A native of Derry, Pennsylvania, Phillippi was a three time state champion for Derry Area high school and was regarded as one of the top wrestlers in his class. Phillippi place in tournaments such Flonationals, and Super 32 and was also ranked as high as second in the nation at 132 pounds. Phillippi spent his true freshman year at the University of Virginia where he would redshirt. Phillippi compiled an overall record of 25-8, defeating future All - American Sa'Darian Perry during the year. Phillippi decided to transfer to the university of Pittsburgh following the announcement of Keith Gavin as the programs next head coach.