Peele caps great season with trip to states

Published 4:43 am Thursday, February 19, 2009

By By STEVE FRANKLIN, Sports Writer
For three years, Darien Peele strived to qualify for the state wrestling tournament.
For three years, Peele came up short after suffering heart-wrenching defeats at the regional tournament. Last season was the worst for the Pam Pack 152-pounder, as he lost a narrow decision to West Brunswick’s Deven Ruane in the consolation semifinals of the East Region tourney to fall one win shy of qualifying for the state meet.
Last Saturday, Peele’s long wait came to an end, as he took the runner-up slot at regionals and qualified for states for the first time. What made it even sweeter was that he exacted revenge on Ruane in the semifinals to seal his trip to the state meet with a convincing 10-3 decision.
Peele, whom head coach Dan Riggs and assistant coach Charles Blumell call one of the team’s hardest workers, has had a stellar senior season. Last week, he became only the fourth Pam Pack wrestler in school history to win 40 matches in a season, joining teammates Gabe Gardner (46 wins) and Justin “Weasel” Moore (43 wins) and former Pack heavyweight Gerald Lawrence (41 wins in 2006).
Peele likes to use his quickness to get shots and his power to put opponents on their back. The one area where he’d like to improve this week is his stamina. He battled a cold all of last week and now that he’s healthy again, he knows he’ll need as much energy as possible to go the distance against some of the state’s elite wrestlers.
Peele (40-12), the No. 2 seed from the East Region, will take on Western Guilford senior Simone Santos (32-4), the No. 3 seed from the Mid-East Region in the opening round of the state tournament. Santos is ranked No. 5 in the state among Class 3A 152-pounders, according to Super 32.