For the fourth time in five years, the Belleville West Maroons will have a wrestler in a title match at the Class 3A state wrestling tournament.
Earning payback for an early season loss, West senior Nate Higgins stunned favored Matt Rundall of Oak Park-River Forest 6-5 in a 152-pound semifinal on Friday and is one of three metro-east wrestlers who will compete for state championships at the State Farm Center in Champaign tonight
Higgins (47-3), beaten by Rundall in the finals of the Hinsdale Central Tournament, will wrestle Bryce Brill of (Chicago) Mount Carmel for the title at 152.
Brill (44-0) is the top-ranked 152-pound wrestler in the nation.
Also advancing into title matches were Class 2A defending state 285-pound champion Tanner Farmer of Highland and East St. Louis senior SirRomeo Howard (145).
Howard (34-2) defeated Ottawa's Daniel Close by a 14-6 major decision in his semifinal. He will meet (Lombard) Montini's Chris Garcia (38-5) in his Class 2A title match.
Farmer (35-0) squeaked out a 1-0 decision of Geneseo's Nick Verbek in the semifinals. He will go up against Montini's Michael Johnson (40-1) for the championship.
Losing semifinals Friday were Jarrid Braunagel who suffered his first loss of the season, when he fell 2-1 to Dakota's Printice Walls in a Class 1A semifinal at 120.
In Class 2A, Dameon Adams dropped his 120-pound semifinal while Triad sophomore Cole Witzig (160) also was defeated.
Adams lost a 9-0 major decision to Montini's Dylan Duncan in his semifinal bout. Witzig saw his chase for a title end with a 19-7 major decision to Garrett Sutton of Richmond-Burton.
Nick Foster of West lost his Class 3A 145-pound semifinal to Rockton-Hononegah's Fernie Silva 6-4.
All semifinal losers are assured of earning medals and could place as high as third.
Earlier in the day, West assured itself of two medal winners for the third straight year when both Foster and Higgins won in the quarterfinals.
Only a sophomore, Foster scored an escape to start the second period, then rode Josh Martin of (Lombard) Glenbard East out for the entire third period to post a 1-0 win.
"I'm not surprised at all,'' West coach Al Sears said. "Nick Foster is the next big name in wrestling in the metro-east. The kid just has so much natural ability.
"The Martin kid was a great wrestler. But Nick is just an octupus when he's on top He's just so tough to get away from.''
Higgins also scored a narrow one point win, beating Trace Carello of (Aurora) Marmion Academy 5-4 in his quarterfinal.
"Carello is extremely strong but I thought Nate wrestled a very smart match,'' Sears said. "The kid has been around the sport a long time. He knows when he has to take it up a level and he's doing that here again this weekend.''
The only other Class 3A wrestlers still with a chance to earn a medal are Alton senior Phyillip Deloach and Matt Kent of Edwardsville.
Both lost in the quarterfinals, but won their first-round wrestlebacks.
Still alive in the consolation in Class 2A are Chrishon Tucker (106) and Don Cavitt (126) of East St. Louis and Marlon Manual (113) and Derell Hinkle of Cahokia.
Rodney Baker of Althoff (285) also is in the wrestlebacks, which begin at 9 a.m.