By Harold Raker
For The Daily Item
SUNBURY -- If things go well this weekend in Altoona, Shikellamy's wrestling team will take the Train to Hershey next week.
Senior 220-pounder Dwayne Pepper, nicknamed "Night Train," cruised through last weekend's District 4/9 tournament at Clarion University. He believes he is poised for another trip to the top of the podium Saturday night.
It is the last chance for the football and wrestling standout, who hopes to continue wrestling next season at Bloomsburg University, to make his first trip to the state championships.
The top three place-winners will advance.
Individual athletes and teams often talk about peaking at the right time and Pepper is doing just that, having won 13 of his last 14 matches, including three last weekend to win the district title.
"He had a great tournament last week," Shikellamy coach John Supsic said. "He wrestled as well as he's ever wrestled and hopefully that carries over (in the regional). He wrestled with confidence, which is huge for him."
Pepper agreed with that assessment and said he is ready to keep winning, all the way to Hershey. He said the recent success has boosted his confidence.
"It makes me want to work harder every day now," Pepper said during a break in a workout this week at Shikellamy.
"I'm just real focused on the task at hand and that's training hard and sticking with my game plan," he said.
In last weekend's tournament, he opened with a 39-second pin, won 16-5 in the semifinals, and majored Selinsgrove's Andrew Boob 13-4 in the final to improve to 19-3.
"He dominated every kid he wrestled so if he goes in with the same attitude and mind set that he is going to dominate his opponent, he will," Supsic said.
"He's a phenomenal athlete, he wrestles extremely well when he wants to and he can win this tournament if he sets his mind to it, no doubt. He's got to believe it, that's what it comes down to."