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Area Wrestler of the Year | Stutz made history at Pasquotank

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The Panther's Darrien Stutz is the Area Wrestler of the Year, photographed at Pasquotank County High School, Thursday.

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By Malcolm Shields
Sports Editor

Monday, March 26, 2018

In two seasons, Darrien Stutz has had a rapid rise as a wrestler.

During the 2017-2018 high school season, Stutz reached the pinnacle of high school wrestling in the state, while at the same time, making history for the Pasquotank wrestling team.

Stutz's run to an individual state championship made the senior the choice as The Daily Advance's Area Wrestler of the Year.

In his first and only season in a Pasquotank singlet, Stutz, a senior, won a Northeastern Coastal Conference individual championship, the North Carolina High School Athletic Association Class 2A East Regional individual championship and the NCHSAA individual state championship at the 195-pound weight class this winter.

Stutz finished the season with a 36-5 overall record.

Stutz who said that he picked up wrestling during his junior year in high school in South Dakota at Stevens High School in Rapid City, noted that winning a state championship was always a goal of his.

Stutz said a friend convinced him to try out for wrestling.

“I tried it and I just loved it,” he said.

The level of hard work and the individual aspects of wrestling are elements that Stutz enjoys about the sport.

During his junior campaign at Stevens, Stutz finished in eight place at the South Dakota High School Activities Association Class A division at 220 pound weight division.

“It really meant a lot to me,” Stutz said. “At the time, I didn't realize how big of a deal it was.”

His efforts helped Stevens finish second overall at the state meet.

Due to a illness sustained by his brother, Stutz and his family relocated to Elizabeth City.

Stutz noted that he had family in the area.

Pasquotank coach Jonathan Sutton remembers the first time meeting with Stutz at a local restaurant in town.

“My first impression was very good,” Sutton said. “I knew that we would get some really good use out of him at Pasquotank, even if it was for one year.”

The coach noted Stutz's solid athletic build stood out to him.

Stutz noted that the same family atmosphere that he experienced at Stevens was present at Pasquotank.

Stutz added that he improved both on and off the mat.

Sutton noted that Stutz's level of confidence reminded him of former Pasquotank wrestler Anthony Bonner.

The coach noted that Stutz and Bonner, who was named the 2017 Area Wrestler of the Year, have the same work ethic and mentality.

“It benefited us as a team,” Sutton said. “His confidence level is through the roof.”

Part of that confidence was wearing sunglasses on the podium when he placed at meets. It was a thing that Stutz and a teammate at Pasquotank started during the season. That was the case the the Northeastern Coastal Conference tournament at Currituck in late January.

Around the mid-way point of the season, Stutz decided to drop down from the 220 pound division to 195 pounds.

Stutz noted that he was already a light competitor at 220.

He added that he knew that he would have success because he wanted it really bad.

Stutz helped the Panthers win the conference individual tournament team championship for the second consecutive season.

Following the league title, Stutz won the NCHSAA 2A East Regional individual championship at 195 at Croatan High School.

At the NCHSAA individual state meet at Greensboro Coliseum, Stutz was the No. 1 seed from the East region.

At the state tournament, Stutz won three matches to advance to the 195 pound final.

“I felt really determined,” he said. “I knew that this was my time. It was all or nothing at that point. If I took second, I would not have been OK with that.”

Stutz pinned Chase's Jeremy Miller by pin to secure the 195-pound state championship.

“When I won, it was the happiest moment of my life,” Stutz said.

Stutz added that when the referee slapped the mat to signal the end of the match by a pin, it didn't register at first that he was a state champion.

After a few moments, the accomplishment hit him.

“I just dropped to my knees and started crying,” he said. “The best feeling ever.”

Stutz was able to share the moment with his family.

“After I won, I looked up into the crowd,” he said. “All my family, friends and support was there.”

Winning Pasquotank's first state championship meant a lot to Stutz.

“It meant a lot personally, but for us as a program here at Pasquotank, it meant the world,” Sutton added. “It just made me reflect on how far we have come in just three years.”

The third-year coach at Pasquotank has guided a wrestler to the state final in Bonner last season at 182 and now a state champion in Stutz this winter.

The coach noted that the 2017-18 season was the first time since the last decade that Pasquotank had two regional champions.

Pasquotank senior Javiaughn Basnight also won a regional title this season at 132 pounds.

“It's a testament to how hard we work and how far we've come as a program,” Sutton said. “Darrien winning that state title gave us the reassurance that we're heading into the right direction, both on the mat and educationally.”

Stutz acknowledged that winning a state championship opened a lot of eyes of some at the college level.

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