The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA


March 7, 2014

Wrestling: Shikellamy's Pepper still has shot at 3rd place

HERSHEY — Dwayne Pepper grudgingly admitted that he has a reason to smile.

He even managed to do so at the urging of his coaches shortly after winning a consolation match that assured him of a podium finish at the PIAA Class AAA wrestling championships.

Pepper, a Shikellamy senior 220-pounder, saw his quest for a gold medal disappear Friday afternoon when he was pinned in the quarterfinals by Bo Spiller, of Solanco. He stayed alive later in the afternoon with a 3-2 win over David Wuestner, of Lower Dauphin, which advanced him into today’s action.

Pepper will face Hempfield Area junior Fred Mantsch (29-9) in the third round of consolations, which begin at 9 this morning in the Giant Center.

A win keeps Pepper alive for a third-place finish; a loss and he will compete in the seventh-eight-place consolation.

“The way I performed (Friday) I am kind of disappointed in myself, but I get to be on the podium, so that’s at least something to smile about,” said Pepper, who is 25-4 on the season.

In his quarterfinal, Pepper scored a takedown early against Spiller, but was unable to put him on his back. He then let him go for a 2-1 lead.

He said he didn’t really have a chance to flatten Spiller because he was not physically performing like he should.

“I just didn’t show up,” he said.

“Yeah (the takedown) felt good, getting two points, but I lost so it really doesn’t matter,” he said.

Spiller took Pepper down in the second period and it was 3-3 with Pepper on the bottom to start the third. Spiller turned him for three points, then pinned him in two minutes, 29 seconds.

Next up was the most difficult part He needed to prepare himself mentally to come back after a short break and win that important second-round consolation.

“It was extremely hard, but I was able to do it,” he said.

Pepper said he had to have a short memory, forgetting about the loss quickly. “I had to get back and stretch and get ready to go,” he said.

Pepper again scored the first takedown and let Wuestner out for a 2-1 first-period lead. Pepper escaped in the second and gave up another escape, then fended off some throw attempts by Wuestner and held on for a 3-2 victory.

As coaches John Supsic and Justin Michaels celebrated the win, in Pepper’s first state tournament appearance, Pepper walked off the floor looking more disappointed than excited.

“I’m not proud of that match either, but I’m going to be on the podium so that’s a goal accomplished right there,” he said.

Some wrestlers would say that the pressure is off in this situation, but not Pepper.

“The pressure is still on, the pressure on myself,” he said. “I hold myself to high standards. I have to perform (today),” he said.

Pepper said he may not feel pressured by others, but, “for myself, I want to do more. I disappointed myself twice today.”

Perhaps the Bloomsburg University-bound Pepper will feel more like smiling tonight with a medal draped around his neck.

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