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Mankato's 'Idol' is a Hastings High grad

Chris West's story of success may shatter your idea of what happens in college fraternity houses.

The 2006 Hastings High School graduate is a sophomore at Mankato State University. While walking around his frat house, West is always singing. It's something he started in seventh grade, and he's kept at it. He's always singing.

One day, his frat brothers told him to put his money where his mouth was.

Turns out, Minnesota State University, Mankato was having its own "American Idol" style of competition. His frat brothers dared him to enter.

"It was on a complete whim," West said. "I decided to give it a shot."

West entered a field of competitors that included trained soloists whose majors were music. West, meanwhile, had never much taken to solos and he's a creative writing major.

Still, he progressed through the competition, eventually becoming one of seven finalists. He then stepped up in early December and belted out Michael Buble's version of "Save the Last Dance for Me." And he won the competition.

"It was a pretty big surprise," West said. "I knew a couple of the other competitors. I knew they had good voices. I just wanted to go out there and have a little fun with it."

In the crowd that night was Matt Warren, a freshman at the school and the son of Hastings choir director Lin Warren. After West won, Matt Warren was immediately on the phone home to his father.

Lin Warren remembers Chris West as the guy comfortable in a group, not a soloist.

"When I heard he tried out for this, I was surprised," Lin Warren said. "I was like, 'Way to go.' That's taking a big risk."

That's not to say Warren thought West was out of his league.

""He never did any solo work," Warren said. "He has a wonderful voice, and always did, but not everyone likes to do solo work. They're just content being in a group. That's the way I always saw Chris.

"I'm just really excited for him. I am very proud."

As for West, he couldn't say enough about his positive experience at HMS and HHS. He thanked his teachers, especially Warren.

"Mr. Warren, he definitely showed confidence in me," West said. "He helped me expand my voice and my horizons."

West won $100 and earned the right to sing the national anthem at an upcoming Mankato sporting event.

His parents Steve and Betty still call Hastings home.

The win has allowed West a little more creative license around the frat house.

"At least I have a little bit more right to sing whenever I want," he said. "They don't tell me to be quiet as much now. It's still pretty fun. We're just all having a pretty good laugh about it.

"They're not picking on me about it.They're pretty proud of the accomplishment."

West said his major of creative writing is now in serious jeopardy.

"That might change after all this," he said. "I don't know."