Lifelong friendship fuels Royal Oak wrestlers

Kempf, Filippis find motivation in one another

By: Alex Tekip | Royal Oak Review | Published February 1, 2016

 Royal Oak High’s Miles Filippis takes command in his matchat St. Clair Shores Lake Shore on Jan. 30.

Royal Oak High’s Miles Filippis takes command in his matchat St. Clair Shores Lake Shore on Jan. 30.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes


ROYAL OAK — Royal Oak High wrestlers Ellis Kempf and Miles Filippis first formed a friendship as students at Royal Oak’s Northwood Elementary.

The friendship grew on Royal Oak’s football field each fall, and over laughs at get-togethers between their two families.

This winter, the bond between Kempf and Filippis is at the center of Royal Oak’s wrestling program.

The Ravens currently have 14 wrestlers on the team, but some wrestle in duplicate weight classes.  They are typically short three to five weight classes per meet.

Royal Oak coach Scott Welborn said the size of the team has resulted in a shift in focus, especially with Kempf and Filippis having a  shot at making a run in the postseason.

“We are very small as far as the number of guys that we have on our team, and so right now we’re looking mainly for individual success,” he said. “ We were hopeful at the beginning of the season, because we had enough guys to fill most of the weight classes, that we would have a shot at maybe a district championship. At this point in time, with the number of voids that we have in our lineup, that’s unlikely.”

Welborn said he isn’t completely counting out a district championship, but recognized that it’s difficult for the Ravens to win meets when they routinely have to forfeit six points for any weight class in which they don’t have a wrestler.

They do have wrestlers to fill the 152- and 160-pound weight classes. Kempf, a senior captain, steps in at 152 pounds.

“He’s already got a tremendous record,” said Welborn of Kempf’s team-leading 31 wins.

Filippis, a junior, wrestles directly after Kempf in the 160-pound weight class. He placed seventh at the Oakland County Tournament and has 30 wins.

It’s only fitting that the two friends compete back to back.  

When Kempf was wrestling against Berkley at during a Jan. 27 meet at Troy High, Filippis cheered for him while jumping and jogging in place to prepare for his approaching turn on the mat. Kempf won his match, quickly pulled on some sweats and a hoodie, and headed over to go root on Filippis  with his teammates.

Filippis’  and Kempf’s desire to see to one another succeed is rooted in their friendship and a strong understanding of each other’s wrestling styles. The two are partners in practice, meaning they wrestle against each other on a near-daily basis.

“Me and Ellis are working pretty hard practicing,” Filippis said. “He’s pushing me, and I’m pushing him in the wrestling room.”

Filippis  and Kempf  were also practice partners at a Central Michigan University wrestling camp they attended together this summer.

Filippis  said that even when he and Kempf aren’t in the wrestling room, their mindset is focused on how to improve.

“It helps us, ’cause outside of wrestling, we still talk about wrestling,” he said.

Kempf said after years of friendship in and outside of sports, he finds it easy to communicate with Filippis.

“Because of (our) friendship, sometimes (I) don’t have to talk through an interpreter,” said Kempf, who is deaf. “(I) know how to communicate with him. (We) have partner trust and there’s other things we’re able to communicate with one another.”

Filippis’ and Kempf’s open lines of communication make it easy for them  to discuss their shared goal for this season.

“States,” said Filippis.” We’re going to states.”