BELLEVILLE — Their seven-year reign as city wrestling champions on the line, the Belleville West Maroons refused to fold Wednesday in the annual Battle of Belleville.
Sophomore Cooper Secker posted a quick pin in the 106-pound weight class to get the Maroons on track as West held off Belleville East 44-31 before a large turnout at West High School.
East (3-3), which trailed 27-0 heading into 170, won five matches in a row and took a 28-27 lead when senior Jeff Brown pinned Joe Hunter-Schultz in a minute 43 seconds of their 285-pound bout.
But Secker, who struggled at 106 a year ago, responded with a pin of Lancers freshman Carson Gamboe in 17 seconds as West (4-3) retook the lead at 33-28.
East junior Lucas Bernal won by decision at 113, cutting West's lead to 33-21, but a forfeit win at 120 and a technical fall from senior Titus Taylor Jr. clinched the Maroons' eighth straight city title.
"We knew we needed to come in here tonight and wrestle well. (East coach) Maurice (Brown) is a heck of a coach and competitor and I knew he would have his kids fired up and ready to go," Maroons coach Al Sears said. "It's a big deal to be city champions. Maybe the freshmen don't realize it, but the kids we have in the program do.
"Belleville and Belleville West have a rich wrestling tradition and to be able to say you are the best in this city ... it means a lot."
Credit also should be given to the Lancers. On the verge of being routed, East roared back after a tough start.
West jumped out to a 3-0 lead when J.D. Bass defeated Latrell Hardison 2-0 at 132. Nate Smalling (138) and Nick Foster (145) followed with 57- and 31-second pins, respectively, to increase the Maroons' lead to 15-0.
East then forfeited at 152 and following a 31-second pin by Nate Higgins at 160, West led 27-0.
Stunned, but not out for the count, East responded.
"West is very good in the light- and middle-weight classes and to be honest about it, I thought the big match was at 132. We needed that match," Lancers coach Maurice Brown said. "We had to forfeit those two weight classes and then put a freshman (Gamboe) in at 106. We're giving up 12 points in forfeits and you can't do that against a team like West.
"I was pleased with how we battled back. The kids showed really some fight and determination there."
Austin Thurman got the Lancers on the board with a pin at 170 and when Matt Striegel won by forfeit at 182, East was within 27-12.
Cody Patterson (195) and DeWayne Hill (220) won their matches and when Brown won by pin, East had its only lead of the night.
It didn't last long as 18 seconds later Secker gave the Maroons back the lead for good.
"He's a legitimate 106 pounds this year. Last year Cooper (Secker) was a light 106-pound wrestler," Sears said. "I thought a major part of this match was that while we lost five matches in a row in the upper-weight classes. We didn't give up major points by getting pinned or losing by tech fall in a couple of them.
"In a close match that can be huge and tonight it was,"
Earlier in the night, West defeated Althoff 65-9 while East defeated Althoff 66-27.