In his third season as the head coach of the Riverside-Brookfield High School wrestling team, Nick Curby has established both credibility and success in relatively short order.
Before taking over the RBHS program, Curby was the head coach at Plainfield East for eight seasons and an assistant coach at Providence Catholic for five years. A 1998 Lyons Township High School graduate, Curby placed fifth at 189 pounds in the state finals and then wrestled at the University of Illinois.
Although Curby has enjoyed his share of success in wrestling, there is no time for Curby or the Bulldogs to rest on their laurels this season. There’s simply too much work to do. In fact, it’s a daily process for the RBHS grapplers.
“I want to see each wrestler improve every day,” Curby said. “We have a lot of talented and committed athletes that just need to improve their wrestling every day. The wrestlers have been doing that [this season].”
The Bulldogs had a 19-11 record last season, highlighted by a 9-1 mark and second-place finish in the Metro Suburban Conference last season.
“There are several new teams in the conference so it’s hard to determine how everything will shape up,” Curby said. “We look to contend for the conference title and see how we size up against these new teams.”
Other than the loss of Sam Fletcher (21-17 record last season) to graduation, RBHS returns plenty of talent to hang with most teams on the mat.
Notable returners include seniors Riley Shaw, Dominick Rowe, Irvin Valdes, Jaimion Wise, Will Briolat, juniors Corey Dishmon and Jake Stewart and sophomore Edwin Valdes.
Curby offered assessments on several of the Bulldogs’ top wrestlers.
“Jaimion Wise is a talented athlete that is improving with evert match he wrestles,” Curby said. “Irvin Vales is a hard worker who leads by example. Will Briolat stays calm and cool in matches. He can pin guys from any position. When Jake Stewart brings the fire, he can be a very tough upper weight wrestler.”
Shaw is a three-year varsity starter, while the rest have started on varsity for two seasons.
“Many of our wrestlers have only wrestled for a couple of years,” said Curby, “but they have made huge strides in each match they wrestle, win or lose. We have a young, relatively inexperienced team that looks to improve every day.”
Shaw and Rowe, who both played football in the fall, anchor the lineup with their talent and experience.
“Riley works to improve his wrestling daily and striving to do big things at the end of the year,” Curby said. “Dom Rowe puts the team before himself. He works to be a better wrestler by asking questions. He can also make a mark individually at the end of the year.”
Other contributors include Quintin Godlewski, Cristian Vasquez, Adrian Hernandez, Julian Rivas, Antonio Vargas, George Donnamario, Alex Gedwill and Alex Chavez.
While the Bulldogs’ growth has been considerable, Curby is looking for more.
“I want our wrestlers becoming students of the sport,” he said. “I want them to learn about what it takes to make the next step so we become a team that can contend.”
At the Pontiac tourney on Dec. 8, RBHS finished 12th with a score of 100 in the 19-team field. Joliet Central won the title with a score of 222.5, followed by Normal Community (207), Prairie Central (205) and Shepard (199.5).
The Bulldogs placed seven wrestlers overall.
Freshman Brock Hoyd recorded the best result, finishing fourth in the 120-pound weight class. He won four of six matches, including three victories on falls.
Sam Halwaji earned fifth at 182 at Pontiac. Sophomore Antonio Vargas (145) and Shaw (195) both came in sixth place, while Irvin Valdes (138) and Garrett Weimer (170) each placed eighth.
RBHS travels to Bensenville to take on host Fenton and Immaculate Conception in a 5:30 p.m. triangular on Thursday, Dec. 20.