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It was a thought Garrett Peppelman never expected to enter his mind.

"I just have to survive this. I was not going to get tech-falled in state finals," said the Central Dauphin senior wrestler.

"This" the Ram senior speaks of is a match with Kennard-Dale's Chance Marsteller. Specifically, it was the 2013 PIAA Class AAA 160-pound championship bout which Marsteller won, 17-5, to claim his third state title.

What is amazing about the comment is Peppelman isn't an ordinary wrestler.

Part of the Central Dauphin juggernaut for four years, the well-spoken grappler entered that match with a state championship, another PIAA medal, a season record of 46-1 and a career mark of 138-13 — he's also the No. 3 wrestler in the country at 160 pounds.

Marsteller and Peppelman are back in Hershey in search of state gold as they enter this week's PIAA Wrestling Championships as favorites to bring home gold medals in the 170-pound and 160-pound weight classes, respectively.

So what exactly can one do to prepare to face Marsteller, who walks into Giant Center with a career mark of 162-0?

Not much for the average grappler, says Spring Grove coach Tony Miller.

"Good luck. His abilities so far exceed most (wrestlers), many times our goal is just to stay in the match with him," said the 19-year coaching veteran. "His techniques are so solid it is very difficult to slow him down. We always look at kids such as Chance as a great opportunity.

"I believe our kids have always stepped up to the challenge and given him their best possible match."

The challenge of facing the country's No. 2-ranked high school wrestler, regardless of weight, was something Peppelman welcomed.

"Why not challenge myself? Losing to Chance is nothing to be ashamed of. The whole goal is to get ready for the next level (of wrestling)," said the University of Virginia recruit.

The first meeting of the two stars occurred two weeks before the state final in the District 3 championship match, a 7-2 decision for Marsteller.

Peppelman believes he was ready for just about everything the Oklahoma State recruit could throw at him. Well, almost everything.

"I watched a ton of video. I was in as good a shape as I could be," he said. "He really moves people around and made you feel awkward. He gets you off your game immediately.

"And he is relentless. It's something you can't really prepare for. It's almost like slow motion because it's perfect technique. It just looks perfect."

Two weeks later, the anticipated second meeting occurred and was as close as the first match until late in the first period.

"In the state final, I decided to just go out and leave it all out there," said Peppelman. "I got the first shot (off) but he was able to do a split and get out of it. Then he hit a hip toss at the end of the period.

"My mind switched to keeping in the match instead of winning it. He fed off of (that move)."

That four-point move gave Marsteller momentum that he carried through to the end of the major decision that made him a three-timer.

The state finals loss ended Peppelman's junior season at 46-2, the only losses to Marsteller. As one would expect, the match was a learning experience for Peppelman.

"I had a great season and a lot to be thankful for," he said. "(The loss) was great motivation to get stronger and get better at hand fighting.

"I worked out with Chance at the beginning of the season and he said my hand fighting had gotten better. That's the main thing (college) freshmen have trouble with."

While his physical abilities and textbook technique are quite obvious, his presence is often the attribute most overlooked when analyzing Marsteller the wrestler. This is due to Marsteller the person.

"He's humble as (anything). He's a great competitor but he gives off the vibe he is going to dominate you," said Peppelman.

Miller thinks back four years ago to Marsteller's first run through the PIAA tournament as an example of his presence.

"I can remember him as a freshman at states, warming up," he said. "I didn't see the normal pressure of the state finals bothering him.

"Instead, I saw a young man confident in himself and a young man ready to roll."

And this weekend, that roll is expected to continue right into the history books.

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