West matman tops Missouri champion

News-DemocratMarch 24, 2014 

— The 2013-14 high school wrestling season ended three weeks ago for most of the top grapplers in southern Illinois. But not for Belleville West senior Nate Higgins.

Taking on four-time Missouri state champion Rodney Hahn, of Whitfield, Higgins conducted a takedown clinic and went on for a 16-9 win in the 160-pound weight class Monday at the Missouri-Illinois East-West Challenge at the John Davis Wrestling Center.

The Class 3A state tournament runner-up at 152 pounds, Higgins fell behind Hahn early, but had seven takedowns in the final 5 minutes as he scored the upset win.

"I've been training and I feel like I'm in midseason form," Higgins said. "After the first minute, I knew I didn't want to wrestle him on the mat because he's known for those little tricks.

"After I got the first takedown, I kept using the same move and it worked every time. He beat me when we were kids so I had that little bit of motivation.''

The Illinois team could have used some of Higgins motivation. Trailing 9-7 following a 6-4 win by Matt Kent, of Edwardsville, in the 220-pound match, the Missouri team won the next nine matches and went on for the 36-12 win.

Kent trailed Robert Schneider, of Timberland, 4-2 with under 30 seconds remaining. But the Tigers standout gave the home crowd something to cheer about with a takedown to force overtime.

It didn't take Kent long to finish the job. Less then 20 seconds into the sudden victory session, Kent scored another takedown to give Illinois a 9-7 lead.

"He (Schneider) came out with a lot of intensity and I had to match it,'' Kent said. "To win here, in this atmosphere, is great. This is home. It means a lot.''

The Illinois lead didn't last long. When Daniel Vaughn, of Hazelwood West, defeated Jeff Brown, of Belleville East, 5-2 in the 285-pound match, Missouri had the lead for good at 10-9.

The only pin of the night came from Granite City senior Dylan Gray, who pinned Logan Baird, of Washington, in 3 minutes, 20 seconds of their 195-pound match.

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