By Bill Albright
For The Daily Item
Entering the Northwest Class AAA Regional Wrestling Championships, area wrestling teams had a baker’s dozen wrestlers alive and kicking for possible regional laurels.
Shikellamy led the way with eight qualifiers, while Selinsgrove came in with a handful.
After two rounds, that total dwindled to just two semifinalists, as Dwayne Pepper represented the Braves while Andrew Boob carried the banner for the Seals.
Making sure that he was definitely on his way to Chocolate town, Pepper pinned Mike Wolfel of St. Marys in his semifinal bout to punch his ticket to the big dance.
In the finals, Pepper faced Ian Mallory of General McLane and the Braves’ 220-pounder had his way in neutral position as he worked four takedowns into a 9-4 win for a regional title.
“After last year, I definitely had a little chip on my shoulder,” said Pepper. “I have been able to mature this year to take control of my nerves to not think so much about it, but just go out and do it.”
Some wrestlers excel on their feet while others would rather mat wrestle. For Pepper, he likes the neutral position.
“I definitely feel most comfortable on my feet,” Pepper said. “Right now I can’t wait to get down there (to Hershey). I love chocolate candy.”
In addition to Pepper, the Braves had three other wrestlers who came close, but no cigar. Included in that group were Tyler Hepler, Tristan Paul and Jared Brown.
“We are very happy with the way we performed in this tournament,” said Shikellamy head coach John Supsic. “Tristan Paul lost a close 2-1 match in the (consolation) semis and that kid went on to take third. He is a kid who has put in a ton of time into the sport and one of those kids who your heart breaks for when he loses. But we got Dwayne through and he has been wrestling great for the past four to five weeks. He lost to (Cameron) Porter of Central Mountain in the dual meet and I think that loss motivated him because he hasn’t lost since that match. He has been wrestling on fire and dominating kids. Now that he won this one, he has one more step and that is to go to the state tournament and place there. If he wrestles like he has the past two weekends, he will place.”
In Boob’s case, he lost a 3-1 decision to Mallory in the semifinals before he bounced back to pin Alex Streich of Warren in the fourth round of consolations. In his battle to earn a trip to the state meet, Boob faced Nick Gray of Philipsburg-Osceola and in a physical war, Boob emerged with a 3-1 win and a trip to the state meet.
“He was really tough around the corners,” said Boob. “I was able to just squeak one by him and got it in. It was really hard for me, but I got it.”
Just a sophomore, Boob is excited about his first trip to the Giant Center.
“I am really excited to go to Hershey in my first year as a sophomore,” said Boob. “I am going down there and try my hardest to get on the podium. I beat the number one seed in my first match and although they expected him to win this, it didn’t look like that. I might have lost one match, but I got the one that counted.”
Selinsgrove coach Seth Martin sees Boob’s effort as a stepping stone to bigger and better things for the Seals program.
“He has big plans for himself,” said Martin about Boob. “Going to Hershey as a sophomore really sets him off for him to reach his goals. Coming into this tournament, you look at the numbers and the names and you don’t really know what to think. When you get here you realize that anybody can beat anybody. I told the guys yesterday to respect the fact that anybody here can beat you and at the same time you can beat anybody here. All I asked of them was to give 100 percent and at the end of the day, if 100 percent wasn’t good enough, nobody can blame you.”