BELLEVILLE — After four years of domination on the mat, Belleville West senior DeMechico Spraggins' wrestling to-do list is down to one.
Just a week removed from winning his first sectional title, Spraggins will look to claim the missing accolade from his remarkable career --a state championship -- when he leads a group of 36 metro-east grapplers into the IHSA state tournament, which begins Thursday at Assembly Hall in Champaign.
Ranked third in the Class 3A 138-pound weight class, Spraggins (45-1) will take on Matt Sears of (Chicago) Marist (32-13) in a first-round bout when Class 3A opening-round matches begin at 6:30 p.m.
Top local hopes Jarrid Braunagel (113 pounds) of Althoff and Carlyle senior Kevin Roper (220) are among the local Class 1A athletes who will debut at 2:30 p.m., while Cahokia senior David Frazier (160) and Highland junior Tanner Farmer (285) will lead the area Class 2A contingent, beginning at 4:30 p.m.
Action continues Friday with quarterfinals in all three classes beginning at 8:30 a.m. and semifinals at 7 p.m.
The medal round begins at 1 p.m. Saturday with the state title bouts set for 6:30 p.m.
In search of his fourth state medal, Spraggins is seemingly coming into the state finals at his very best after breezing to a title at the Moline Sectional.
With a pair of runner-up finishes and a fourth-place medal a year ago, Spraggins seems determined to go out as a state champion.
"The last two weeks I've noticed a difference in how hard he's working and how focused Mech is right now. Than last week at the sectional, I thought he wrestled about as well as I've seen him. He was very aggressive,'' Maroons coach Al Sears said. "He's a smart kid. He knows what's at stake and that this is it.''
Spraggins will be joined at state by teammates Nate Higgins (152) and Tremont Davis (220). A third-place finisher at sectional, Higgins has been ranked as high as No. 2 in his weight class and will carry a 44-2 mark into his first-round match in Champaign.
"I think he's got a great shot of placing,'' Sears said of Higgins. "But in Class 3A, when you get to this level, there are no easy matches or weight classes. Everybody is tough or they wouldn't be here.''
Blair, a state runner-up last year, is 44-3 and ranked third at 195. Two of the nation's top-ranked 195-pounders -- Jordan Ellingwood of Plainfield Central (43-0) and Ricky Robertson of (Orland Park) Sandburg (44-0) -- also are in the field. All three of Blair's losses have come against Ellingwood.
Other top Class 3A hopes include O'Fallon junior Jon Villagran (120), Edwardsville senior James Mosher (145), Belleville East sophomore Matt Striegel (160) and Granite City senior Alex Brooks (170).
In Class 2A, Farmer (35-0) at 285 and Frazier (36-1) at 160 pounds, are both favored to reach the finals.
Farmer, looking to become Highland's first wrestling state champion, will take on Leon Harmon of (Chicago) Brooks in his first match with a possible state title bout against Jake Cochrane of (Mundelein) Carmel awaiting Saturday.
Frazier, who placed fourth at 152 last season, will take on Ryan Pitra of Geneseo in his first match.
Other top Class 2A hopes include Antonio Moore of East St. Louis (106), Dameon Adams (113) and Leslie Williams (120) of Cahokia, Cole Wysocki (120) of Triad, Pat Bieber (182) of Waterloo and Nick Czar (220) of Highland.
Wysocki placed fourth at 106 last year.
Roper, a three-time state qualifier from Carlyle, will lead the way for Class 1A wrestlers and is 23-2 after winning the 220-pound title at the Vandalia Sectional.
Braunagel also won a sectional title at 113 and along with senior Michael Harris (132) give Althoff a pair of genuine medal hopes.
Braunagel was ranked second before the sectional last week, while Harris also has been ranked in the top five of his weight class for much of the season.
Sophomore Jevon Hey (106) rounds out the trio of Althoff wrestlers competing at state.
Althoff coach Dave Harris said Braunagel continued to shine last week.
"I thought he looked very strong,'' Harris said. "Jarrid is a wrestler who has responded to every challenge we've given him this year. He's been to several national-caliber tournaments, but what he'll see this weekend is something he hasn't experienced before.
"I am confident he will respond very well.''
While Braunagel's high-school career is just beginning, the end is near for Harris.
The Crusaders senior is coming off a second-place sectional finish, losing to Nate Jozsa of Argenta-Oreana by injury default.
Jozsa is 41-0.
"It was 4-2 in the first period. We were behind and Michael got dropped on his head,'' Dave Harris said. "For precautionary reasons, we stopped the match and have concentrated on getting ready for state this week.
"Michael is ready and he's fine. The Jozsa kid is a very good wrestler, but at this time of year, everybody is good. He's beatable. Everybody is beatable. Our goal is to bring home some medals.''