While following a family tradition, Eastern Michigan University redshirt junior wrestler Phillip Joseph has paved his own way in the sport. The 2009-10 season was Joseph’s first collegiate season, but it didn’t begin there. Although the Eagles welcomed Joseph only a few years ago, he first got involved in wrestling at age 7.
Family has played a prominent role in Joseph’s wrestling career dating back to when his father and uncles started the wrestling tradition in their high school days. If that wasn’t enough, Joseph’s three brothers, Greg, Justin and Isaac all wrestled. Eagle pride runs in the family with older brother Justin being an EMU wrestling alumnus.
“[Justin] is two years ahead of me so he was always a step ahead of me, but that was the perfect motivation for me,” Joseph said.
Joseph broke most of his brother’s high school records and became an undefeated state champ his senior year, with over 200 high school career wins at Lapeer East High School in Lapeer, Mich.
With offers from around the country, Joseph began his career at EMU for a variety of reasons. Having a brother on the team greatly influenced him along with the in-state factor and distance between his family and friends.
“Phillip is unorthodox and [his drive to] never stop wrestling is what attracted us to him,” EMU coach Derek DelPorto said
After meeting coaches from different schools, it was the coaching staff at EMU that really convinced Joseph.
“When I committed to EMU, I knew that they didn’t have the strongest wrestling tradition, but I saw the changes that were being made since DelPorto and [associate coach David] Bolyard were brought in,” Joseph said. “Since I’ve been here at the university, the program has moved drastically forward.”
In past seasons with the Eagles, Joseph went to both the Mid-American Conference and the NCAA, taking as high as second place at the MAC.
“I have a huge chip on my shoulder from last year when I took second in a very close match,” Joseph said.
He plans on going even further this year and claiming a couple of titles.
“My first and foremost goal is to become an All-American this year,” Joseph said. “On my road to do that I want to win the individual MAC championship.”
The beginning of the season was “off track” for Joseph but his recent 3-1 MAC and 12-6 overall record shows promise.
“A lot of my matches this year, including my most recent against Kent State have been ‘one mistake losses,’” Joseph said. “By this I mean that I only make one mistake in the match and then lose by a point or two.
Practice has also been tough for Joseph with lack of able wrestlers.
“With so many injuries and sickness on our team, I haven’t had the practice partners that I had the previous years which also affects my training,” Joseph said. “The coaches have really tried to stay positive with everything and they really help me stay focused on the big picture.”
To put himself in a better position to qualify for and place at nationals this year, Joseph and the coaches have decided to move this normally 184-pound wrestler down to the 174-pound weight class.
The 184-pound weight class is the toughest weight class this season with numerous All-American, national finalists and returning champions.
“I was in a slump for a while and can’t seem to keep a good streak going, but after making this decision it’s a lot easier for me to just go out and wrestle without stressing out about ranks and win percentage,” Joseph said.
Through his roller coaster of a season, Joseph’s family and teammates have been his biggest supporters.
“Without [my family] my career wouldn’t have the same meaning that it has and it definitely wouldn’t be as enjoyable,” Joseph said.
The EMU wrestling team is like Joseph’s second family. He even joked that he couldn’t get away from them even if he wanted to.
“[Joseph] is one of the most genuine dudes I know,” DelPorto said. “He comes from a huge family of brothers and sisters and his loyalty to the ones he loves reflects his commitment to our team.”
When not wrestling, this communications major tries to relax and hang out with friends
“Wrestling really makes me appreciate such time off,” Joseph said.
Joseph will be competing at his new weight class at the last home meet of the season Feb. 17 against Iowa State University.
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