By Harold Raker
For The Daily Item
Dwayne Pepper thought that if he had an advantage in the preliminary round Thursday night in the PIAA Class AAA wrestling championships, it was his aggressive style.
He didn’t change his mind after the Shikellamy senior and Parkland’s Omar Haddad battled to a scoreless draw after one period in the 220-pound preliminaries.
After letting Haddad up in the second, Pepper struck with a double-leg takedown for a 2-1 lead, then gave him another escape to tie it at 2-2.
Much to Pepper’s surprise, and delight, Haddad cut him loose to open the third.
That proved to be the difference as Pepper, in his first trip to the state tournament, took a 3-2 win and moved on to this afternoon’s quarterfinals.
The Valley’s only other AAA qualifier, Selinsgrove sophomore Andrew Boob, also at 220, was eliminated with a pair of losses Thursday.
The Seal fell in the prelims to Kiski Area’s Tyler Worthing, by technical fall, 16-0 in 4 minutes, 28 seconds. He lost 6-2 in the first round of consolations to David Wuestner, of Lower Dauphin, finishing his season at 25-7.
“That was kind of his fault,” Pepper said of the decision by Haddad in the third, “because I’m a lot quicker than a lot of kids (at that weight class) on my feet. I felt pretty good about that move.”
Not only did Pepper have the lone takedown, but, “I fought off a lot of his takedown (attempts). I realized he was going to shoot a lot toward the edge of the mat so I tried to keep him in the middle.’’
Pepper (24-3) moves on to wrestle Bo Spiller, of Solanco, in the quarters, which begin at 1:30 p.m. today. Spiller (35-6) won 12-8 over Marc Isaac, of William Tenant.
“I am confident about it,” Pepper said. “I can visualize beating him tonight. I can’t wait for (Friday) and I will be in the semis on Saturday.”
Pepper said that at this level, most of the upper weight wrestlers are not as quick as he and he likes to dictate the pace.
“I wrestle more of a quicker pace and I wrestle my way, by attacking, and keep pushing the pace,” he said.
But it wasn’t easy. There were nerves.
“I got my first-time jitters out of the way and (Friday) I can open up and score more points. I’m excited,” he said.
He said he had some jitters to start, but concentrated on winning the positions, more so than worrying about winning the match.
“If I win the positions, everything else comes together,” Pepper said.
Selinsgrove’s Boob, after trailing 3-0 in his consolation bout, took Wuestner down in the second period to close it to 3-2. But in the third, with Boob on the bottom, Wuestner tiled him for a three-point nearfall and held on for the win.