ST. PETERS — Evan Binder was all set to give up.
The Whitfield junior, back at the age of 12, figured he had wrestled his final match. He believed it was time to move on to some other childhood activity.
"I was going to quit," he recalled. "I was getting beat all the time — it wasn't fun."
His father, Andy, came to the rescue with a stern but meaningful lecture.
"I just told him that if I let him quit, he would never forgive me later on," Andy said. "Just stick with it a while longer and see what happens."
Father knew best.
Binder, a two-time defending state champion, continued a near-perfect season by outdistancing Colton King of De Smet 6-2 in the championship match of the 120-pound division at the Class 3 Sectional 2 meet Saturday at Fort Zumwalt South.
Whitfield, with Binder leading the way, qualified 11 of 13 wrestlers for the Class 3 state tournament, which will be March 12 at Cable Dahmer Arena in Independence.
The Warriors won seven of the 14 divisions in Saturday's sectional.
Binder improved to 40-0 and is a solid favorite to claim his third successive state championship. He won the 106-pound crown as a freshman and took the title at 113 last season, both in Class 1.
This year, he is wrestling better than ever and has his sights set on an incremental title run up the weight ladder.
"I feel pretty good about myself," the soft-spoken Binder said. "We'll see where it goes."
Binder is happy he listened to his father's pre-teen advice. A year later, he began a growth and muscle spurt that helped him become more competitive. In the summer between his seventh and eighth grade years, he made some noise at a national tournament, which told him sticking with the sport was the right move.
"Looking back, it's hard to believe," he said of his notion to quit. "It's such a big part of my life now."
Binder, who is 121-12 in his career, has developed quite a rivalry with the feisty King, who won the 106-pound crown in Class 4 last season. The two also met in the district final two weeks ago. Binder came through with a 10-2 win.
"I just felt him out a little bit in the first period," Binder said. "I wanted to see what he learned from the last time and what I could do and couldn't do. Just playing it smart."
Binder took a 4-2 lead late in the second period with a reversal before putting the match away with a takedown with 26 seconds remaining. It was the only contest at the meet featuring two defending state title holders.
King, who is 15-2 with both losses to Binder, is looking forward to a potential rematch at state with a championship on the line.
"There are a few things I need to clean up on," King said. "But I do feel much better and I know I'll beat him at state. That's not an 'if' statement."
Binder has consistently rolled past every opponent this season. An NCAA Division I recruit, he is hoping to end the dream campaign with a flawless mark.
"He's kind of unassuming, but he shows up ready to go each time out there," veteran Whitfield coach Charlie Scherertz said. "He's beaten that kid twice, but (King) is a returning state champion and he'll be ready."
The Warriors have been bumped up to Class 3 after winning four successive Class 1 titles. They have put themselves in position for another title despite the difficult hike.
"We just want to show people we can keep winning," Binder said.
Whitfield is looking for its 10th overall state title. The team broke out new singlets for its state qualifiers with the Roman numeral X to signify the drive for a 10th crown.
Freshman Porter Matecki (106), sophomore Alexander Rallo (113), freshman Gavin Linsman (126), senior Logan Ferrero (145), junior Chase Brock (182) and junior Keith Miley (220) captured titles for the Warriors. Miley is 28-0. Rallo is 36-1.
De Smet senior Jacobi Jackson improved to 28-0 by pinning Alexander Tischler of Whitfield in 30 seconds in the 285-pound title match.
Jackson, who wrestles at around 280 and is the defending Class 4 state champion, also is a standout offensive lineman on the Spartans football team, which lost to Raymore-Peculiar in Class 6 championship game back in November.
"I probably like football a little more," Jackson said. "But everyone tells me I'm better at wrestling. I consider it my main sport right now."
Mizzou, Nebraska and Virginia Tech among those that have shown the most interest in Jackson's wrestling skills.