TAMPA — An avid wrestler in the Brandon Kids Club since the age of 7, Luis Peguero decided to take a break and try his hand at football.
He played in the Pop Warner organization as a sixth-grader and seventh-grader. He liked it well enough, but soon he realized he had to decide on one sport.
Wrestling, which he admitted always has been first in his heart, won out.
"In the eighth grade, I made the decision to stick with wrestling," said Peguero, who then joined the Caveman wrestling program to prepare him for the high school level.
"I started Caveman and it just refreshed me on the whole sport," he said. "Without Caveman I would have played football."
Based on the results, it appears Peguero made the right choice. A two-time state qualifier and defending state champion at 170 pounds, the Robinson senior is gearing up for a second straight state title to cap his high school career. Only this time he is in the 182-pound class.
"Having that title and just training for the next one (drive me)," Peguero said, adding that his first-place state ribbon "is something to look at to show that you did it and that you need to do it again. It motivates you."
Robinson coach Tom Montero witnesses Peguero's inner drive daily at practices and during meets.
"He was working hard to win a state championship," Montero said. "This year, he's got to work even harder to defend a state championship (albeit at a higher weight class). Everyone from top to bottom wants to beat him."
Part of that drive stems from Peguero not forgetting his freshman year, when he did not make it past region. He had more than 40 wins that season and missed a state berth by one point in a match.
"He took it personal," Montero said. "From last year to this year, what's different is he's gotten a lot stronger."
With district, region and state tournaments on tap, Peguero is in a prime position for another strong postseason run. Peguero ran his record to 34-0 after he was named one of the Tony Ippolito Memorial tournament's two outstanding wrestlers. And he remains unbeaten after the Hillsborough County Championships, winning that final on Saturday via pinfall.
Wrestling, however, does not define Peguero, who also enjoys fishing, boating and watersports with his family and friends. He plans to major in accounting or physical fitness in college.
There also is family time, as he has two infant brothers, ages 1 and 2.
"I've got two little wrestling projects to work on," Peguero said with a laugh.