The annual Battle of Belleville brought the best wrestlers in the city into the Belleville East gym Monday night.
The Belleville West Maroons left little doubt about who would leave with the city championship. In a dominant performance, the Maroons knocked off Althoff 69-7 and Belleville East 58-15.
Belleville West's No. 16 ranking in Illinois is expected to improve Tuesday with the release of the new state poll thanks to a dramatic victory last week over Edwardsville.
"Our motto going in there tonight was 'no pity in the city; you guys have to bring it," said Belleville West coach Al Sears, whose team is 8-2 with losses to state-ranked Lockport and Minooka. "This is the most solid team of 14 kids I've ever had, so my expectations as a coach are super high. You've got to push it."
Belleville East coach Maurice Brown has seen this talented West squad building for some time.
"They've got a lot of kids coming into their program with five or six years of wrestling experience under the belts, so that makes them tougher," Brown said. "Most of those kids are juniors and seniors, so they're maturing a lot and getting better.
"Right now they're the team to beat in the Southwestern Conference --and the conference has gotten a lot better."
West senior standout Mech Spraggins, ranked second in the state and 10th in the state at 138 pounds, added two more victims to his unbeaten slate this season.
Spraggins pinned Althoff's Rory Keen in 2 minutes, 59 seconds and also pinned East's Brandon Walters in 2:39.
Unbeaten West wrestler Nate Higgins, ranked fourth in the state at 152, also picked up two more wins as did teammate Nathan Smalling, ranked ninth in the state at 126 pounds.
Sears noted the accomplishments of another double-winner from Monday, 220-pound West linebacker Tremont Davis.
"This is his fourth year of wrestling," Sears said. "He took a couple weeks off after football and was thinking about not coming out, so I had to put the full-court press on him to get him. He's doing a great job."
Another West football player, Taron Johnson, is wrestling at 195 pounds in only his second year with the sport. Johnson and another unbeaten West wrestler, DeAngelo Johnson at 182 pounds, each won both their matches.
DeAngelo Johnson pinned Althoff's Bret Silvestri in 1:29 and Belleville East's Tre Jones in 1:12
Not everything went Belleville West's way on Monday.
"We looked OK tonight from the outside looking in, but I know what those guys are capable of," Sears said. "I really thought we wrestled kind of flat."
Althoff's Michael Harris edged West's Titus Taylor 3-2 in an entertaining 132-pound match. Harris pinned East's Ryan Sullivan in his other match.
Althoff also got two wins from 113-pounder Jarrid Braunagel, who defeated Zach Hanusek from West and pinned Armoni Franklin from Belleville East.
Sears said West heavyweight Ricky Nelson was ahead 6-2 in his Belleville East's Jeff Brown, who turned the tables by pinning Nelson in 3:37.
Sears said a crowd of nearly 600 was on hand, including many young wrestlers from several area grade schools that have started wrestling in recent years thanks to donations from Edwardsville's Mark Mestemacher.
"This was a good night for Belleville," Sears said. "It's going to be a more popular sport and my hope as a wrestling coach is those kids will see this and get stoked."
Belleville East got two wins from sophomore Matt Striegel (12-4) at 160 pounds, including a strong performance in a 9-4 victory against West's Claude Shelby. Striegel pinned Althoff's Aaron Medina in 1:02.
"Most of his losses this year have come against seniors and kids that are ranked," Coach Brown said of Striegel.
East's Lucas Bernal (106). Dylan Gray (170) and heavyweight Jeff Brown also won both their matches.
Contact reporter Norm Sanders at firstname.lastname@example.org or 239-2454.