Nuthalapati misspelled "tristeza," a word of Latin and Portuguese origin that means "a highly infectious disease of citrus trees."
Nineteen contestants from Illinois entered the preliminary round, but Nuthalapati was the only one from the state among the 49 spellers total who advanced. After completing and passing a preliminaries test on spelling and vocabulary, Nuthalapati succeeded in two rounds, spelling "camouflage" and "auriphrygiate" correctly.
Nuthalapati attends Aptakisic Junior High School in Buffalo Grove, and is sponsored by the Lake County Regional Office of Education. He told Scripps his role model is Mahatma Gandhi, his interests include football and swimming and he plays the cello.
PHOTOS: Faces of the 2015 Scripps National Spelling Bee
For the first time, the bee ranked spellers based on their performance on two spelling and vocabulary tests. The semifinals air Thursday, May 28, at 9 a.m. Central Time on EPSN2 and the finals will air the same day at 7 p.m. Central Time on ESPN.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.