Belleville West senior Nick Foster simply smiled when asked about the possibility of winning the Class 3A 152-pound state title in three weeks.
Currently ranked first in the latest Illinois Matmen rankings — in what is annually one of the most competitive weight classes in the state (152 pounds) — Foster has simply dominated all competition during the 2015-16 season.
A state medal winner in the 145-pound weight class the last two years, Foster won 36 of his first 37 matches this season and took home titles in two of the state’s most competitve tournaments at Hinsdale Central and Mahomet-Seymour.
“Nick hasn’t just won his matches this season, he’s gone out and dominated his weight class,” Maroons first-year coach Joe Rujawitz said last week. “I mean, here’s a kid who is the exception from most elite wrestlers in that he doesn’t wrestle all year long because he also plays football. For Nick to be able to come out and dominate his weight class just makes me wonder how good he can and will be if he ever decides to wrestle full-time at the college level.
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Nick hasn’t just won his matches this season, he’s gone out and dominated his weight class.
Maroons coach Joe Rujawitz
“If he does that, I think he could very well be an NCAA Division I All-American or maybe even a national champion.”
Whether Foster wrestles, plays football or does both at the college level is yet to be determined. For now, the Maroons senior is concentrating all his energy in preparing for the Quincy Regional, which will be held on Saturday at Quincy High School. A top-three performance there will move Foster on to the Bolingbrook Sectional, one step closer to the IHSA State Wrestling Championships at the State Farm Center in Champaign, Feb. 18-20.
Foster’s success this season hasn’t only gotten him to the top of the state rankings, its also gained him national recognition. Foster is ranked among the Top 10 152-pound wrestlers in the nation by several national publications and websites. Among those are the Intermat High School National Rankings, where he is ranked ninth.
“That’s the goal. It’s the ring. My goal is to win the state championship ring,” Foster said before a recent Maroons match. “There are a lot of great wrestlers in my weight class. But I have a lot of confidence and believe in myself. I know I can win it.”
Past state tournaments
Foster, who began his wrestling career as a member of the Belleville Little Devils, has had his share of success at the state tournament. It was two years ago when a relatively unknown Foster proved to be one of the surprises of the state finals for the metro-east contingent, when he placed sixth in the 145-pound weight class.
Last year, a stronger and more intense Foster placed third in the 145-pound division. This year, Foster is at 152 pounds, where he has already beaten several of the state’s best, including second-ranked Dylan Geick of Lincolnshire Stevenson by a 7-6 score.
“I like 152 pounds. It’s a good weight for me. But I’m not as big as a lot of the guys I wrestle against,” Foster said. “I didn’t wrestle a lot this sunmer as I was getting ready for football, but I did compete at the Disney Duals and at Virginia Beach where I did well.
“If there is one part of my wrestling that I improved on its on my feet. I’ve always been a good wrestler on the mat, but I knew that I had to improve on my feet and with my takedowns and my shots. Anything lower body is where I like to get my shots and takedowns.”
A big decision in the near future
A linebacker on a Maroons football team that finished 5-5 in 2015, Foster was one of the leaders for coach Cameron Pettus’ defensive unit. Making up for a lack of size and going up against some of the top teams in the St. Louis area, Foster used his aggressive, tenacious style to finish with 49 tackles — tying him for second on the team.
Foster is being recruited for football and wrestling. He says he will weigh his options soon and could possibly try to compete in both sports, should the right situation materialize. McKendree University may be one of the schools willing to let Foster play both sports.
That’s the goal. It’s the ring. My goal is to win the state championship ring.
Belleville West wrestler Nick Foster
“I honestly don’t know what I’m going to do. I’ve got some options, but I’m going to wait and see what happens at the state meet and what kind of opportunities come from that,” Foster said. “I love both sports, but if I have give one up, I’ll do what is best for my future. My mom loves football, and my dad loves wrestling.”
No matter what, Foster will still have an interest in wrestling. His younger sister, Kaylee, is a junior at Belleville West and wrestles on the team.
“She’s tough. She’s a very good wrestler, and she’s ranked second in the nation for her weight class,” Foster said, smiling. “Kaylee will probably end up with a better scholarship then me.”