The Phipps family became that hero,” Stark said.

After the speeches were over, Phipps’ family, former coaches, and members of the York University community broke ground on the new center.

(adapted from York News-Times article)

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