Taking on Johnsburg and Lincoln-Way East in a home triangular on Saturday, the Riverside-Brookfield High School wrestling team finally hit the mat at full strength. Considering the Bulldogs had already carved out a 9-3 record without key seniors Nick Giurini and Al’Lon Carter, Saturday’s performance with their starting lineup in tact bodes well for the rest of the season.

RBHS split its matches with a 30-29 win over Johnsburg and a 38-32 loss against Lincoln-Way East. Trailing Johnsburg 29-24 with three matches left, RBHS (10-4, 2-0 Metro Suburban Conference) swept all three weight classes with sophomore Chris Colvin (182 pounds), seniors Hickey (195) and Carter (220) each recording a win.

Carter, a transfer student from Proviso West, won his debut match with the Bulldogs by a score of 9-8. Hickey also wrestled well against Johnsburg to secure a key victory during the Bulldogs’ late rally.

“Hickey was beat up at the end of last season, but he is now healthy and adds the toughness to the team,” RBHS coach Mike Boyd said. “Rumors of his wrestling pace and toughness will be talked about for 50 years within the RB wrestling program.”

The Bulldogs also waged quite a battle against Lincoln-Way East, although the Griffins ultimately prevailed by six points.

Antonio Ochoa (12-5) cruised past Lincoln-Way East’s Glenn Harris with a 14-0 major decision win at 138 pounds. State-ranked wrestler Branden Peshek of Johnsburg beat Ochoa in the latter’s first match on the day.

“I felt a lot better in my second match than in my first,” Ochoa said. “I was getting over being sick, so the first match was a little tough. I still gave it 100 percent.”

The Bulldogs’ promising start includes conference wins over Wheaton Academy and Immaculate Conception. Under Boyd, in his second year as the RBHS head coach, the program is progressing nicely with plenty of determination and chemistry already exhibited among the wrestlers.

“These guys are used to being with each other,” Boyd said. “We run in the mornings, practice in the afternoon, compete, and even do Yoga on Sunday at Final Round Fitness in Hillside.

“If these guys aren’t together, they are group texting or hanging out together. I’ve never seen a team that is more of a family in my entire athletic or coaching career.”

Ochoa has provided leadership by example for burgeoning Bulldogs.

“I’m wrestling at 100 percent and training every single day,” he said. “I just have to keep doing what I’ve been doing, which is giving my best effort on the floor and in the weight room, and doing what Coach Boyd says.”

The Bulldogs remain at home with upcoming matches against Rich South and Simeon on Jan. 9 (5:30 p.m.) and a dual match against conference rival Fenton on Jan. 15 (5:30 p.m.).